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 peak 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 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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The Long Game

Reposting this awesome blog from Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Georgia Tech, Katie Mattli. If you think GT might be on your list, or even if it is not, this is a fun blog to read!

Read the original post here!

I like quirky historical novelties and the Livermore Light Bulb, or known to its friends as the Centennial Bulb, is one of my favorites.  Never heard of it?  Let me explain.  Yes, there is indeed a light bulb in Livermore, California so famous it has a name and actual caretakers.  Why? Because the Livermore Light Bulb has been softly glowing in the Pleasanton Fire Department for 117 years! In fact, it just had a birthday in June. The Centennial Bulb has a website, a festival, a children’s book, and –this is my favorite part – its own Bulb Cam. You can literally watch a light bulb glow in real-time, which I find humorously whimsical.

What does a light bulb have to do with college admission?  A few things actually.

Don’t second guess your interests. 

I mean it.  Live them loud and proud.  I’m writing about a light bulb I like and you are still here, so that proves authenticity is interesting.  The applicants who get my attention in the admission process are those who, for lack of a better phrase, really like stuff.  All kinds of stuff.  They hear about a cause, read about a historical event, or learn about a theory and they dive in for the pure pleasure of learning more about it.  You can sense joy in their application—joy in sharing something that really engages them. Students always ask, “How can I make my application stand out?” Follow your true-North passions and your application will naturally have a strong voice in the crowd.

Care Instructions

The Centennial has been glowing for so long because no one remembered to turn it off – for a long time. It turns out that switching lights on and off all the time actually reduces their shelf life.  It makes me wonder how often we, students and adults alike, take stock of what is healthy for us. We don’t have care instructions attached to our lives, but if asked we could probably name the basics.  We are the opposite of lightbulbs.  We can, and should, turn off to recharge. You should sleep.  You should eat.  You should spend time with friends.  Do you live by your calendar? Then put your self-care appointments on the docket with reminders such as “lunch,” “snack,” “aspirational bedtime,” and “breathing room/free time.”  A healthy student will thrive in high school and in college. I haven’t made any clichéd references to lightbulbs and burn out here, but you get the picture. Don’t get so caught up in the everyday noise that you forget to be healthy.

Who is on your maintenance team?

The Centennial Lightbulb has three different organizations devoted to keeping that little four-watt light bulb softly glowing.  Before you start the college admission process, take stock of who is in your corner.  Who are the folks in your inner circle?  Choose carefully.  Do they see your value? Do they give you honest feedback?  Do they encourage you? Do they keep you anchored? The vast majority of students headed to college had help along the way.  Family members are not the only people who hopefully have your back. Don’t forget you can create a supportive network staring with a favorite teacher, a retired neighbor, a high school guidance counselor, your coach, a friend who graduated last year.  Reach out, ask for some time, make an appointment, start a conversation. It takes a village.

Keep your eye on the long game.

Physicists have studied the Centennial and have discovered its filament is thicker than today’s commercial lightbulbs.  It is made of sterner stuff. The college admission process can rattle highschool students. I think students believe they are focusing on their future (hence the anxiety), but I think they have lost sight of the long game.  After years of watching students and their families navigate applying to college, here are my thoughts on the admission long game and students who are made of “sterner stuff”:

  • Finding a good fit is the ultimate goal.  Your best-fit school may not be your best friend’s best-fit school.  Get comfortable with that. Put institutions on your list where you will thrive. That is the long game.
  • Ignore the myth of “the one.” college will not be the making of you but your decisions in college will. That is the long game.
  • Be happy for others.  Time will prove to you that what feels like a competition now dissipates with age.  If your buddy gets that coveted acceptance or the Val or Sal spot, cheer for them. It shows character and you will be happier for it. That is the long game.
  • Enjoy senior year.  This is your last homecoming, last high school debate competition, last playoff, senior night… Enjoy them!  That is the long game.


