School Specific Essays and the Impact of Word Limits

School Specific Essays and the Impact of Word Limits

As with the personal statement, there is no set “formula” for writing an effective supplemental essay—and sometimes the best essays are the ones that thoughtfully and creatively break the rules! That said, here is a general overview of how we approach both long and short supps:

  • Action: Open with a gripping hook, e.g. a vivid introductory anecdote, provocative statement, or weird fact. (Long, 1-8 sentences; Short, 1-3 sentences)
  • Backstory: Give the backstory behind your opening; explain how it connects to your life and your interests. (Long, 1-5 sentences; Short, 1-2 sentences)
  • Action Continues/Progress: This is the heart of the essay, and the place where you tell your story as it relates to the prompt. (For both Long and Short essays: This section should constitute the majority of sentences and paragraphs in your essay.)
  • Reflection and Conclusion: Conclude by connecting back to the opening hook and/or by looking to the future. (Long, 2-4 sentences; Short, 1-2 sentences)

As you can see, our approach is the same for both long and short essays. However, long essays allow for an extended introduction with a longer scene or story, additional paragraphs that allow for more depth and detail in the body of the essay, and a comprehensive conclusion. Short essays will have highly condensed introductions and conclusions, as well as fewer body paragraphs and less detail. This is why we strongly advocate writing long essays first: it’s easier to go back and trim detail than it is to add detail to a short essay.

Pro Tip –> “Less is more” doesn’t apply to college admissions essays: all of your essays should be as close to the word limit as possible. If you don’t max out the word count, it can look like you haven’t put in max effort. Being 5-10 words shy of the limit is fine, but only writing 200 words for a 250-word essay can look lazy.

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Ten Tips for Writing College Specific Essays / Supplemental Essays

Ten Tips for Writing College Specific Essays / Supplemental Essays

Time to write those supplemental essays…

  1. Don’t forget your reader. There’s a lot you don’t know about the admissions officers who will read your file—where they come from, what they have experienced, and what they personally value and believe. Keep this in mind as you write. Are you expressing some potentially divisive opinions? Be careful to do so in a thoughtful, nuanced way that appreciates the “other side.” Are you talking about a community that you are not a member of? Make sure that you are using culturally competent and correct language. Are you writing about an experience in a foreign country? Be wary of falling back to cultural stereotypes. The last thing you want to do is show a lack of sensitivity or understanding and offend your reader as a result.
  2. Do show social and cultural awareness, and especially empathy and understanding, for people who are different from you. Every college wants to admit kind, open-minded students who are going to embrace diversity and be a positive force in their community.
  3. Don’t forget to tell a story. Many students write the personal statement then think they’re done with being personal. This is not the case! One of the biggest problems with many supps is simply that they’re boring. The best way to bypass this issue is to craft a personal narrative around whatever you’re writing about, whether it’s leadership, creativity, or your potential major.
  4. Do show an understanding of a school’s mission and values. Linking your experiences or goals to a given school’s values (usually stated explicitly in their mission statement) is an excellent way to add an extra layer of specificity to an essay. It is also important to be sensitive to a school’s values for other reasons: if, for instance, you are applying to Brigham Young University, you wouldn’t want to submit an essay denigrating Christianity or any values specific to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  5. Don’t just copy-paste information from the school’s website. You need school-specific information in many supplements, especially the why school or academic interest supplement. If you only copy some information you found in the school’s website without explaining how and why that information will apply to your college experience, your essay will seem shallow. Be specific in connecting what you learn about the school with your goals and past experiences.
  6. Don’t try to be too funny. You want to preserve as much of your personality as possible but humor is one of the hardest things to recreate on the page. A written joke—without your gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice to guide the listener—can come across as corny at best and cynical, or even mean, at worst. Be extra mindful of this if you are trying to incorporate humor into your essays, and trust an adult’s judgement if you’re unsure.
  7. But don’t take yourself too seriously! A lighthearted approach to any topic will make your essay more readable and more engaging and—bonus!—make you seem more fun and approachable in the process. Colleges don’t necessarily care about admitting fun or approachable students but they do want students who will contribute to the community—and these attributes usually indicate that you will.
  8. Do look for ways to show self-awareness. You can get away with almost anything—a bad pun, a selfish thought—if you call yourself out for it in your essay. Doing so also displays a high level of self-knowledge and maturity that colleges value.
  9. Don’t brag (or humble brag), rehash your resume, or focus too much on academic awards or honors. A compelling story, not a big award, is what will make your application unique and memorable.
  10. Do try to be yourself, while keeping the suggestions above in mind. It’s no fun reading essays that scream you are “trying too hard” to be something you think colleges want.

