Weekly Tips and Tricks for College Admissions and Essays!


I hope it was helpful to brainstorm and freewrite about the Common Application Essay prompts over the past couple of weeks. At this point, you should feel more interested and invested in one of the five prompts. It helps if you pick a topic you care about. You are the real focus–your topic should be a vehicle to give the reader a sense of who you are.  This week, we’ll focus on some important information about the essay and the drafting and revising process. When writing your college essays, it is important to keep some of the following information in mind.

  • Schools that use the Common Application Essay:

All Eight Ivy League Schools, (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale) as well as Stanford, University of Chicago, Caltech, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Rice.

  • Your Common Application essay must be between 250-650 words.
  • Your Yale Writing Supplement essay must be 500 words or less.
  • If your essays do not adhere to these word limits, you will not be able to submit your application.
  • Refer to http://www.commonapp.org/

When writing your essay, not everything will fit in 650 words. For your first draft, don’t write a list, but describe an experience in-depth that can’t be gleaned from your resume. It is important to revise, revise, and revise. Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.” Edit, edit, then edit again. Read aloud so you can catch your own mistakes. Ask your peers, teachers, and guidance counselors to review your work. When you are revising try to cut redundancies and vague language, vary your sentences and transitions, and be concise. Remember to show and don’t tell as well as use the active voice. When trying to set a scene it is helpful to incorporate the five senses: smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing.  I’ve listed some additional resources below:

  • Your high school counselors
  • Colleges themselves:
    • engage.stanford.edu/blog/
    • @applytoharvard

In the next couple of weeks, we’ll look at an essay that gained a student admission to one of the top colleges. In the meantime, please feel free to post questions to the blog or e-mail me at kristin.rose@ivyglobal.com.


Professor Rose

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