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Lazy Or Procrastinating? Not So Quick…

High school can be stressful. College and early career life can be, too. Guest post from Mary Ellen Krut of Balanced Hours Body Talk Clinic!
By the time most kids get to college, they know a bit about managing homework, extracurriculars, and chores.  But even the most accomplished high school graduate is handed a lot of new material when they arrive at college.  A lot more unscheduled time, nobody nagging them to get things done, new experiences like sharing a room and doing one’s own laundry and a brand new social environment can throw a wrench into a kid’s ability to buckle down and to do the task at hand when they should.  Suddenly, starting a task that is not highly familiar or interesting can be tough.  And if this comes as a surprise to the student, it can quickly become next to impossible without extreme effort and incentive to meet their deadlines.
Executive functioning is that group of skills that allows one to pay attention, start and complete a task and strategize when and how to schedule a set of tasks. For those kids who have wrestled with executive function issues earlier in their schooling, there may be learned skills that help them make the transition in freshman year at university. For many others, this new world of having to get fired up to organize and execute tasks finds them managing quite well on some levels and very poorly on others.
The student who finds themselves with low interest on required tasks will often have a hard time firing up the energy to get things going. This is not because they are lazy.  It comes from an inefficient chemical process in the brain. The brain uses electrical impulses to carry messages from one neuron to the next. These messages help us to notice things, pay attention and take action.  The release of certain brain chemicals helps make those connections. Under stress, the brain does not always release enough of those chemicals. But when something comes along that is really interesting or exciting, their brain releases a larger amount which helps them get started and stay engaged with that task.  You can fill in the blank for the college freshman you know who may be playing a sport or rushing a sorority as to which tasks are getting this chemical support.
Kids don’t have voluntary control of that chemical release. The cannot just tell themselves to get started on the homework task and make it happen unless it’s genuinely interesting. Or, unless they fear that something unpleasant will happen if they don’t take care of this right here and now.  Sometimes it is even hard to remember there is a task. And once a failure occurs, especially if this is a new experience for the student, it makes it hard to try again. Therefore, avoiding the next task becomes a possibility. It quickly seems that it will never get any easier and so without really thinking it about it, they just avoid the task in hopes of avoiding the disappointment or failure. They can also include not wanting to share it with family at home.
A Body Talk balance session is a noninvasive, nonjudgemental and nondiagnostic way to get a student heading in the right direction during freshman year. Improvements in getting into the swing of college life should include balancing the Cortices of the Brain, the Neurotransmitters in the Frontal Lobe and possibly rebalancing out of date Belief Systems. The Body Talk approach, which is sometimes described as acupuncture without needles, purports to listen to the body, engage its ability to heal itself, and enhance communication between bodily systems. Based in dynamic systems theory, Body Talk considers emotional, physical, and environmental influences in order to address the underlying cause of conditions, and using various techniques to activate the brain, restructure the body’s energetic patterns, and promote healing from within.
Read more about Body Talk here!
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Love Pets?

I’ll be running the 2018 United Airlines Half Marathon on March 18th to raise money for PAWS NY because I tolerate running, but I LOVE pets. I’m a little under halfway to my fundraising goal so I need your support!

The mission of PAWS NY is to help New York City’s most vulnerable residents remain with their pets by delivering critical programs and services through a community of partners and volunteers. PAWS NY programs help keep pets in their homes while protecting and promoting the human-animal bond that is so physically and psychologically valuable to their clients. Thus, their motto: helping people by helping pets. You can read more about PAWS NY (also happens to be an organization local to me in BK) here:

Pets provide us with companionship, unconditional love, and numerous physical health benefits. Funds raised through the NYC Half Marathon will help protect this relationship for those facing challenges from advancing age, disability, or illness.

Speaking of pets, here’s a photo of my #1, Lola:


Guest Post: Avoiding End of Year Burnout

Guest post and needed reminder from the team at Hammer Prep in sunny San Diego. Check them out for all your tutoring needs. They work with students online, so you do not need to be located in SD to take advantage of all they have to offer!