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Common Application Updates – Refresh August 1

Common Application Updates – Refresh August 1

From the Common App….

Over the past several years, we’ve marked the joyful occasion of a new application year by celebrating launch as Common App Day! August 1 is just around the corner, and we want to share a few last minute reminders so you and your students are prepared. 

  • Application refresh dates. The 2021-2022 first-year application will close to applicants and recommenders at 5 pm ET on July 28, 2022. The 2021-2022 transfer application will close to applicants and recommenders at 5 pm ET on July 29, 2022.
  • Account rollover. Students will need to sign in and refresh their Common App accounts for the new cycle, which begins on August 1, 2022. Here are some reminders about how account rollover works for first-year and transfer students. 
  • Evolving the Application changes. Changes to the 2022-2023 application include revisions to questions related to gender and fee waivers to better reflect the needs of our students. You can view how the changes will take effect in this guide
  • Protecting student data. Each student who interacts with Common App trusts us to protect their personal identifiable information, and we take that responsibility seriously. Our privacy policy shares in detail what information we collect and the precaution we take to protect that information. 

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College Specific Supplemental Essays: Strategy/Tips

College Specific Supplemental Essays: Strategy/Tips

One of the reasons that we like students to have a sense of their college list when they start essay writing is that each essay does not exist in a vacuum. Everything submitted with a college application needs to work together to tell the fullest story possible about who you are, what you are all about, and the value you will add to the school that’s reading your application.

Complement your Personal Statement—don’t compete with it. You should aim to make sure all of your supplemental essays are as separate from the personal statement as possible. For instance, if my personal statement is about my passion for dance (my main extracurricular), and a school requires what we call a creativity supplement in The Complete College Essay Handbook, I would choose to write about something other than dance for the PS because I might want to focus on that in the supplement.

Present a rounded picture, even if you are narrow. Notice that I didn’t say be well-rounded. I don’t advise that! But imagine you apply to a school that requires two supplemental essays. One prompt clearly calls for an academic and intellectual interests (AII) essay, and the second is open-ended. You wouldn’t want to write a second AII essay for that school. Although college is first and foremost about academics, you want the opportunity to present as many parts of yourself as possible; go with any one of the other three types of supplemental essays that we outline in detail within The Complete College Essay Handbook! Every single college applicant should be able to write an impact and influence and community and identity essay.

Consider the school’s values. Sticking with the same example: if a school asks for two supplements and one prompt clearly calls for an AII essay, and the second is open-ended, in addition to writing a different type of supp, you should also take the school’s mission and values into consideration. For instance, since Jesuit schools like Santa Clara, Fordham, and the University of San Francisco tend to value service more than some secular schools, an impact and influence essay would be the best choice for the second prompt. Conversely, a liberal arts college with a long history of political activism, such as Wesleyan, Smith, or Oberlin, might react more favorably to a community and identity essay with an impact twist.

Use your best story. Imagine you have one just incredible story, and it fits perfectly into the impact and influence type. You write the essay—it’s great, and you love it! Then you realize that your top-choice school asks for a community and identity essay. What should you do? If your story is really that good, you are actually better off turning that impact and influence essay into a community and identity essay—even if it feels like a bit of a stretch. Admissions officers will remember how you made them feel—not that you didn’t answer the question quite as accurately as another applicant.

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Calling All Creatives! Completing an Artistic Portfolio & Statement of Purpose This Summer

Calling All Creatives! Completing an Artistic Portfolio & Statement of Purpose This Summer

Justin has spots on his roster for students in grades 9-12 who need help with portfolio positioning and development.

Meet Justin: Justin is a practicing New York-based painter who graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a BA in Art and minors in Asian Humanities and Art History. Studying a wide variety of artistic mediums and histories, Justin has a comprehensive understanding of creative fields. He aims to help students better express themselves both creatively and critically and believes writing to be a fundamental backbone in expression – from one’s own artistic practice to the art of writing a college application essay. After college, Justin worked as a primary foreign consultant for a leading education consulting company, providing professional writing and portfolio guidance. Justin’s students have been granted admission to prestigious universities such as Yale, Columbia, Rhode Island School of Design, University of Southern California, and more.

For students in grades 9-11:

Justin’s work with students who are not yet applying to college begins with a review of the student’s interests and background in the arts and continues through personalized assignments. Included are routine progress check-ups, constructive critiques, and the provision of relevant historical materials. To develop a high-quality portfolio of approximately 10-15 artworks, students will embark on a course of 15 one-hour-long meetings focused on technical proficiency, experimentation with a variety of mediums and practices, and a continued focus or theme. 

For students in grade 12 (rising seniors):

Highly individualized program based on where the student is in the process. Work is on an hourly basis. 

