Dec 05


Last Minute Essays?

Dear Seniors:

Before you know it, we will be leaving for the winter break. Not only that: before we return, almost all of you will have applied to the remainder of your Regular Decision colleges.

Anyone applying to Non-Common –App schools MUST notify College Counseling IN WRITING by next Friday, December 15 at the latest so we can get your transcripts and recommendations in the mail.  For Common App colleges, remember—your transcripts, reports and recommendations will automatically be downloaded as soon as you submit your applications.  You just need to “assign” the teachers to your new applications; the school report and counselor recommendation are automatically assigned.

Additionally, we are quickly approaching the time students will be hearing from their Early Action and Early Decision schools. I have been telling students for some time to prepare their college-specific essays for their “alternative choice colleges” well before these notification dates.  I’ve suggested:  have them ready to go, without actually paying the application fee or clicking submit until just days before the Regular Deadlines.  Why?  Writing a positive essay is easier while in a positive, optimistic frame of mind—and if you don’t need to send it, all the better. That way, if you need a back-up, you will be ready to go, and if you don’t, you’ve saved yourself an application fee or two. Maybe you could even use the essays for scholarships!

Still need some inspiration for those last minute essays?

Willard Dix is a NACAC colleague of mine and he writes an excellent college blog and regular articles in Forbes Magazine.  In a recent article for Forbes (12-2-2016) he has presented some good tips for last minute essay writing:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute or trust to inspiration (writing a hit song on a napkin doesn’t happen as often as you might think)
  • Choose a topic and stick to it (Don’t agonize about the ideas you haven’t picked)
  • Be sure you know how to formulate a good essay as well as to answer the question (you’re at Roeper—you’ve been taught how to write different forms—narrative, evaluative, issue-oriented, etc.)
  • Feel free to take some chances (avoid the five-paragraph ‘straitjacket;’ if you are funny, be funny. You are writing for real people who enjoy a good read)
  • Create something that will make readers sit up and take notice (Remember, they will be reading thousands of essays and their eyes may be glazing over—remove that glaze!)
  • Avoid the following topics at all costs as they are smothered in cliché and bore all readers to death: tennis; granddad or granny’s gentle advice about life; anything that can be summed up in a gauzy commercial for life insurance; the crucial point in any game played with any particular equipment; anything that reveals your extreme privilege (skiing in Gstaad, any summer program whose only criteria is being able to pay for it, any unpaid internship that isn’t about helping those truly in need): nostalgia in general; anything leading up to the statement: “I realized then how lucky I am.”
  • Some essays to consider: Those that show an awareness of the world at large and that it doesn’t revolve around you; about people who have led extraordinary lives and how you have been impacted; those with an unexpected ending, those showing you have a thoughtful and questioning nature, those that make good use of metaphor and simile, even those that question the question itself
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about offbeat things that are of importance to you (riding the bench on the soccer team but remaining committed, raising a prize-winning pig)
  • Show it to only one or two trusted readers who know their grammar and spelling. Accept criticism thankfully but cautiously and don’t let it become someone else’s essay
  • Write for yourself, not an imagined audience (You can’t predict who your reader will be—it could be a retired English teacher or a 22 year old alum; be happy with what you have written)

Bonus 1:  Don’t forget to indicate which question you are answering

Bonus 2:   Don’t make the “personal essay” so personal you make the reader uncomfortable

Bonus 3:  No matter what you write about, it will be about you.  (Have I said this a million times?  Even your essay topic reveals what is important to you.  Willard compares an essay to a photograph—you choose the subject, the composition, the filters, etc. and that reveals what you thought was important, and your world view)

And don’t forget the importance of the “Why This College essay!!”  You must demonstrate knowledge of the school beyond the superficial and how you know you are a good fit for that school.  Colleges want to feel the love, and it can determine to a great extent whether they want to return that love!

Happy writing!

Patricia Bostwick, MA, LPC

Director of College Counseling


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