Avoiding End of Year Burnout

The end of the year is always a hectic time, especially for juniors. Don’t freak out! Here are some tips to help you get through all of the tests and tribulations that await you from April until June:

1. Set up your testing schedule.

You should make sure you have a clear calendar with everything scheduled in:

  • SAT or ACT test dates and fallback test dates
  • SAT subject tests if you need them (here is a list of schools that require SAT Subject Tests)
  • Final exams
  • AP exams

2. Don’t stress over APs.

Notice the last item on the list above was AP exams. AP scores actually don’t matter in college admissions, no matter what your teachers tell you. The only thing that DOES affect college admissions is your grades in the AP class. So do well on your final, but don’t stress over the AP tests themselves.

3. Organize a To-Do list for summer. 

A lot of students fall into procrastination over the summer because they’ve had such a hard end of the year. Make sure you know what you have to do and when, or you risk having your senior year turn out just as hectic.

Do you want help with your college applications and essays?

Hammer Prep is running a college application workshop for the Common Application this summer. If you’re interested in getting ahead, give them a call!  The workshop’s expert guides (Brittany Maschal, Dan Elconin, and Emma Winsor Wood) can help you get everything set up so that your senior year goes smoothly with college applications.

Guest Post: Bad Wisdom

Guest post by YouSchool’s Scott Schimmel

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to about one hundred accounting students at the University of San Diego and lead them through interactive exercises to explore their inner lives to find clarity about their future. For an hour we talked about getting clear about what they believe in, finding a mission to pursue with their lives, and getting a vision for they kind of person they want to become. The main message for them was that now is a crucial time for them to get clear about who they are and where they’re going in life.

A professor in his mid-fifties sat in during the workshop and walked with me for a few minutes as we wrapped up. He joked that while I was speaking, he turned to a student and said, “Hey, don’t feel pressure to have everything figured out at your age; I’m still figuring life out, too!”

He was letting me know in a passive-aggressive way that he disagrees with the YouSchool’s primary premise: that young people can get clear about important things in their lives. Just because most older people are still figuring their lives out (or given up trying) doesn’t mean that young people should follow their example!

Here’s the point: young people can find clarity for a lot of important aspects of their lives.

They can get clear about who they want to grow up to be, they can get clear about what matters most to them, they can get clear about the kinds of relationships they want to build, they can get clear about what their strengths and interests are, and they can get clear about the life trajectory they are on. They can get clear about foundational things in their lives, which will lead to much more informed decision making.

Getting clear matters, because our lives matter. The choices young people are forced to make impact their future work, family, character, and the mark they leave on the world.

Let’s all collectively stop encouraging young people to figure life out later, and give them appropriate anxiety about the importance of getting clear now. Good wisdom will lead young people to take responsibility for the direction of their lives and guide them down a path to get to clarity.

There is a process to getting clear. It involves finding the time and space to commit to guided self-reflection, interactive conversations with peers and life advisors, and a trusted guide for the entire process.

The first step is to decide that you want to get clear. 

To learn more about the YouSchool check them online, or contact Cheif Guide Scott Schimmel directly!

Guest Post: Positive Emotions

Guest post by Dr. Delvina Miremadi-Baldino

Positivity is something we could all use more of these days. With the daily exposure to stress, disease, violence, conflict, and divide we often find ourselves battling against negativity trying to prevent it from taking hold of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Countless times over the last few months I have found myself in inner turmoil over what I have seen in the media and on social media, reminding myself to shut if off, disconnect and regroup.  But here’s the thing, limiting the negative is only half the battle. Yes, it is important to know our own boundaries and know when the negativity is too much. But beyond that, we must also go one step further and intentionally insert more positivity to help balance out our experience.

