Beginning in the fall of 2016, students applying to any institution within the UC system will be required to choose four “personal insight questions” from among eight options, responding to each of their chosen prompts in no more than 350 words. This new requirement gives students the opportunity to share more about themselves—1400 words compared to the 1000 previously allowed—and offers greater flexibility in what they choose to share with the admissions committee.
When news of a new Coalition application was introduced last fall, admissions counselors knew they would have to learn an entirely new application platform in order to help their students apply to college the following fall. As a college counselor, I was perhaps most interested in the way that the new application—and its essay requirements—might change the way my seniors were able to approach their work over the application season. Would students be able to engage in brainstorming in the same ways they had in the past? What sorts of essays would they need to produce? How much extra work would a new application require of them?
Over the last few weeks I’ve shared a few tips on mastering the UC Application (be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2). To close out this series, today I’m sharing two of the most common essay mistakes I see UC applicants make.
Common Essay Mistakes
I’ve never counted, but I’ll estimate that I read over 100 different essays for the UC application each year. If that seems like a huge number, imagine being an admissions officer at UCLA, where over 112,000 students applied for fall admission last year.
One of my colleagues at College Coach sent an email to our admissions team today. “Six weeks until November 1!” it said. I had to check my calendar just to be sure. Yep, she was right. Six weeks until the first big deadlines of the student admissions cycle. Six weeks until those precious ED applications would be shipped off to my students’ top choice colleges with personal statements perfected, activities lists completed, and supplements fully executed. Six weeks until we could all pause and breathe a heavy sigh of relief and either begin the anxious wait for decisions or take a well-deserved rest before diving back in to more applications.
I like to encourage all of my students to treat November 1 as a “soft” deadline. Whether or not you plan to apply Early Decision or EA, it’s helpful to give yourself an endpoint to aim for—an endpoint that ensures your supplemental essays don’t hang over your Thanksgiving dinner like a dark cloud.
The Common Application launched yesterday, allowing hundreds of thousands of students to create their accounts and begin applying to colleges around the country. The essay portion of the Common App requires the most planning, the deepest thought, and the hardest work. But before you start drafting your essays, it can be helpful to take a step back and reflect on who you are, what you care about, and the message you want to send to the admission officers who will read your essay.
I always tell my students that their essay topic must be internally motivated: it should be something you write for yourself, not something you manufacture for the sake of your dream school. If your approach is to try and figure out what a student who gets accepted to College X would write, you’ve defeated the purpose of the college essay. I just want to get to know you, not some fictitious person. And considering that during an admissions period I might read up to 5,000 essays (and then multiply this number by 28 years), I have learned to easily spot an essay that is not sincere, that is not a passionate topic for the student, or that isn’t something that truly defines the individual.
In part two of our series interviewing Megan Stubbendeck, Global Elite Instructor at Revolution Prep, regarding the news shared in the Washington Post article, College Board to make changes to SAT, College Coach discussed what some of the specific changes might be and got Megan’s take on changes she would like to see implemented.
It seems David Coleman, the College Board’s president, has been giving hints he doesn’t think there is enough evidence-based writing in the SAT test, that it’s too opinion focused. Is this the most likely part to change?
It’s October in the US, and all around the country many a high school senior is logging into the Common Application, reading the supplemental essay prompts required of their prospective universities, rubbing their exhausted eyes in disbelief, and collectively uttering a simple, yet disquieted, “Wha…???”
Yes, we’ve all come across them: those “nefariously” written college essay prompts, so challenging in nature even Einstein might not know what to make of them. So to help prevent you from getting “lost in translation,” the expert college admissions consultants at College Coach have banded together to conduct an “exhaustive search” for The Most Challenging College Essay Prompts of 2013 and decrypt them for you—the writing’s up to you.
College applications can be fraught with stress for both parents and students. So how do parents avoid turning “help” with admission essays into “too much help”? To guide us through this parental conundrum, we’ve turned to Jacob Palmer, student blogger and junior at American University, for some parent / student advice. Jake relates to us his essay writing experiences and the impact his mother’s help had on the process.
How would you describe your relationship with your mom when it came to writing your essays?
I’d say it was strained, but in a good way. Students are encouraged to be creative and take risks with their application essays, and conflict inevitably rises from that risk taking. And while creative essays can work, oftentimes a student requires some guidance to make sure their essay doesn’t sacrifice message for originality. I used my mom as a resource to bounce off ideas.