Common Application Essay Fall Bootcamp

Common Application Essay Fall Bootcamp

Complete Your Common Application Essay in One Week! 

Want to get the most important piece of writing in your college application completed efficiently, effectively, and early? 

In one week of focused 1:1 work, you will be able to check a very important college application item off your list: the Common Application essay.  

In this bootcamp you will: 

  • Attend a live session to learn what makes a successful Common Application essay.
  • Complete our specialized brainstorming process, working with an essay expert 1:1 to decide on the most unique approach to your essay. 
  • Draft your essay and receive detailed, targeted feedback to take it from a rough draft to a polished final essay.

You’ll also get access to sample personal statements by students we’ve worked with (and who have gained admission to selective colleges and universities!).

When is this program offered?

  • This bootcamp is offered on-demand in September and October! Let us know your preferred week, and we will reach out to you with our availability. If we are not available for your preferred week, we will work with you to find another time that fits both of our schedules. 

Who should sign up for this program?

  • High school seniors who are ready to write their Common App essay (aka the personal statement) and who have one hour daily to dedicate to it over the course of one week. 

How do I get more information and pricing?

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Send The Complete College Essay Handbook to a School, Library, or Non-Profit!

Send The Complete College Essay Handbook to a School, Library, or Non-Profit!

We are excited to get our expertise and years of experience into the hands of as many students as possible—especially now that it’s college application season!

We’d be so grateful if you shared a link to The Complete College Essay Handbook with friends and family. If you decide to purchase it—thank you, and consider leaving a short review!

If you leave a review and share it with us, we’ll send a copy of The Complete College Essay Handbook to a school, library, or non-profit (that serves high school students!) of your choice.

Email us at brittemmaessays@gmail.com to let us know where you want a copy sent.

The Complete College Essay Handbook is a no-frills, practical guide that will give students the confidence and know-how they need to craft the best essays for every single school on their list—in less time and with less stress. The Complete College Essay Handbook walks students through:

  • What makes an essay stand out, drawing on sample essays by real students to illustrate main points
  • Brainstorming activities to find the best topics for the personal statement and supplemental essays
  • How to write the two central components of every application essay: scene and reflection
  • Editing and revision—including techniques to cut down or expand an essay to hit the word limit
  • The four types of supplemental essays and how to decode the different essay prompts, using actual essay questions
  • The strategy behind a well-rounded set of application essays

Thank you and write on!

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10 Do’s and Don’ts for Writing The Common Application Essay

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Writing The Common Application Essay

Our essay experts know best!

Check out these 10 tips from Emma, co-author of The Complete College Essay Handbook, that will help you write the most effective personal statement.

If you are a senior, the time to write is NOW!