According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, experiencing positive emotions (i.e. awe, interest, gratitude, amusement, etc.) broadens our minds and builds our resourcefulness enabling us to become more resilient in the face of adversity. Based on years of research, Dr. Fredrikson has found that if we want more positivity in our lives we must understand and act on our 3:1 positivity ratio. In fact, to maximize our potential and truly flourish in this life we don’t need to eliminate negative emotions. Instead, we need to experience positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative emotions to help balance out our experiences. Pretty cool, right?

Check out your positivity ratio.

Do you need to boost your positive emotion ratio?  Try this:

1.Keep track of your current positive ratio and record it for a week.  Each day, reflect on the events of that day and how it might have affected your ratio.

2.Make a list of positive emotions that are meaningful to you (i.e. inspiration, pride, interest, joy…).

3. Now, for each positive emotion, write down ways in which you have experienced this emotion. Be as detailed as possible.

4. It’s time for action!  Pick one positive emotion and intentionally incorporate ways to elicit that emotion for a week. What have you done in the past to create this emotion? What are some other things you can do to make you feel this way? Each week, pick a new emotion and do the same.


Website: Positivity Ratio.Discover the power of the 3-to-1 Ratio with Dr. Barbara Fredrickson

Website: Action for Happiness. Boost Your Positivity Ratio

Book: Positivity. Discover the Groundbreaking Science to Release Your Inner Optimist and Thrive

Please visit my website Realize Your Resilience, or connect with me here to set up a free call to discuss your needs and how I might best support you and your family. 

Developing Resilience in High School—for the College Process and Beyond. An Interview with Dr. Delvina Miremadi-Baldino


Dr. Delvina Miremadi-Baldino is the Founder and Chief Resilience Officer of Realize Your Resilience, a company dedicated to helping individuals, groups, and organizations build upon their strengths and foster resilience so they can grow, succeed and thrive. Enjoy her wonderful insights, and be on the lookout for more from her on our blog in the future!

I would love to learn more about how you became interested in positive psychology, and more specifically, resilience:

Much like the evolution of how Positive Psychology came to be a field of study, my personal and professional connection to Positive Psychology and resilience blossomed out of a realization that there was too much focus on what was wrong and not enough focus on and understanding of what is right.

Professionally, this unfolded for me with a switch from a Clinical Psychology track to a more dynamic and multi-dimensional track in human development, education, and eventually, Positive Psychology.  My interests grew from understanding and treating mental illness to prevention for mental illness to finally understanding the science behind how humans overcome adversity (resilience) and flourish.  I love taking research-based positive psychology concepts and transforming them into engaging, easily digestible tools and skills that can help propel individuals toward happiness and success! When I finally found the science of Positive Psychology and the practice of applying these concepts to make people more resilient, it felt like I was home.

Personally, my life story also follows a similar path. Growing up, I struggled with a mindset and inner self-critic that made navigating life’s inevitable challenges very difficult.  Over the years, those belief systems and thought patterns took their toll on me, leaving me feeling anxious, depressed, and hopeless. As I embarked on a path toward change, my focus grew away from focusing on what was wrong and towards positive coping and skill building.  Learning to be more resilient by applying Positive Psychology skills helped me change my thoughts and belief systems in such a way that my corresponding feelings and behaviors led to the beautiful, flourishing life I lead today.


Why is resilience an important trait to develop?

There are many reasons why fostering resilience is important, but at the top of the list is living a resilient life means we can be happy, healthy, and successful humans beings who wake up every morning feeling like the best version of ourselves, despite the difficulties life may throw at us. To focus on living a more resilient life requires you to look inward to find the answers and resources to do so. It’s not about some external resource with all the answers.

As Dr. Martin Seligman’s work supports, our thoughts and beliefs are what dictate our life. It’s not about what happens to us that determines how we feel or behave, it’s how we think about what happens to us that then establishes our emotional and behavioral reactions. We can’t control the external events of the world or people around us but we can control how our story plays out in the face of those events. When we realize that, our trajectory through life changes for the better and sets us on a path toward flourishing. That is resilience at its best!


