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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Class of 2026 (aka Fall ’22 College Start) Admission Plan Changes

Class of 2026 (aka Fall ’22 College Start) Admission Plan Changes

Carnegie Mellon officially offers ED 2 (they had that weird, kinda hidden offering last year!) as do a few other schools. Some new EA, EA2 offerings we well.

Get the full rundown on College Kickstart, our list go-to!

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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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Out Now on Amazon: The Complete College Essay Handbook!

Out Now on Amazon: The Complete College Essay Handbook!

Hi. If this were a podcast, this would be the part where we’d say, in our distinct voices: “I’m Brittany.” And then: “I’m Emma.” We’ve been working together to guide students through their college applications since 2016. After a few years, we realized our process was not reflected in any of the essay materials we found elsewhere, so we decided to write it down. What started as internal documents for our students eventually turned into a book and we are writing to announce that…

[drumroll]

The Complete College Essay Handbook is now available on Amazon

It’s 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

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, and if you decide to purchase it—thank you, and also consider leaving a review (verified Amazon reviews are huge for increasing exposure). If you have feedback—or just want to say hi—email us at brittemmaessays@gmail.com

Thank you for your support!

Brittany & Emma

Common Application Refresh (Offline) – July 28

Common Application Refresh (Offline) – July 28

Each year, the Common App goes offline to prepare for the launch of the new application. In order to help you prepare, we want to share information on this year’s application refresh period. 

The first-year application will close to students and recommenders at 5 p.m. ET on July 28. 

The 2021-2022 application will launch on August 1. You can roll over your old app to the “refreshed app” on this date — and begin to apply! 

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Register for 15th Annual Camp Pride Summer Leadership Academy

Register for 15th Annual Camp Pride Summer Leadership Academy

Premiere national training program for LGBTQ and ally young adults on college campuses will be conducted virtually July 16 – 18

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Today, Campus Pride, the national nonprofit dedicated to building future leaders and creating safer communities for LGBTQ college students, announced that registration is now open for the 15th Annual Camp Pride Summer Leadership Academy, held online for the second year on Friday July 16, Saturday, July 17 and Sunday, July 18, 2021.

Since 2006, Camp Pride has been the premiere national training program for social justice and grassroots activism for LGBTQ and ally young adults on college campuses. Traditionally an in-person summer camp with about 50-75 LGBTQ and ally young people and advisors, this year’s digital camp will be conducted online over three days with more than a hundred participants from across the country.

“Not letting a global pandemic get in the way of achieving our mission, in 2020 we adapted and held the first-ever digital Camp Pride,” said Shane Windmeyer, Founder and Executive Director of Campus Pride. “We are returning to a digital camp this year because it prioritizes safety and still allows us to connect with an even larger network of LGBTQ activists at a time when fostering ways to  build community is vital for queer youth.”

Campus Pride Board Chair and 2007 Camp Pride alum Tom Elliott said, “Ask anyone who has gone to Camp Pride before to describe it, they’ll probably tell you they made lasting friendships with peers from across the country and experienced tremendous personal growth in a welcome, safe environment that is inclusive of all identities and expressions. Finding and building supportive, inclusive communities and connecting with other LGBTQ student leaders is more important than ever.”

Camp Pride will feature keynote speakers, panelists and entertainment geared toward teaching and training LGBTQ and ally young adults. Part of our program teaches students how to develop a “personal action plan” for their campus to become more LGBTQ-friendly. A new addition to Camp Pride 2021, Campus Pride will be funding a select number of action plans with Social Justice Mini-Grants of up to $600 for students to implement on their campus when they return from camp.

Registration is $265 per person to attend. Scholarship and fee waivers are available on a limited basis. Registration for the 2021 Digital Camp Pride is now open at www.campuspride.org/camppride. Registration closes on Wednesday, July 16, 2021.

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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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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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College Waitlist: What to Do to Maximize Your Chances

College Waitlist: What to Do to Maximize Your Chances

Some colleges and universities can’t admit all of the students they would like to, so many are put on the waitlist. And this year, COVID-19 might again impact yield, meaning more colleges will need to go to their waitlist to fill the incoming class.

For a sample update letter, please subscribe to our blog (link below) and email us requesting it and we will share it within 24 hours. 

Despite more schools possibly needing to go to the WL, getting admitted from the waitlist is not exactly easy. However, it is possible with some work! Although I do not suggest being overly optimistic, there are strategies that have worked for students in the past that I am going to share in this post. Of course, if you want individualized guidance, we can provide it, so please reach out.

