Aug 112021
 
  • Isn’t the essay on the Common Application just a formality?

  • Admissions officers can’t possibly read the essay on every application, can they?

The new “Test Optional” criteria recently enacted by many colleges, even the most selective, changes the factors in college admissions and places much greater emphasis on the Comm App Essay.

Many students and their parents believe the most important criteria for admission to college are grades and SAT or ACT test scores.  But with the “test optional” change instituted by many colleges as a result of the pandemic, the Comm App essay and supplemental essays, if any, carry even more importance than previously. 

The essay a student writes can grab the attention of a college admissions officer and make the critical difference in this new admissions environment.

I wrote an earlier article about capturing the authentic voice in a college admissions essay: Finding the”Authentic” Voice in a College Admissions Essay. In that article I quoted an external admissions reader for the University of California at Berkley who wrote about being told to find essays that “express a sense of self and character.”

When a selective college receives applications from many equally qualified students, what will tip the scale for admission?  If you come from a rural community in a less populated state, you may be more appealing to a college seeking geographical “diversity” in its student body. However, given several good students from a concentrated pool in the same geographical location, an admissions officer will try to find mature, committed students who can succeed in the college experience. 

Admissions officers do read the essay on each Common Application, as well as the supplemental essays their school may require, especially when a student has good grades.  

How else will they be able to make a decision between the many qualified students who apply to a select number of well-rated schools? The personal “voice” in the student’s application essay can be the tipping point for admission — as well as financial aid.  

The more similar a student’s profile as compared to others in the same geographical area, the more important the Common Application essay and supplements become in the selection process.

For students who may not have the best grades across all subjects or who choose not to submit SAT or ACT scores, the essays can become the critical factor to draw attention to their personal history, obstacles they may have faced in their lives, as well as their other talents.  

Convincing an admissions reader you can succeed at college and become an asset to their institution may hinge on the “authentic” essay you write.

Far from being a mere formality, a well-crafted, authentic essay can become the key to admission.

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Check back soon for more articles on writing, executive function skills, effective speaking and speech pathology.

 

Jun 062019
 

Why write my essay now?  It’s summer!

What rising high school senior hasn’t asked this question at the end of the highly pressured junior year?  Completing high level courses, perhaps AP or honors, taking ACT or SAT tests, visiting colleges… add in a sport or school play, community service:  this has been a busy year.

Can’t I take a break?

Of course, a breather is important and should be part of a college-bound student’s summer.  Spending some time with friends and enjoying a break from schoolwork are necessary to recharge a student’s batteries.

But targeting the brainstorming, organization and writing of the Comm App essay and the supplemental essays should be part of a rising senior’s summer activities, — even if it’s done under a beach umbrella with a cold soda.

As I mentioned in two previous articles (see below) the essay on the Common Application can make a critical difference in a student being admitted to college:  college admissions officers do read these essays.  This is an opportunity to stand out and become a singular individual, much more than grades, standardized test scores and extracurricular activities.  A student who reveals his/her thoughts, beliefs or personal history in an essay becomes more than the numbers on a transcript.

Crafting a personal essay in a thoughtful, creative way takes time:  time for reflection, brainstorming, writing and careful editing.  Trying to cram the Comm App essay and the supplemental essays into the fall of senior year will likely add pressure to a generally hectic time.

The age-old adage “the early bird gets the worm” really applies in this situation.  Completing the major essay and supplements during the summer frees up the fall for college visits, early admissions or rolling admissions — and can make the critical difference for a student finding a place in a college of his/her choice.

Write the essays this summer and increase your odds — maybe even win the jackpot!

Do College Admissions Officers Really Read the Common Application Essay?

Finding the “Authentic” Voice in a College Admissions Essay

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Check back soon for new articles on writing, speech coaching, executive function skills and speech pathology.

Jul 102017
 
  • Isn’t the essay on the Comm App just a formality?

  • Admissions officers can’t possibly read the essay on every application, can they?