What are some signs that a student (high school age) may need to work on developing their resilience? Is it ever “too late” to work on becoming more resilient?

Resilience is not something some people have or don’t have; it’s something we can all learn to develop. It’s also a concept all individuals should understand as it provides a more positive lens through which to see and pathway to process the inevitable difficulties we will face in our lives. Resilience is simply our capacity to take in and process the negative events in life in a way that they don’t completely interrupt our path to flourishing.

The “take in and process” part is our perceptions, beliefs systems, and thought patterns that determine our ability to effectively cope with and move on from a challenge.  During high school, specifically, the brain is experiencing its second biggest period of growth and the body is rushed with hormonal changes, contributing to beliefs about oneself and the world that are often negative and narrow. Resilience skills are particularly valuable at this age because they provide the opportunity to help counteract that automatic negative bias. They also provide new, more positive pathways in the brain, creating more optimistic and flexible thoughts and beliefs.

So, to come back to your question, don’t wait or look for signs before being proactive and filling your student/child with all the “good stuff” science has proven leads to being more positive, productive, and thriving individuals.  All students would greatly benefit from learning the skills of resilient thinking and positivity.  It is never too early, or too late, to begin this important work.


I work primarily with high school students who are beginning or are in the midst of the college planning, search, and application process. How can students in grades 9 and 10 begin to prepare themselves for a process that is often stressful and fueled by competition and prestige?

So much of the college preparation process asks students to look “outside” of themselves to find the answer to their future.  The school, the major, and the career become the focus in their search for meaning, identity, happiness, and success.  But as students embark on this journey, it’s also important for them to ask a different set of questions; questions that divert their attention back inward.  What are your strengths? How do you view and handle mistakes and failure?  What is meaningful to you and why?  Questions like this are the core of who a person is and who they will become and are the true compass for living a thriving life.

Research shows that students who know and use their strengths, who see failure and mistakes as an opportunity to grow, and who have meaning and a sense of purpose in their lives, perform better, are more motivated, are happier, are more satisfied, and achieve more in their lifetime.  Students feel stressed during this decision-making process because they believe their future happiness and success is dependent on it.  We are doing them a disservice by not teaching them that it’s actually the opposite. Based on years and years of research, getting into that dream school, achieving that dream career, and being a success in those realms is not what leads to a happy, fulfilling life.  It’s leading a fulfilling, happy life that leads to success.  In other words, if they want to make decisions now that will lead to a happy, successful career, we must help them look inward and let their true self be the compass, not all the external pressures and expectations.


What advice do you have for students who have already formally started the process, grades 11 and 12?

First, congratulations!  Regardless of where you get into college, you have made an important decision for your future and that requires a BIG congrats!

Second, as I have mentioned, be sure you take some time during this process to look inward, reflect, and remain true to yourself.  If you aren’t sure who that is, spend some time figuring it out before moving forward with the college decision-making process. As cliché as it sounds, this decision is about what’s important to you and finding a place where you can see yourself truly flourishing.

Third, the actual school you attend doesn’t matter as much as you think.  Take your top school and compare it to your 4th. Guess what, it’s still the same person going to each. YOU are the only one who can make your college experience everything you want it to be.  Take a deep breath, relax, and stop putting your schools in some kind of order.  YOU will be amazing no matter where you go to school because the overall experience is up to you and will be what you make of it!


How important are parents in helping students develop resilience, and stay positive throughout this process, and high school more generally, especially given how competitive the landscape is today?

I would say the parents are the most important factor when it comes to students developing their resilience.  It’s our job as parents to teach, nurture, and support our children, so they can grow up to happy, flourishing human beings.  Based on the development and hormonal changes that are happening in the brain between ages 13-22, our high school and college age students need us now just as much as ever (even though they often express the exact opposite).  What we teach and how we nurture and support our children is an important part of this process.

