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DAY 1 The College Essay. Let’s do some real research and see what advice other people have to give!! What makes a college essay “work”? How can writers reveal themselves through writing? .

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DAY 1 The College Essay

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day 1 the college essay
DAY 1The College Essay
  • Let’s do some real research and see what advice other people have to give!!
    • What makes a college essay “work”?
    • How can writers reveal themselves through writing?
What do you think college admissions committees are looking for when they read student essays? Consider…
  • Content
  • Voice
  • Style
read the excerpt below
Read the excerpt below:
  • During the summer before my junior year of high school, I spent a weekend volunteering with the poor in post-Katrina Louisiana and realized that I am privileged. Most of what these people had had been ripped out from under them and life was very different there from my life in suburban Massachusetts. Amazingly, though, these people still seemed happy. I learned from this experience that money isn’t everything.
now that you ve read this excerpt
Now that you’ve read this excerpt:
  • Do you think this essay will meet the expectations listed above?
  • Does this paragraph grab you?
  • Are you interested in reading more of this essay?
  • What do you think this paragraph says about this student?

HOMEWORK: Read the article(s) you are assigned from the list below, and answer the following questions:a. What are the top three pieces of advice you glean from this piece?b. From whose perspective does this advice come?C. Do you find this advice compelling? Why or why not?


*You may need to copy and paste the urls into the search bar.

day 2 advice last night s homework
DAY 2ADVICE (last night’s homework)
  • Share the most compelling advice from the piece(s) you read.
  • Let’s compile a list on the board and discuss the wisdom and limitations of the suggestions.
  • What advice from our list seems most useful?
  • Despite all of this advice, what don’t you know about writing college essays?
  • What role does the reader play in determining what works and what doesn’t?
  • How can you account for individual, unknown readers as you write?
group activity form an admissions committee
Group Activity: Form an “Admissions Committee”

“I hope I get in. Will they like me? I like me. I think I like me. Wait, do you think I’ll get in? Somebody’s got to let me in. Right? Hey… Pick ME!!!”

form an admissions committee
Form an “admissions committee”
  • As a committee, you will now read severalsample college essays
  • YOUR TASK as a committee:
    • Imagine that these essay writers have applied for admission to your college or university.
    • Use the rubric to evaluate the essays and decide whether or not to admit each student. Give each essay a score
    • Assume that each student has a similarly strong profile in terms of grades, test scores, activities and recommendations.
    • As a committee, deliver your admission decisions to the class by first briefly describing the essay and explaining what you liked or didn’t like about it.
after the final decisions
After the final “decisions”…
  • How were these essays different from the excerpt with which we began? (post-Katrina)
  • In what ways were they more effective?
  • What is cliché?
  • How did these essays avoid that trap?
  • After considering these essays, what else should we add to our list about what college admissions committees are looking for in student essays?
tips from college board and princeton review
Tips from:College Board and Princeton Review

As well as one thing to never forget:

*You may need to copy and paste the urls into the search bar.

still having trouble deciding on a topic
Still having trouble deciding on a topic?
  • A significant relationship I had or have:
  • A treasured object I possess:
  • A time I took a risk:
  • A time I felt humbled:
  • One thing very few people know about me is:
  • Something I regret:
  • A time when I was, or felt, rejected:
  • Something I am really proud of:
  • Something that changed the way I think or look at the world:
  • How I am different from most people I know:
  • My greatest fear:
  • A time I felt truly satisfied:
  • A person I admire:
  • An object I own that tells a lot about me:
  • Something funny that I did or that happened to me:



TOPICSIt is often preferable to write about the mundane - What “small moments” in your life might make for good personal statement material?

  • For many seniors, choosing the topic for a personal statement is more difficult than actually writing the piece. But don’t fret. “Some of the more mundane moments in life make great essays,” Christopher Burkmar, Princeton University’s associate dean of admissions, assured guidance counselors at a conference last month.
  • If you are applying to college, how might you use something “mundane” to show who you are and what is important to you? Or, what about your life might make an admissions officer “laugh, cry or wince”?
  • You might also want to read and respond to student comments on this blog:
final task
  • Choose one piece of advice you found most compelling and craft a college essay that puts this suggestion into practice.
  • Consider the elements of style and the patterns of development we have explored and model your essay using what appeals most to your purpose in writing.
  • Choose one of the new common app prompts for your essay. Instructions, prompts and rubrics are on the next slides.
  • Essay must be typed using MLA format and turned in in hard copy on the assigned date.
  • Essay will count for 1/3 of your final exam grade
prompts and rubric on next slides
Prompts and rubric on next slides
  • Instructions. The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don't feel obligated to do so. (The application won't accept a response shorter than 250 words.)


1. Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

2. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons

did you learn?

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.Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

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