College essays

the college essay reader is tired, they miss their families and they die a little bit when reading the typical center soccer back essay. be VIVID, don’t use the standard HS format of intro, 3 points then conclusion. Hook your reader. Answer the prompt.
Sooooooo … Just did a quick read … and am wondering how attached Michael is to this particular topic?? The reader doesn’t learn enough about Michael in this essay — and I think part of that is the fault of his chosen theme of ‘silence’ which is sort of cold and impersonal by definition.
And he really needs to answer one of the prompts — I think he might be doing “describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content” … But his silence theme is sort of a stretch for that prompt … It seems to me like he’s trying to impress the reader by being sort of deep — but it feels forced …
Does he have any other essays in the works? I’d be happy to take a look at another one …
When’s his first deadline? I take it that he’s applying this year — but thinking of deferring and doing a gap year?
Fyi .. I’m no longer working for Yale admissions because I’ve taken a full-time grant writing position (but I still think my instincts are pretty good).  I just don’t think this essay presents Michael in the best light … I’d be happy to spell out my concerns in a phone call if you want, but it’s too hard to explain more fully in writing.
Sorry to not to be more enthusiastic : (

Ok — I’ve thought about this a little more and want to clarify a few points.

“Abandon all format” is a little bit of an overstatement. What I really meant was that the traditional, five paragraph essay that kids are taught in school is NOT the right format for a college essay — too restrictive, repetitive … and “letting it flow” is good — essays should really flow and not seem forced. When I mentioned your particular writing style, David, I was trying to highlight the heartfelt, vivid (there’s that word again!) way that you write … but I don’t want to give the impression that punctuation, spelling and grammar don’t matter in a college essay — they really do — again, remember that the reader is tired, overworked — and if there are mis-spellings, or if the essay is hard to follow,etc., it’s just plain irritating …

Also — when you say “pick one” below — all those are great ideas, but it doesn’t HAVE to be one of those — and it doesn’t HAVE to be Neahtawanta … I just figured that that was probably pretty fertile territory. You’ll see in the packet of essays (that I will forward to you shortly) — there are quite a few that play upon that theme of family ties that you are encouraging Michael to explore (I’m always a sucker for that type of essay …)

A great role for parents to play is to brainstorm with the kid before he ever writes a single word — helping the kid recognize some of his own attributes that he might not even be fully aware of … and then helping him recall anecdotes that illustrate that point … you should all take a look at the current Common App essay prompts together — they might trigger some ideas … and “topic of choice” (which used to allow a kid to write about anything) has been eliminated … the prompts are general enough that most topics can be made to fit one of them, but they shouldn’t be disregarded all together.

And “make it longer; too short” … is not a hard and fast rule — a good college essay can be the length Michael’s was — but it should be jam packed with VIVID images … Michael’s wasn’t … The current Common App guidelines say the essays should be 650 words or fewer …

Remember that you have very little space in the Common App to tell the admissions committee who you really are — and you don’t want to waste that opportunity. Another name for the college essay is the ‘personal statement’ — I think that’s a much better name … you are trying to give colleges a glimpse of who you are as a person … “college essay” just sounds like one more writing assignment.

I’ve pulled together some good personal statements and will email them to you shortly … I think you’ll “get it” after reading a few of these …

Good luck!


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