Resilience provides parents the opportunity to teach children the skills that lead to happy, healthy individuals who contribute to society in a positive way.  It also brings awareness to their authentic self, so that we can nurture and support them in ways that lead to them reaching their maximum potential.  We all want the best for our children, and resilience reminds us that the potential for living their best lives exists within in them, not in external pressures, expectations, or accomplishments. I love the analogy that as parents, we are gardeners.  We create the rich, nourishing soil, we plant the seed, and we water it, but it is its own individual organism and it will grow into whatever beautiful flower or plant it is supposed to be. In this analogy, resilience skills are the vitamins in the soil that make the plant strong and healthy and the water that nourishes them from the inside out.


What advice do you have for parents who want to help their kids as they go through this process, and high school more generally?

In addition to the advice I have given above, I would tell parents to put on their own oxygen masks before they try to put on their child’s.  The old in-flight emergency advice is a wonderful metaphor for life when it comes to parenting and fostering resilience.  Before you spend your energy and efforts trying to foster resilience in your child, make sure you take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about your own resilience. How do you handle mistakes and failures?  What is your inner self-critic saying to you when you face a challenge? What are your strengths?  Do you have meaning and a sense of purpose in your life?

Your answers to these questions reflect what you are modeling for your children with daily thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.  One of the best ways to foster resilience in children is to model resilience.  Consider what living a resilient life looks like, not just as parents but also as human beings contributing to the world, and model that for your children.

Recommended Online Resources:


Where can people learn more about you, your Realizing Your Resilience (RYR) framework, and coaching practice?

As I mentioned before, in all the work I do, my mission is always to help translate research-based positive psychology concepts and transform them into engaging, easily digestible tools and skills.  I want everyone to have the opportunity to learn and grow from the power of resilience and core positive psychology concepts like growth mindset, optimistic thinking styles, positive self-talk, flow, self-efficacy, motivation, etc.  Over the past 10 years I have worked for Children’s Hospital Boston, developing innovative prevention tools, as well as Life Advantages LLC, where I developed a resilience toolkit for colleges and universities, a Resilience Success Assessment to help quantify the concept of resilience, and am currently developing a self-paced e-learning resilience course.  I recently founded Realize Your Resilience LLC, a company that provides one-on-one coaching and resilience education through workshops, webinars, and speaking engagements.

The Realize Your Resilience programs and services help individuals foster resilience through a holistic approach to overcoming life’s challenges by building on an individual’s strengths. I recognize that everyone can live a happier, healthier life when provided with the proper information and guidance to realize their resilience. The Realize Your Resilience model reveals the building blocks anyone can use to GROW to be your best self, SUCCEED in achieving all of your goals, and THRIVE in all aspects of your life.

RYR specializes in a unique form of life coaching, tailored to help students foster their unique capacity for resilience and discover their individualized pathways to success. Every student deserves to wake up in the morning, feeling confident in who they are, believing in their abilities, and feeling optimistic and positive for the future. And with this confidence, belief in themselves, and new perspectives, students are better equipped to navigate the challenges they face with grit (perseverance and passion) and resilience (grow, succeed, and thrive).

There is no one-size-fits-all model to academic resilience coaching. Rather, RYR’s approach honors that each individual has his or her own unique “learning” journey and, given the right tools, curious questioning, and safe space to explore, will have the capacity to flourish!

RYR coaching offers support and guidance to high school and college students that will help:

  • Improve your academic performance
  • Decrease your worry and anxiety
  • Strengthen your relationships and build new networks
  • Set and meet your goals with efficiency and ease
  • Feel a stronger connection and sense of belonging
  • Believe in your abilities
  • Find purpose and meaning in your life
  • See the future with optimism and hope

Please visit my website or connect with me here to set up a free call to discuss your needs and how I might best support you and your family.