SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

How to Format A College Essay: 15 Expert Tips

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Dec 2, 2016 7:00:00 PM

College Essays

When you’re applying to college, even small decisions can feel high-stakes. This is especially true for the college essay, which often feels like the most personal part of the application. You may agonize over your college application essay format: the font, the margins, even the file format. Or maybe you’re agonizing over how to organize your thoughts overall. Should you use a narrative structure? Five paragraphs?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over the ins and outs of how to format a college essay on both the micro and macro levels. We’ll discuss minor formatting issues like headings and fonts, then discuss broad formatting concerns like whether or not to use a five-paragraph essay, and if you should use a college essay template.

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The 13 Best College Essay Tips to Craft a Stellar Application

Posted by Ellen McCammon | Nov 19, 2016 8:00:00 AM

College Essays

In many ways, the most labor-intensive part of your college application process is the essay. It’s not just about forwarding transcripts or entering a list of extracurricular activities—you have to craft something personal and compelling to show the admissions committee who you are beyond your resume.

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Getting College Essay Help: Important Do's and Don’ts

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Jan 9, 2016 7:00:00 PM

College Essays

 

If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing – of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, I’ll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay. I’ll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

 

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My Successful Harvard Application (Complete Common App + Supplement)

 

In 2005, I applied to college and got into every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. I decided to attend Harvard.

In this guide, I’ll show you the entire college application that got me into Harvard - page by page, word for word.

In my complete analysis, I'll take you through my Common Application, Harvard supplemental application, personal statements and essays, extracurricular activities, teachers' letters of recommendation, counselor recommendation, complete high school transcript, and more. I’ll also give you in-depth commentary on every part of my application.

To my knowledge, a college application analysis like this has never been done before. This is the application guide I wished I had when I was in high school.

If you’re applying to top schools like the Ivy Leagues, you’ll see firsthand what a successful application to Harvard and Princeton looks like. You’ll learn the strategies I used to build a compelling application. You’ll see what items were critical in getting me admitted, and what didn’t end up helping much at all.

Reading this guide from beginning to end will be well worth your time - you might completely change your college application strategy as a result. 

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How to Write a Perfect “Why This College” Essay

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Dec 25, 2015 5:00:00 PM

College Essays

Did you think you were all done pouring out your blood, sweat, and tears in written form for your personal statement, only to be faced with the “why this college” supplemental essay? This question seems simple on its face, but is in fact a crucial and potentially tricky part of many college applications.

What exactly is the “why us” essay trying to understand about you? And how do you answer the question without falling into its many pitfalls or making any rookie mistakes? In this article, I’ll explain why colleges want you to be able to explain why you are applying. I'll also talk about how to generate and brainstorm topics for this question, and how to make yourself sound sincere and committed. Finally, I’ll throw in some “why this school” essay dos and don’ts. 

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Bad College Essays: 10 Mistakes You Must Avoid

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Dec 20, 2015 9:00:00 AM

College Essays

Just as there are noteworthy examples of excellent college essays that admissions offices like to publish, so are there cringe-worthy examples of terrible college essays that end up being described by anonymous admissions officers on Reddit discussion boards.

While I won’t guarantee that your essay will end up in the first category, I will say that you follow my advice in this article, your essay most assuredly won’t end up in the second. How do you avoid writing a bad admissions essay? Read on to find out what makes an essay bad and to learn which college essay topics to avoid. I'll also explain how to recognize bad college essays – and what to do to if you end up creating one by accident.

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11 Places to Find Great College Essay Examples

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Dec 18, 2015 9:00:00 PM

College Essays

 Sure, you might know the theory behind what a college essay is supposed to sound and look like. But just like reading a description of the Golden Gate Bridge pales in comparison to seeing it in person, there’s no replacement for seeing actual college essays written by students just like you. Well, almost like you – they’ve since gotten into college.

But where do you find good sources for reading sample college essays? How can you make sure that these resources will actually strengthen and improve your writing? And what is the best way to use the college essay examples that you do find? In this article, I’ll go over the best books and websites for finding essays, I’ll point out a few to avoid, and I’ll explain how to make the most out of other people’s essays while avoiding common pitfalls.

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How to Start a College Essay Perfectly

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Dec 12, 2015 8:30:00 AM

College Essays

If you’ve been sitting in front of a blank screen, unsure of exactly how to start a personal statement for college, then believe me, I feel your pain. A great college essay introduction is key to making your essay stand out, so there’s a lot of pressure to get it exactly right.