Many students and their parents believe that the most important criteria for admission to college are grades and standardized test scores, SAT or ACT.  These are still the most important factors considered by a college admissions office, but more and more students have high grades and strong test scores, the latter thanks to standardized test prep services offered by high schools and private services.  What distinguishes one good student from another?  Extracurricular activities?  True.  But perhaps more importantly, the essay a student writes can grab the attention of a college admissions officer and make the critical difference.

I wrote an earlier article about capturing the authentic voice in a college admissions essay: Finding the”Authentic” Voice in a College Admissions Essay. In that article I quoted an external admissions reader for the University of California at Berkley who wrote about being told to find essays that “express a sense of self and character.”

When a selective college receives applications from many equally qualified students, what will tip the scale for admission?  If you come from a rural community in a less populated state, you may be more appealing to a college seeking geographical “diversity” in its student body. However, given several good students from a concentrated pool in the same geographical location, an admissions officer will try to find mature, committed students who can succeed in the college experience. 

Admissions officers do read the essay on each Common Application, as well as the supplemental essays their school may require, especially when a student has good grades and scores.  

How else will they be able to make a decision between the many qualified students who apply to a select number of well-rated schools? The personal “voice” in the student’s application essay can be the tipping point for admission — as well as financial aid.  

The more similar a student’s profile compared to others in the same geographical area, the more important the Common Application essay and supplements become in the selection process.

For students who may not have the best grades across all subjects or slightly lower standardized test scores, the essays can become the critical factor to draw attention to their personal history, obstacles they may have faced in their lives, as well as their other talents.  Convincing an admissions reader that you can succeed at college and become an asset to their institution may hinge on the “authentic” essay you write.

Far from being a mere formality, a well-crafted, authentic essay can become the key to admission.

_______________________________________

Check back soon for more articles on writing, executive function skills, effective speaking and speech pathology.

 

 

 

Aug 072014
 

In an article published in the Education Life section of the New York Times last year,  an external admissions reader for University of California at Berkeley wrote:

“…we had been told to read for the “authentic” voice over students whose writing bragged of volunteer trips to exotic places or anything that “smacks of privilege… fortunately, that authentic voice articulated itself abundantly.  Many essays lucidly expressed a sense of self and character…”

The personal statement for the Common App looms over the summer for rising high school seniors and carries over into first semester.  650 words to describe oneself in a meaningful way, a creative, well-written essay that can make the difference in distinguishing one worthy student from another — and perhaps the deciding factor in a student’s admission to a college of choice.

The New York Times article goes on to describe some of the essays as “canny attempts to catch some sympathy with a personal story of generalized misery… the torrent of woe could make a reader numb: not another student suffering from parents’ divorce, a learning difference, a rare disease…”

So how does the average 17 year old find an event or personal philosophy so unique that it will capture the attention of an admissions counselor reading through thousands of applications?

In my work with high school seniors preparing the Comm App essay, the question of what to write about provides the major stumbling point, although the actual writing and editing becomes equally challenging for many students.

Brainstorming for a topic is actually an important process for many students and can lead them to evaluating who they are, what they care about and importantly, what they want to accomplish during their four years of college.

Many students have been blessed by having relatively peaceful years growing up, unmarred by illness, economic problems, catastrophic events.  Does this mean that a student won’t have something relevant to write about in a personal statement?

My advice for a starting point includes these considerations:

  • What do you care about — in your personal life or the larger world around you?
  • Who has influenced you the most as you’ve grown up?
  • Has anything occurred in your life that shook your personal world?  An incident that made you question your thinking about what you believe in or value?
  • What do you feel is unique about yourself? What are you proud of? What has shaped your thinking?

The process of reflection usually generates some ideas and I work with students to shape and organize a written statement.  Only at this point does their writing begin, resulting in a thoughtful essay through several drafts, or even more than one essay so they have a choice.

It may seem like a difficult process — and it is — but it’s not without value.  As a high school student goes off in the world, considering these questions may be an unexpected benefit of this process:  What is it you want to do; what do you care about; who do you want to become? Defining one’s interests and goals at 17, on the brink of starting off in the world, should perhaps be in every student’s personal curriculum.