Monthly Archives: May 2014

Five steps to writing a great college essay

Boy with Laptop Dollar Photo ClubThe summer before senior year is a great time to write your college essay. This project may seem daunting at first, since nobody has asked you to write anything quite like it before. But do not fear.

I’ve worked with many students who have developed the germ of an idea into an engaging essay that opened the doors to the college of their choice. Here are five basic steps that can help you to get into a good college, too.

1. The place to start: find your subject

So, you’ve read the essay prompts and maybe you’ve chosen one. Perhaps you’ve even found a narrative you’d like to tell. If so, you’re one of the more well-prepared students.

But to find your real subject, you’ll need to dig deeper. You must figure out what you want to reveal about yourself in your essay. Begin by asking yourself what makes you different from other applicants. What do you have to offer the colleges that you have in mind? If you take the time to work this out, the rest will come more easily.

Read more

A high school student’s guide to summer planning

Three Columbia StudentsIMG_4905Just when it’s spring and the world is “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful” as the poet e.e. cummings would say, it’s time for high school students to start planning their summer activities.

Gone are the days when a kid could spend all July and August under a shady tree, with a thermos of lemonade and stacks of books. Technically, it could still happen, of course. But somehow it rarely does.

Maybe too many parents are determined to prevent “laziness.” Maybe too many teachers and guidance counselors are warning about resumes and college applications. Or maybe there are just too many iPads, smartphones and apps—too many mental distractions and virtual pitfalls that beckon.

“Idleness warps the mind,” said Henry Ford, that captain of American industry. Sometimes it seems that everyone over the age of 21—or almost everyone—agrees with Ford. Isn’t it safer and wiser to make plans—and lots of them? Busy yourself; that is the general consensus.

What’s summer without a daydream?

Artists, however, have long-argued against an over-structured and unimaginative approach to life. “Nothing happens unless first in a dream,” said poet Carl Sandburg.

His use of “first” flips Henry Ford’s maxim on its hard, pragmatic head. Sandburg makes an argument for those idle moments when watching the slowly morphing shapes of clouds in the sky may trigger lines of poetry, religious wisdom or new takes on the theory of relativity.

So … when it comes to college readiness and summer plans, what is a high school student to do? Should you go for the action-packed, busy schedule? Or opt for cloud-gazing? In my capacity as the College Strategist, I’m often asked my position on this.

Read more