  • Don’t worry about the prompts. It’s helpful to read through the prompts to see if doing so sparks any ideas; however, there is no need to stress about writing an essay that exactly “answers” a prompt. Your goal is to write the best essay you can about whatever you decide is best to write about. Working with students 1:1, we totally disregard the prompts and usually find that their essay still easily fits under one of the questions. And, if not, there is often an open-ended prompt such as: “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.”
  • Do open with a scene. A strong opening scene draws the reader into your essay. Admissions officers and their first-round readers have hundreds of applications to get through—make yours stand out from the first sentence. Intrigue them or scare them or make them laugh. Make them want to keep reading.
  • Do focus on a single story. You only have 650 words. Perhaps that sounds like a lot to you: it’s not. There is no reason you should worry about filling it up. Through our process, you will find out how to generate enough detail to write an essay about any story. Nor should you worry about cramming as much as possible into the personal statement. Remember that colleges have all of your application data and that trying to do too much in the essay will only end up making your essay feel rushed and scattered.
  • Do make sure that your story has a clear beginning, middle, and end. You can tell your story out of order—for instance, opening with a scene from a stressful moment in order to build suspense before jumping back into chronology—but you always want to make sure your story has each of these elements. Skipping any single one will confuse your reader and make your story feel incomplete (because it is!).
  • And yet don’t get bogged down in detail. We usually find students have trouble generating enough detail. But sometimes we get a student who is unable to summarize effectively, too. Having too much detail can make your story confusing and also mean that your reader will have trouble understanding what the most significant elements are. It usually also means you don’t have room for reflection—the most important element in the essay!
  • Do present yourself in a positive light. We actively encourage you to tell a story that showcases your vulnerabilities, failures, weaknesses, and mistakes. However, either your narrative or your reflection (or some combination of the two), needs to ultimately redeem you so that your essay, in the end, shows you to be someone who is actively working to improve—to rectify mistakes, move past failures, or strengthen weakness. Your essay should be honest, but its main purpose is to make you seem like someone admissions officers want to see at their colleges! Make sure you come off well.
  • Don’t use huge thesaurus words. Again: you aren’t trying to impress the admissions officers! You are trying to show them who you are—and you are trying to make them like you. Using big words can mean using words you don’t quite know how to use, and that will show. Even if you do know how to use them, unless your essay is about how much you love long words or languages, using the big, 25-cent words can make you sound pretentious and overly formal. The language should sound like you and be relatively casual—not curse-word, talking-with-friends casual, but maybe talking-with-your-grandmother casual.
  • Do use vivid, interesting words and varied sentence structure. Being casual doesn’t mean the writing shouldn’t be good or interesting! Do push yourself to use words you might not use in your everyday speech, and do mix up the sentence structure to keep the writing varied and exciting. Do feel free to include words from your personal vocabulary—words from the language you speak at home or from a regional dialect or words you’ve made up. That can add a lot of texture and personality to an essay. Just make sure you define the words for your reader if the meaning isn’t clear from the context.
  • But don’t use emotional language: I was happy; I was sad. Instead, let an action depict the emotional state. That is, instead of saying “I was happy,” you might write, “I couldn’t help skipping a few steps down the street after hearing the news.” And, instead of saying “She was sad,” you might write, “Her shoulders slumped, and she cradled her head in her hands.” You can’t see an emotion, and you always want to give the reader something to see.
  • And don’t use cliche—i.e. common, predictable, overused—language. Cliche language includes (but is definitely not limited to!) phrases like:
    • I need to be true to myself.
    • Time heals all wounds.
    • Every cloud has a silver lining.
    • Good things come to those who wait.
    • I learned more from them than they did from me.
    • Every rose has its thorn.
    • You win some, you lose some.
    • Little did I know.

Of course, your essay might have one of these messages at its heart. Maybe you did learn more from the kid you tutored than they learned from you. Maybe you did find the “silver lining” in a terrible situation. Both of these could make for great essays. But you want to verbalize that realization in your own unique and surprising way.

Interested in working with Emma? Contact us 

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Free Online Event: Financing Your College Education

Free Online Event: Financing Your College Education

From the Coalition for College:

We’ve all heard that college is expensive. If you’re wondering if it’s in reach for you, join us for our next panel discussion, where we’ll talk about the cost of college, paying for it, and strategies for graduating with low or no debt.

Join us Thursday, May 6, at 8 p.m. ET | 5 p.m. PT, along with admissions officers from Illinois College, Manhattan College, Stony Brook University, and Wellesley College, who will all share their top college affordability advice and answer your questions.

REGISTER. 

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Pandemic-To-Permanent: Lasting Changes To Higher Education

Pandemic-To-Permanent: Lasting Changes To Higher Education

While we are unsure all 11 of Brandon Busteed’s changes in Pandemic-To-Permanent: 11 Lasting Changes To Higher Education will be permanent, the article is worth a read if you want to understand some of what is going on in higher education that directly impacts admissions. Four points that stand out: 

1.     The test optional movement will become permanent. Although many colleges and universities announced such policies as temporary during the pandemic, these will become lasting changes to the world of college admissions. One of the big reasons relates to #2 below.

2.     Higher education institutions will be increasingly and lastingly held accountable to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics. This will be most prominent in ensuring the student population is more diverse, but it will show up in faculty and staff hiring priorities for diversity as well. Pre-pandemic, higher education institutions paid more lip service to these priorities. Going forward, they will need to make real commitments to DEI because many constituents will begin holding them accountable to their progress.