First, get familiar with the WL data from past years. How many students are offered spots on the WL? How many accept their spot, and more importantly, how many does school X ultimately admit? Some of these numbers are dismal, but it is best to know what you are up against. Look at the Common Data Set first (http://www.commondataset.org/). A few other sites to review:

Before implementing waitlist strategies (below), it is important to deposit at a current top choice school (a school where you have been admitted) and get excited about the prospect of attending. Take advantage of admitted student days and other events that connect you with potential future classmates, including joining “Class of 2025” social media groups. These forums are often very informative, fun, and can help you take your mind off the waitlist waiting game.

Once you have accepted a spot on the WL, deposited elsewhere, and familiarized yourself with the waitlist data, I suggest considering the strategies below. Not all of them are novel, but without much to lose, why not do all you can so you can look back without any what-ifs?

  1. Write a waitlist letter. This letter should contain information updating the school on what you’ve been up to both inside and outside of the classroom since the time you applied. Consider including:
    1. Academic Update: Spend some time talking about coursework and school projects, and make connections to future courses of study. You can even drop in related courses you’d like to take at school X, like those you’d include in a Why School essay, but only do this if you did not submit an essay of this type when you applied, otherwise you are being redundant and that is not well-received.
    2. Extracurricular Updates. But only if significant and can be connected to how you will add value to the school where you are deferred. This includes school and non-school clubs, service commitments, and/or other leadership experiences you can highlight. Like the academic paragraph(s), making connections to similar opportunities you plan to undertake in college can be helpful additions. For example, if you talk about a new project you spearheaded as VP of your school’s Interact Club, you may want to include that you hope to lead a similar project within a specific club or group at school X. Being very specific is important.
    3. The additional ways you have connected with and continued to get to know school X since you applied. This could include setting up an informational interview with a local alum, a current student, reaching out to your local regional alumni group (more on this below), or continuing to connect with your regional rep via email.
  2. Send your waitlist letter to your regional rep (if an option) or upload it on your applicant portal. Ask whoever you address it to if they have any advice for you as a waitlisted candidate. Keep this line of communication open; do not send updates every week, but stay in touch to continue to demonstrate interest.
  3. Ask your guidance counselor to call the admissions office and advocate for you, as well as provide any additional information they may have that will support your candidacy.  Ask them to back up what they say on the phone in an email if they have time and are willing. Make sure they send updated grades/transcripts promptly. Your grades should have remained the same or gotten better, not dipped.
  4. Obtain and have an extra letter of recommendation sent, but only if the school welcomes extra LORs (some schools explicitly state on their WL docs they do not welcome or want extra LORs). A teacher, coach, or someone else close to you who can speak to your potential contributions to the university could draft this letter. *Side note on alumni letters­ and letters from well-known and or famous people. Many students ask if these are helpful to send, and the answer is no unless the person knows well you or they are a very high-level donor with solid connections to admissions (even then why count on someone else?). If you think that a big name vouching for you will help, it generally doesn’t as a stand-alone factor, and officers can see through these often brief and less than meaningful notes.

Consider the following strategies in addition:

  1. Check if school X has a local alumni group (Google search) and if so, reach out to them and ask if there is anyone willing to meet with you via Zoom or Skype for an informal informational interview. Use this meeting as an opportunity to learn more about the school, as those learnings might be good fodder for a WL update.
  2. Use social media to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to follow your WL school on TikTok, Instagram, or other social channels to connect. Don’t forget to open all email correspondence from the school, as schools track opens/clicks as interest.

Now… showing up on campus or other over-the-top gimmicks or antics would be looked down upon, so please understand that this type of behavior is not appreciated or welcomed. The good thing is, you can’t show up on campus now, but take this note as a reminder of the level of inappropriate that is a big no.

Ultimately, you want to look back on being waitlisted and feel like you gave it your best shot!

More questions about the WL? Email us!

For a sample letter, please subscribe to our blog (link below) and email us requesting it and we will share it within 24 hours. 

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Sunday 3/7: NACAC Virtual College Fair (STEM Focus)

Sunday 3/7: NACAC Virtual College Fair (STEM Focus)

The Common Application is collaborating with the National Association for College Admission Counseling to offer NACAC Virtual College Fairs. 

—Event Info from the CA below:

The NACAC Virtual Colleges Fair for students interested in STEM majors and careers will take place this Sunday, March 7. Registration is free.

These fairs offer students an incredible opportunity to connect with colleges and universities in all 50 states and more than 15 countries. Hundreds of colleges will be available on each fair date to offer Zoom sessions and one-on-one appointments, so students can easily explore their options. 

Students are encouraged to sign up now at virtualcollegefairs.org. They’ll want to start tagging the sessions they want to attend.  

To help get the word out, please visit the counselor resources page for ready-made resources such as social media graphics and sample text. Also available are links to a how-to videotips for STEM students and a PDF list of participating colleges.

As we all look for new ways to explore colleges, NACAC Virtual College Fairs offer an easy and accessible way to connect counselors, students, and families with colleges and universities around the world. We look forward to seeing you online!

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