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The College Application Essay. IT’S ABOUT YOU ! Michael Settanni, Writing Coach. Tonight’s presentation. Background Roles Getting started Authentic voice The personal narrative Self-editing Do’s and don’ts The new Common Application questions Coaching conference dates

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the college application essay

The College Application Essay


Michael Settanni, Writing Coach

tonight s presentation
Tonight’s presentation
  • Background
  • Roles
  • Getting started
  • Authentic voice
  • The personal narrative
  • Self-editing
  • Do’s and don’ts
  • The new Common Application questions
  • Coaching conference dates
  • Contact information
  • Your questions/concerns
my role as a writing coach
My role as a writing coach
  • Explain the rules
  • Make suggestions for locating a topic
  • Help focus and organize the essay
  • Respond honestly
  • Give direction
  • Guide practice
  • I don’t rewrite the essay
your role
Your role
  • Focus! Focus! Focus!
  • Edit! Edit! Edit!
  • Work! Work! Work!
  • Read. Your. Essay. ALOUD!
question how important is the essay really
Question: How important is the essay really?
  • Answer: Very!
  • Get noticed, but don’t . . .
subject and topic
Subject and Topic

Understand the difference

  • YOU are the subject.
  • The topic is what you choose to write about. It can be virtually anything you’ve experienced, from the mundane to the monumental, but it must reveal something true and essential about YOU.
choosing a suitable topic people are interesting and so are you
Choosing a suitable topic: “People are interesting and so are you.”
  • Make the ordinary extraordinary
  • Present yourself in a favorable light: strengths, characteristics
  • Ask yourself questions (see handout)
  • Select an experience that allows you to demonstrate personal development: What did you learn about yourself, others, the world? Were you changed in some way?
  • Choose your topic with space limitations in mind (a 650- word absolute maximum for the Common Application).
the approach am i writing an essay a memoir a story
The Approach: Am I writing an essay, a memoir, a story?

The college application essay is a personal narrative. That is, it’s an essay, memoir and story all at the same time. It should have some of the analysis, observation and interpretation of an essay, some of the reflection on experience of a memoir and some of the conflict and resolution of a story. All in 650 words or less.

the new common application essay prompts
The NEW Common Application essay prompts
  • Number of prompts reduced from six to five
  • Word limit increased to 650
  • “Topic of your choice” removed
  • See handout for copy of 2013 prompts
the personal narrative is
The personal narrative is . . .

. . . a story you tell about an experience you’ve had. It should have

  • a beginning, middle, end OR introduction, body, conclusion
  • conflict and resolution, a controlling idea
  • anecdote(s), examples and concrete details
  • Reflection, observation, analysis
  • a point

A word about graphic organizers

authentic voice what is it
Authentic voice: What is it?

It’s how you express your character/make-up/nature/temperament in writing. It can be many things, but it mustbegenuine.

show d on t t ell
Show, Don’t Tell.


  • Active voice (handout)
  • Strong verbs
  • Anecdotes
  • Dialogue
  • Concrete details
the process
The Process
  • Pre-write—Write—Rewrite—Rewrite—Proof—Publish
  • Procrastination (avoid avoiding)
  • Three to four drafts and a final edit (polish)
  • Compress your writing.
self editing
  • Less is more: Kill your darlings
  • “First word, best word” may have worked for Allen Ginsberg, but it won’t for you.
  • Revise for specifics, telling details, concrete examples
  • Everything counts: spelling, grammar, mechanics
  • Read ALOUD
make sure you
Make sure you
  • Follow directions
  • Respond to the prompt
  • Write with an authentic voice (active, genuine)
  • Showdon’t tell (STRONG verbs)
  • Write about something that matters to you
  • Make a point
  • Reveal something positive about yourself
  • Check carefully for errors
a void
  • Predictability
  • Exclamation points. . .really!
  • The thesaurus (except to avoid repetition)
  • Unnecessary descriptors (adjectives, adverbs)
  • Writing errors of all kinds (lots of gremlins out there)
  • Boasting, self-promotion
  • A smarmy, self-righteous or overly sentimental tone
  • Fluff, padding
  • Avoiding (don’t procrastinate)
writing conference
Writing Conference

Three one-to-one-and-a-half-hour sessions at least one week apart

  • Session 1: Idea generation
  • Session 2: Writing and rewrites
  • Session 3: Polishing the final draft
  • Drafts should be emailed to me at least one day before we meet

Cost: $300

contact information
Contact information

Phone: (610) 220-3422