Communicating Your Story: Ten Tips For Writing Powerful College Application ESsays

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  • Communicating Your Story: Ten Tips For Writing Powerful College Application Essays



  • AaronSorry we dont have space for any more students. My lab is too small and wont be beneficial for a student. I cant help but maybe these researchers can

    In addition to these polite rejections, I have also been just plain ignored. Over the course of the last few years, I have attempted to join a lab that will allow me to take part in cancer research. After contacting almost 30 different researchers at three different institutions, I had no success.

    My interest in cancer biomarker research for the early detection of cancer began after a close family friend passed away young from late diagnosed brain cancer. His fate could have been different had the cancer been detected in earlier stages. To begin my quest, in 10th grade, I joined the Mitchell Academy of Science & Technology (MAST) program at my school that allowed me to get immersed in research; sadly, it requires students to find their own research placements. Despite my growing hunger to find a lab to see the practical side of research, I failed to find one.

    Rather than giving up, I continued to read any scientific article I could find in the field of study. After receiving so many rejections, I realized my current approach would probably continue to fail because I was asking strangers to put me in their labs. So I changed my approach. Starting last spring, I contacted researchers and asked for informational meetings. Once I was there, I would have an intelligent conversation and then pop the question.

  • Last spring I emailed Dr. David Chia, who had said no to me 18 months earlier, and this time he agreed to meet with me when he realized I had continued to do my own research. I was very excited to meet him because he and his lab are doing cutting edge research that mirrors my own passions for finding new biomarkers for the early detection of cancer. During the meeting we had a conversation about new ways to detect biomarkers, and I even suggested a new method of finding them--a method he acknowledged he and his colleagues have been thinking about. After about an hour of speaking, I asked if he had room in his lab. This time, without reluctance, he said yes!

    I began working in Dr. Chias lab this past May. While initially I was a little behind in the research process for my schools program, I am making up for lost time--in a lab that researches exactly my topic of interest. For the past few months, I have learned a variety of lab techniques and met undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers who devote their lives to research. I have also seen the very labor intensive side of research. Fortunately, because of the generosity of Dr. Chia and his researchers, this fall, I analyzed data on nonsmoking lung cancer patients, developed my conclusions, and submitted a paper to the 2015 Intel Science Talent Service--thus completing the culminating task of the three year MAST program.

  • While the ideas I proposed to Dr. Chia are just that--still ideas, I am learning how to make a difference. His research will save lives, and it is a great honor for me to just be part of the process. I know it will take awhile until any of the research is put into practice, but the concept that someone will not lose a child or parent to cancer gives me a great feeling. The idea of making a positive difference in the lives of others and making this world a better place moves me.

    My experience taught me a very valuable lesson: never give up. I know I will continue to face failure throughout my life--thats the nature of research. But I know that cannot stop me. I promise now, that when and if I have my own lab, I will offer opportunities to persistent high school students.

  • How Important Are Personal Statements?What do American colleges look for?GradesRigor of Coursework, SchoolTest ScoresEssays/Personal Statements*Recommendations-Teacher and/or CounselorActivities-Consistency, development, leadership, and initiativeSpecial skills, culture, connections, talents, and passions


  • Overview of Shifting 2016 American Admissions Landscape

    REBECCA JOSEPH - Can we add new essays for major systems including CA and Texas

  • Essays Are One Piece of The Applicants QuiltTest ScoresGradesRigor of CourseworkActivitiesRec LettersUnique passions and potentialDemonstrated Interest

  • The Power and Danger of Essays1. Give me two reasons why admissions officers value college application essays.

    2. Give me two reasons why they often dread reading the majority of them.


  • *

  • Essays=OpportunityShareReflectStand Out


  • So.Tip 1Tip 1. College essays are fourth in importance behind grades, test scores, and the rigor of completed coursework in many admissions office decisions. Dont waste this powerful opportunity to share your voice and express what you really offer to a college campus. Great life stories make you jump off the page and into your match colleges.


  • A New ParadigmTip 2. Develop an overall strategic essay writing plan. College essays should work together to help you communicate key qualities and stories not available anywhere else in your application.


  • Ultimatelyadmissions officers want to know yourImpactInitiative


  • University of CaliforniaFall 2017 application is open.Introduced new format and prompts for both freshman and transfer essaysApplicants must write 4 short 350 word max essays. Freshman can choose from 8 prompts.

  • UC Freshman Personal Insight QuestionsFreshman Personal Insight Prompts: Answer any4of the following8questions:What do you want UC to know about you? Heres your chance to tell us in your own words.Which questions you choose to answer is entirely up to you: But you should select questions that are most relevant to your experience and that best reflect your individual circumstances.

    Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?

  • UC FocusLeadershipChanging communitiesCreativityAcademic Passions and AchievementsOvercoming ChallengesInitiative

  • Four Major Application Types: 2. The Common ApplicationMany private and some public American use the centralized Common Application with their own Writing supplementsMore than 700 colleges use it.www.commonapp.orgDont start writing any essays until you see all the essays required for your top schools. My app-All College Application Essays has the requirements.