10.  There will be a new kind of price war in higher education. Instead of ever-increasing tuition prices and expenses, universities will now compete to launch lower-cost online degrees to serve a growing market of value-oriented prospective students.

11.  Elite colleges and universities are no longer role models. Despite a history characterized by Harvard-envy – and a lingering obsession among parents, students and the media with top-ranked institutions – their relevance to the rest of higher education is headed toward zero. A lack of willingness to grow enrollments and serve more students in innovative and non-traditional ways – along with a dismal record admitting poor students and minorities – will make elites oddities in and of themselves. Make way for the new role models in higher education: the public flagships and up-and-comer privates that innovate on many dimensions, find ways to freeze or lower costs, and dedicate themselves to being student- and employer-centric.

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Looking Beyond “Highly Rejective Colleges”

Looking Beyond “Highly Rejective Colleges”

Linking to a post by Lynn O’Shaughnessy on The College Solution blog that introduced us to the spectacular term highly rejective college. 

The term highly rejective college was coined by Akil Bello, who is an expert on standardized testing and senior director at FairTest, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing standardized testing.

Highly rejective schools focus on turning away nearly all applicants. Rather than use their considerable financial might and prestige to expand the number of students they educate on their own campuses or through satellite campuses, they cling to the status quo.

More higher-ed observers, including Jeff Selingo, the former top editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, are using the term highly rejective colleges because that accurately defines what these institutions are all about. 

Lynn’s article also features some insights from Tuition Fit’s Mark Salisbury. Here is what Salisbury said about this 2021 phenomenon is impacting popular universities and colleges:

  1. Students who normally would apply to second-tier selectives “shot their shot” with the uber selectives.
  2. As a result, those students didn’t apply to those second tiers at quite the same rate.
  3. Those students got rejected at the uber selectives like they always do.
  4. The second tiers are in the midst of a scramble to get more applications because their admission modeling depends on it. [this is where better deals might emerge!]

Read the whole article here—it’s a must-read!!!

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Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

We talk about the myth of well-roundedness a lot around here, so glad to see it talked about in this recent Forbes article!

Being a well-rounded individual is certainly admirable. What’s not to like about someone who is widely curious and has balance in their interests? When it comes to selective college admission, however, increasingly “being” well-rounded has been replaced by “doing” well-rounded. Applicants approach the experience feeling like they have to do it all. Gil Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission at the University of Richmond says, “the incessant belief that colleges want well-rounded students needs to just end. We want to build orchestras and we can’t have them if everyone plays the cello.” He tells students, “the reality is we want well-rounded classes. So it’s perfectly fine, if not great, that you don’t do everything at your schools. Ultimately, we simply want to see a positive impact in whatever co-curricular activity(s) you do because we can predict that you will contribute to our campuses outside of academics.”

The whole article is worth a read!

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Planning for an MBA? Here’s When You Should Take the GMAT or GRE

Planning for an MBA? Here’s When You Should Take the GMAT or GRE

If you are planning to obtain an MBA, you’ll need to take the GMAT or GRE. When should you do that? The short answer is that sooner is generally better than later. In fact, you should consider studying for these exams while you are still in college. Your senior year is often the perfect time to take the GMAT or GRE.

MBA program applications are evaluated based on a variety of factors. Undergraduate GPA, professional progression and responsibilities, leadership, community service, and GMAT or GRE score all play a role. Many undergraduate students who know they may want to someday earn an MBA assume that the best time to study for the GMAT or GRE will be a few years before they apply. They just meld GMAT or GRE prep with the process of submitting an MBA application in their minds. But, one can take the GMAT or GRE long before they actually fill out an MBA application. Still other undergraduate students have a vague sense that getting an MBA might be something they consider in the future but have no idea if they’ll actually pursue one. These students may not even have thought about the GMAT or GRE at all.

In this article, we’ll explain why studying for an taking the GRE or GMAT while you are still in college is a reasonable way to improve your score and chances of admission to a top MBA program. And really, the same logic applies to any sort of graduate school program (which would then require the GRE, not the GMAT).