Luckily, crafting the perfect beginning for your admissions essay is just like many other writing skills – something you can get better at with practice, and by learning from examples. In this article, I’ll walk you through exactly how to start a college essay: covering what makes a great personal statement introduction, explaining how the first part of your college essay should be structured, and going through several great examples of essay beginnings to explain why they work, how they work, and what you can learn from them.

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How to Write Perfect ApplyTexas Essays

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Dec 6, 2015 8:00:00 AM

College Essays

The ApplyTexas college application has many different essay prompts – and each of the most popular colleges in Texas has different requirements for which essays they expect students to answer. 

So how do you get advice on writing your best ApplyTexas essays, no matter which school you are hoping to get into? Look no further than this article, which totally unpacks all five possible ApplyTexas essay prompts. I will explain what each essay prompt is looking for, what admissions officers are hoping to learn about you, give you great strategies for making sure your essay meets all of these expectations, and help you come up with your best essay topics. 

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College Essay Prompts: Complete List, Analysis, and Advice

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Nov 23, 2015 8:30:00 AM

College Admissions, College Essays

When talking about college essays, we tend to focus on the Common Application prompts, and it's true that many students will need to write a Common App essay. However, there are actually quite a few schools, including both public and private universities, that don't use the Common App and instead ask applicants to respond to their own college essay prompts.

Luckily, college essay prompts tend to be pretty similar to each other. In this guide, I'll list all of the college essay questions for popular schools in the US (and a few abroad) and then break down the patterns to help you brainstorm topics and plan how to approach multiple essays efficiently. After reading this guide, you'll be able to strategize which essays you'll write for which colleges.

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How to Come Up With Great College Essay Ideas

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Nov 11, 2015 8:30:00 AM

College Essays

 Writing the college application essay is a tough gig. You’ve got to be charming, personal, memorable, and insightful – all in under two pages! But I’m going to tell you a secret: half of a great personal essay is a great topic idea. If you’re passionate about what you’re writing, and if you’re truly documenting something meaningful and serious about yourself and your life, then that passion and meaning will come alive on the page and in the mind of your reader.

So how do you come up with an essay idea? The best way is to brainstorm your way to an event from your life that reveals a core truth about you. In this article, I will help you do just that. Keep reading to find 35 jumping off points that touch on every possible memory you could harness, as well as advice on how to use your brainstorming session to fully realize your idea for an essay topic.

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How to Write a Great College Essay, Step-by-Step

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Nov 10, 2015 9:00:00 AM

College Admissions, College Essays

Writing your personal statement for your college application is an undeniably overwhelming project. Your essay is your big shot to show colleges who you are — it’s totally reasonable to get stressed out. But don’t let that stress paralyze you. 

This guide will walk you through each step of the essay writing process to help you understand exactly what you need to do to write the best possible personal statement. I'm also going to follow an imaginary student named Eva as she plans and writes her college essay, from her initial organization and brainstorming to her final edits. By the end of this article, you'll have all the tools you need to create a fantastic, effective college essay.

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126 College Essay Examples for 12 Schools + Expert Analysis

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Oct 19, 2015 8:30:00 AM

College Admissions, College Essays

The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students that already got in - college essays that worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I’ll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 12 different schools. Finally, I’ll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why they work and how they work. With links to over 120 full essays and essay excerpts, this article will be a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

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How to Write Perfect UC Personal Statements

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Oct 18, 2015 4:30:00 PM

College Essays

If you're applying to any University of California campus as an incoming freshman, then you have a special challenge ahead of you. Applicants need to answer four UC personal insight questions, chosen from a pool of eight unique prompts different from those on the Common App. But not to worry! This article is here to help.

In this article, I will dissect in detail the 8 UC essay prompts. What are they asking you for? What do they want to know about you? What do UC admissions officers really care about? How do you avoid boring or repulsing them with your essay?

I'll break all of these important questions down for each prompt. I’ll discuss how to pick the 4 prompts that are perfect for you. I'll also give you examples of how to make sure your essay fully answers UC's questions. Finally, I'll instruct you step-by-step on how to come up with your best ideas for your UC personal statements.

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Complete Strategies: Common App Essay Prompts (2016-17)

Posted by Alex Heimbach | Oct 17, 2015 9:00:00 AM

College Essays

If you’re applying to more than one or two colleges, there's a good chance you'll have to use the Common Application, and that means you’ll probably have to write a Common App essay.

In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about the essay. I'll break down every single Common App essay prompt by covering:

  • What is the question asking?
  • What do college admissions officers want to hear from you?
  • What topics can you write about effectively?
  • What should you avoid at all costs?

This will be your complete starting guide for Common App essays. At the end of reading this, you should have a lot of ideas for your own essays and directions to write a really strong personal statement.

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