  • Current CA 2015-2017 Prompts250-650 Words (2015-2016 percentages)

    1.Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it.If this sounds like you, then please share your story. (49%)

    2.The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success.Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? (17%)

    3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again.(4%)

    4.Describe a problem youve solved or a problem youd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.(10%)

    5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. (22%)

  • Develop A Master ChartTip 3. Keep a chart of all essays required by each college, including short responses and optional essays. View each essay or short response as a chance to tell a new story and to share your core qualities.I recommend three sheets.1. Major deadlines and needs. Break it down by the four application types2. Core essays-Color code all the similar or overlapping essays.3. Supplemental essays. Each college has extra requirements on the common application. Again color code similar types: Why are you a good match for us? How will you add to the diversity of our campus?


  • Google Drive Folders

  • Write the Fewest Yet Most Effective EssaysTip 4. Find patterns between colleges essay requirements.Use essays more than once.


  • Where to Begin: Brainstorm


  • Positive Personality Traits


  • 5. Other Brainstorming TipsHelp them brainstormMake a resume. Start With UC PromptsReading model essays from actual college websitesLooking at other colleges essay prompts-U Chicago, TuftsCreating a letter to future roommate or an amazing list of what makes you you.Looking at 5 top FB and Instagram PicturesReading models from other studentsDo culture bags


  • Individual and Collaborative

  • What Did You Do Last Summer?


  • Into, Through, and Beyond Essay ApproachTip 7. Follow Dr. Josephs Into, Through, and Beyond approach.

    It is not just the story that counts.

    Its the choice of qualities a student wants the college to know about herself


  • Into,Through, and BeyondInto

    Its the way the reader can lead the reader into the pieceimages, examples, context.Always uses active language: power verbs, crisp adjectives, specific nouns.


    What happenedquicklyyet clearly with weaving of story and personal analysisSpecific focus on the studentGreat summarizing, details, and images at same time


    Ending that evokes key characteristicsConveys moralAnswers ending prompts of two UC essaysUC 1and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.UC 2 What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are


  • Tip 8. Use active writing: avoid passive sentences and incorporate power verbs. Show when possible; tell when summarizing.

    Tip 9. Have trusted inside and impartial outside readers read your essays. Make sure you have no spelling or grammatical errors.

    Take the Time With These Essays


  • Final ThoughtsTip 10. Most importantly, make yourself come alive throughout this process. Write about yourself as passionately and powerfully as possible. Be proud of your life and accomplishments. Sell yourself!!!

    Students often need weeks not days to write effective essays. You need to push beyond stereotypes.

    Admissions officers can smell enhanced essays.

    You can find many great websites and examples but each student is different.


  • RyanI awoke to the noise of my alarm quietly vibrating against my nightstand. As I neared consciousness, the noise grew louder and louder, until it became an unavoidable tsunami of sound. I turned off my alarm and checked the time: 3 AM. It was time to get to work.

    Earlier that day, I had been expecting a price quote and rendering from a factory in China. Having not received it, I decided to call at the end of their workday. Unfortunately, because of the 15 hour time difference--that happened to be 3 am PST. Once on the phone the owner apologized and promptly gave me the information I was looking for: price per unit, minimum order quantity, and time needed to make samples. These seemed to be within reason, so I asked him to complete the next step and send me a mockup of my watch based on the blueprints I had given him. Sadly, the picture he sent depicted a watch missing every feature I had outlined.

    This was not a unique experience. In fact nearly all of the dozens of manufacturers I contacted last summer submitted inferior or completely wrong designs. And as the summer neared its end, I was running out of the one thing I was trying to ultimately save: time.

    I did not anticipate these difficulties when I started The Test Buddy a year ago to solve a problem that I noticed many of my friends struggling with: time management on the ACT. Seeking a solution, a friend and I created the idea for a watch that would help students track their time during the test. I thought that designing and selling the watch would be the most complicated part of the experience. I was wrong.

  • Designing my own blueprints and renderings took less than a week. Once I had those, convincing tutoring companies, schools, and students to place purchase orders was nearly seamless. At, that point I thought that most of my work was done. But finding a factory in China proved daunting.

    Thankfully, China is a big country with many factories, and in the end, we found a good manufacturer. In early September, our first watches were delivered to several test prep companies. We hope to soon be on the wrist of every student taking the ACT and make the issue of time management a thing of the past.

    There were many times in this process when all hope seemed to be lost and the only logical conclusion would have been to give up. However, every time those thoughts entered my head, I remembered my family and the legacy that I have to live up to. During the Iranian revolution, both my mothers and my fathers family fled the country as refugees. They hid inside busses, snuck onto trains, and even crossed mountains and desert on camels. They solved one problem after another, against insurmountable odds, all of this so that they, and their future children could have a better future. In America, my parents relied on their problem solving skills to build businesses from nothing. When I think about how much hope they must have had and how they persisted through their problems, I am reignited with a new desire to solve my own.

  • My first experience as an entrepreneur has taught me many things. Problems are rarely what they seem to be. What started out as the desire to solve the problem of timing on standardized testing ended up requiring dozens of problems to be solved from filing for a trademark to creating a corporation as a teenager to paying taxes.

    In spite of these countless obstacles, I have persevered, and Test Buddy continues to grow.

    Now we are designing a watch for the new SAT, and Im ready to set my own watch to 3 a.m.

  • Contact Dr. JosephRebecca Joseph, PhDProfessor, Cal State LAFounder, Get Me To College...


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