Why Could Taking the GMAT (or GRE) While You are Still in College Improve Your Score?

There are two basic reasons that studying for standardized tests while you are still an undergraduate can improve your score.

First, you probably have more time to prepare during your senior year of college than when you are in your second year of your first job. You might feel extremely busy when you are in college, particularly if you hold a leadership position in one or more organizations or are still looking for a job. However, although you can’t realize this while still in college because you can’t peer into your own future, you’ll likely be even busier when you are working full-time (i.e., with increasing amounts of responsibility, perhaps a new spouse and/or other family responsibilities, etc.). If you have more time to prep, it will be easier to build GMAT or GRE prep into your weekly schedule and consistently spend time on it.

Second, some, not all but some, of the skills you’ll need to excel on the GRE or GMAT will be much fresher when you are still in college.  Both the GMAT and the GRE test things like: mathematic ability, vocabulary skills, knowledge of grammar, problem-solving, logic, and reading comprehension skills. Although these exams are much less like academic math tests than many people believe, you’ll still need to know the rules of algebra, probability, and geometry.  If the last math class you took was 6 months ago instead of 6 years ago, you’ll be much better positioned to absorb the conceptual material so you can focus on test-taking strategy. If you haven’t taken a math class for nearly a decade, you might quickly find yourself considering a GMAT tutor.

So, if you know you want to get an MBA someday, you should strongly consider taking these exams while you are still in college. But perhaps more importantly, even if you don’t know whether you do or don’t want to get an MBA, you should still consider taking one of these exams while you are still in college.

How Long Are GMAT or GRE Scores Good For?

The astute reader might point out that GRE and GMAT scores have a shelf-life. They are not valid forever. Your GMAT score will be valid for five years from the day you take the test.  When you are applying to a top MBA program, they will treat your GMAT score the exact same whether you took it 1 month before applying or 59 months before applying. GRE scores are also valid for five years.

The fact that your GMAT or GRE score is only valid for five years is obviously relevant. You certainly don’t want to spend 12 weeks studying for the GMAT, get a great score, and then not apply to an MBA program within five years. If you follow that path and then decide you DO want to get an MBA, you’ll have to take the GMAT all over again. However, although it varies over time, typically 2-4 years of professional experience is more than enough to put forth an excellent MBA application. In fact, if you wait for 5+ years before applying for an MBA program, you can quickly become one of the older applicants. So, taking the GRE or GMAT during your senior year sort of forces you to prepare for applying to an MBA program within 5 years, which is not a bad plan.

Furthermore, many admitted students can defer matriculation for at least one year. So if you have an expiring GMAT score, you can apply, get admitted, and then defer for one year.

Should you take the GRE or GMAT?

Are you convinced you should take the GRE or GMAT during your senior year of college? Great! But which should you take? Top MBA programs all accept both. The question is how many truly treat them equally in the application review process. MBA programs typically place a slightly higher degree of importance on GMAT or GRE quant performance. And the GMAT is an MBA-specific exam that tends to be more challenging from a quant perspective. So, if you are serious about getting an MBA and want to demonstrate that to MBA programs, you might consider the GMAT. On the other hand, if your quant skills aren’t the strongest, the GRE might allow you to put a much strong foot forward. Schools may marginally prefer the GMAT, but if they see a 90th percentile GRE quant score and a 70th percentile GMAT quant score, that GRE quant score is going to be considered much more impressive.

And of course, if you are considering other types of graduate programs, the GRE makes perfect sense, since it’s accepted for MBA admissions and many other types of graduate school programs. For the college senior who really isn’t sure what the future holds, taking some time to study for the GRE is a fantastic use of time.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, the sooner you can take the GMAT or GRE, the better. The older we get, the busier we tend to get, and the more responsibilities we have (and therefore we have less time available to study). And the older we get, the longer it’s been since we engaged with the academic coursework these exams will ask us to recall.

About the Author

Mark Skoskiewicz is the founder of MyGuru, a boutique provider of private GRE tutoring and test prep for a wide variety of exams. He holds a B.S. from Indiana University and an MBA from Kellogg at Northwestern University. 