For a more detailed outline of the course or information regarding how we help students draft their artist statement of purpose, please email us or call 609-618-3584. 

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Thoughtful, Authentic, Effective College Essays

Thoughtful, Authentic, Effective College Essays

The college essay is fairly simple to write but often made more complicated than it needs to be. The goal? Clear, concise, effective. Nothing fancy, nothing that should take more than a few weeks, max. 

Effective essays: 

  • Demonstrate authenticity and thoughtfulness
  • Bring the writer to life on paper (but are not an explanation of their whole life)
  • Are excellent in topic, style, and grammar

We are gearing up for a summer busy with college essay support, so our students can start senior year with peace of mind, less stress, and having already completed most of their essays

If you know a rising senior who would benefit from our guidance and who might want to work with one of our essay experts, contact us to schedule a consultation.

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Summer 2022 Small Group Creative Writing Workshops

Summer 2022 Small Group Creative Writing Workshops

Small Group Creative Writing Workshop 

Do you want to expand your interest in creative writing, especially as you seek to pursue studying the humanities or other liberal arts majors in college? Are you looking for mentorship as you work toward opportunities to publish your work and/or compete in writing competitions? Join our creative writing workshop group this summer!

During weekly meetings, groups of 4-6 students will refine their understanding of the techniques that define each creative genre—fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. There will be two classes on fiction, two classes on poetry, and two on personal essays. Students will leave each class meeting with a new piece of writing, on which they’ll receive detailed, personalized feedback.

Course Structure:

  • The course consists of eight live sessions 
  • Each session is for 1.5 hours over Zoom
  • Each meeting will consist of a half-hour of lecture and discussion, a half-hour of in-class writing time, and a half-hour of sharing that writing for feedback from the instructor

Course Requirements: 

  • Students in grades 9-12
  • Submit a writing sample with the application
  • Have a strong command of the English language  
    • TOEFL score of 100 minimum

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Summer Writing Mentorship

Summer Writing Mentorship

We’ve got a new writing mentorship in addition to our college application essay offerings! Share it with all the writers in your life:
 
Are you a young writer beginning to craft your own poetry, fiction, or drama? A student planning to submit writing for competitions, awards, or prizes? A high school or college student who wants guidance on how to write compelling academic essays? Our one-on-one writing mentorship program will meet you wherever you are and help you develop into a more confident, polished, and effective writer.
 
If your interests are primarily in creative writing, we’ll workshop your pieces, develop a personalized set of writing exercises and prompts, and—of course!—discuss your favorite literary works and discover some new ones that can shape your own writing. Should you decide you’re interested in submitting some of your pieces to publications or contests, we’ll work together to move through the submission process from start to finish.
 
If you’re looking to become a stronger academic writer or essayist, you can expect a rigorous, customized combination of editing assistance and targeted exercises that focus on any specific weaknesses in your writing, whether you’re a beginner writer developing the fundamentals or an experienced one refining your style.
 
You won’t just improve the nuts and bolts of your writing—you’ll gain a mentor who can help you navigate your literary struggles, interests, and ambitions. For more info, write to hello@brittany.consulting. Let’s get writing!
 
 
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What Admissions Officers Look For In Essays

What Admissions Officers Look For In Essays

Georgia Tech says it best when it comes to essays! 

What we are looking for…

Essays are evaluated for both content and writing/grammatical skills. So, before submitting your application, you should take the time to edit and review your essay thoroughly. Strong essays:

  • Demonstrate authenticity and thoughtfulness
  • Brings you to life on paper
  • Are excellent in topic, style, and grammar

They also share a few other tips…

  • Get started early. Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your essays!
  • Don’t write what you think we want to read. Write what you want to say!
  • Don’t blow off the essay! We wouldn’t ask you to write it if we didn’t find it to be an important way to get to know you, and what you have to bring to Georgia Tech.

What we have to say…

Excellence in topic, style, and grammar is our Essay Expert’s area of excellence, and where we have been told we add tremendous value in our 1:1 work with students as we help them craft surprising, authentic, and effective college essays. 

We are gearing up for a summer busy with college essay support so that students can start senior year with less stress (and ready to submit apps!). If you are or know a junior who might want to work with one of our essay experts, contact us to schedule a free consultation call.  

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TODAY! 3/14 at 8pm Eastern: Test Prep and College Planning Open Forum Q&A

TODAY! 3/14 at 8pm Eastern: Test Prep and College Planning Open Forum Q&A

Join us on March 14th at 8 pm eastern for a casual discussion on all things test prep and college planning. We’ll be presenting a few of our top tips and strategies but will leave most of the session open for your questions. This session is for students and parents.

Register here!

Hope to see you on March, 14th!