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

Sophomores and Juniors: Independent Study

COVID is still hindering in-person learning, forcing clubs to meet online (if not canceling them outright), and may even throw a wrench in in-person educational and extracurricular planning for the spring and summer. A primary focus of our work with 10th and 11th graders is extracurricular planning, and there’s one that is almost never dependent on needing to be anywhere in person: the independent study. 

Independent studies (IS) can be done anywhere and work with almost any area of interest, which is why in such uncertain times, they are our go-to EC. Like the “purpose” or “passion” projects many of our students undertake, the IS is a create your own educational opportunity, so there’s no one size fits all model to follow or template you can use to just plug and play. Below are some of the details we suggest thinking through if you are interested in conceptualizing an IS.

Who

The IS requires the student to have an area of interest that they want to explore (or explore more), as well as the time, energy, and foresight to plan it on their own. However, students may want to seek out support from a teacher at their high school or a mentor from outside of school if they desire to formalize it or have some guidance or check-ins along the way. 

What

Anything goes! But we suggest an area of academic interest related to what you may pursue in college. It might be a new topic, or it might be an extension of a topic you have already researched. The bottom line is, it should 1) be a topic/area you choose because you will need to be into it to make the work happen on your own and 2) if possible, it should work with your academic narrative (the academic story that unfolds in your college apps). 

Where

Planning the IS as a remote activity is a good call given the uncertainties around COVID. Doing so also provides the flexibility to add on other activities/formal programming or have time for a job if that suits you while still working on the IS, as well as plan something like travel (college visits?) if that becomes reality again! 

When

Winter break or early in the new year is the perfect time for students to start planning their independent study. As for an ideal start time? Many juniors are busy with testing so we suggest it as a summer activity, although students who may not have AP testing in May or who have finished or not yet started ACT/SAT testing could realistically start in the spring if their courseload allowed. The classes that appear on your transcript will always be the most important to colleges, so you don’t want your IS to get in the way of excelling in those courses. 

Why

Beyond how the restrictions that might be in place around COVID make it an ideal activity, an independent study helps demonstrate to colleges your commitment to learning, your intellectual focus and curiosity, and that you are a self-directed learner interested in charting your own course and not limiting yourself to what you can take in school (or afford to take outside of it). 

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10th and 11th Graders: College Planning Starts Now!

10th and 11th Graders: College Planning Starts Now!

By 10th and 11th-grade college talk should be fairly consistent—especially if you are, or have a student who is—aiming to attend a selective college or university. The majority of our work with students, which includes summer planning, narrative development (your “story” for college), compiling school lists, and completing the personal statement, app data, and a comprehensive resume—starts in 10th and early in 11th grade. If this is you (or your student!) there is no better time to start the process than right now.

Sophomores should consider the following:

  • Starting to prep for standardized exams early. Don’t wait until spring of your junior year to begin prep. We have a small list of tutors that we can highly recommend; don’t leave who you work with up to chance.
  • Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other.
  • Now is the time to build your story for college! Have you heavily involved with any of your extracurricular activities (other than sports)? Look for leadership opportunities in school and consider activities outside of school as well. Does your resume point toward a major? It should start to at this time, and if it does not, that should be a goal for your summer plans.

And juniors, it’s not too late to:

  • Prep for and take the ACT or SAT. Yes, schools are going to be test-optional this year, but high test scores always help!
  • Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and the letter will be much more personal if you know each other. Talk about your goal schools and your high school’s track record at those schools. Get their take on schools that are going to be a fit, and hash out a preliminary application plan.
  • Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in, explore the admissions and academics pages, attend ALL of the virtual offerings offered, and sign up for a peer guide with us to really go above and beyond in your research. Now is the time to kick your college research into high gear.
  • Start your Common App essay brainstorming. Ask us how!
  • Plan your summer wisely. You’ll want to use this summer to round out your resume and make sure it’s pointed toward your intended major, and you’ll also want to finish most of your applications. Make a plan now because you don’t want to be playing catch-up in the fall.

Email us or fill out the contact form to schedule a consult and find out how we can support you in your college planning and application process!

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