Most high schools focus on teaching you the academic essay: you know, thesis statement, supporting paragraphs, and a closing paragraph summarizing the above. There is a pretty exact formula you have to stick with and not much room for creativity. Your tone is overly formal and you are expected to cite and analyze texts for a unique argument and conclusion. The good news: You spend 4 years learning this academic skill, which is helpful and will be what you are expected to write in college.Read More
When writing the essay that *may* determine the rest of your life, you may be tempted to embellish a little. You're competing with SO MANY OTHER KIDS that you think you need to sound that much smarter and well-read. The best writers use big words, right?
"Yelena helped illuminate my strengths on my personal statement, breaking my habit of cutting myself short. She used her excellent intuition to select compelling scenes, asking questions that allowed me to elaborate on my defining moments. She also helped cut my repetitions, maximizing the use of space on the very limiting word count.
"I'm extremely grateful for Yelena's help for she is one of the reasons why I'm able to have the opportunity to attend a top liberal arts school on the opposite of side of the country from where I live." -Octavio, Williams CollegeRead More
DON'T ASK QUESTIONS YOU CAN FIND ANSWERS TO ONLINE
If your question can be answered with a quick Google search, you're doing it wrong. I completely understand how overwhelming the college application process is and get that families will schedule a frenetic back-to-back tour schedule, (another no-no, see #2), but this is just a waste of your time. Asking if this college has fraternities or a journalism major is such a forehead smacker. This is your unique opportunity to get answers that could help narrow your stressful college search - why would you waste it on such an easy question?Read More
You're staring at your computer screen, the mouse blinking back at you expectantly.
You've already tried writing an email draft to a friend, using your iPhone notes app, and remembering the Write Now Revise Later mantra. You know your deadline is coming up, but you feel totally stuck. Your brain is on vacay. Your inner narrator is off duty. You can't think of anything to write. Welcome to writer's block.
Here's an easy trick: switch up when and where you write.
All of us have our own internal clocks and creativity can come when we least expect it. Some of my best writing has occurred in the twilight hours between 3 and 4 in the morning. You may find yourself suddenly inspired at 6am in bed with your journal or at noon in the park on your iPad.
For now, turn your computer off, go for a walk, get distracted, and then try again at a different time and place.
Let me know if it worked!
The University of California is allowing all campuses to use letters of recommendation in admissions decisions for the first time for fall of 2018. BUT no more than 15% of freshman applicants can be asked to submit letters, and then only when schools need additional information to make an admissions decision. Don't get too excited: Letters will likely be used sparingly, since UC officials say 98% of admissions decisions are made using grades, courses, test scores, activities and essay responses on standard applications. [L.A. Times]Read More
1) Start a Journal
The hardest thing about a personal essay is finding your voice—most high schools focus on the academic essay, which is more stiff and formulaic than the admissions essay. An easy way to discover what you sound like when you're not citing academic sources or analyzing text is to start a journal. Every night before bed, take a few minutes to write about your day or what's worrying you or even try some of the prompts in the Common App. The relaxing background should let you tap into your personal voice without the pressure of sounding academic. At the very least, you'll have some snippets saved away for the draft writing stage.
1) Ignoring the Supplemental Essay Questions
A common mistake is providing the same generic answer to the supplemental "Why do you want to go to this school?" question. Admissions officers have told me that if you can copy and paste your answer to every school, you're doing it wrong. The answer has to be personalized to each school: mention specific professors or majors unique to the school or something you discovered on your campus tour. Experts in Forbes second that opinion.Read More
"This year I got into all 8 of my top choice schools—and it is all thanks to Yelena. My essay was a mess when she began working with me. I had no clue what I was going to write about, or how I was going to do it alone. I even received two personal compliments about it from two different admissions counselors at top colleges."Read More
The age-old debate about social media and how it affects college applications is finally over: yes, your social media presence can harm you. Particularly if you post racist, anti-Semitic and other offensive things in a public platform like Facebook. Especially if you just got into one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the country.
Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups in a private Facebook group chat.
This year, Harvard's acceptance rate was just 5.2%. That type of exclusivity does not come easy—and it makes sense that Harvard would protect its community from this kind of behavior. This goes back to the kindness factor: admissions officers are looking for good people, most of all.
Also, it doesn't reflect too well on one's street smarts to be so obvious (and oblivious) about your bigotry. Let this be a lesson that there's no such thing as a "private" group online. The fact that this happened as a spin-off of the official Harvard 2021 Facebook group is all the more shocking. Even the description of the official group was a clear warning:
“As a reminder, Harvard College reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under various conditions including if an admitted student engages in behavior that brings into question his or her honesty, maturity, or moral character.”
And this is not your standard teenage dirty joke.
In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson. Some of the messages joked that abusing children was sexually arousing, while others had punchlines directed at specific ethnic or racial groups. One called the hypothetical hanging of a Mexican child “piñata time.”
Thanks to a racial discrimination lawsuit against Princeton, Buzzfeed got its hands on some secret admissions documents—and boy, are they a doozy.
As a result of that lawsuit, civil rights investigators at the Education Department examined allegations of racial bias in the school’s admissions system. Though they came up short and no racial bias was found, the comments below are not exactly innocent.
I know you're supposed to “show don't tell.” How do I do that, exactly?
The best way to show is to use anecdotes, specific examples, and lots of detail. Telling is saying, “I am curious.” Showing is describing an anecdote where you got in trouble with your parents because you snuck into the cabinet and ate coffee beans just because you were curious. Picture your essay as a screenplay and that will help.
"I am a high school senior who will be attending UC Berkeley next fall. My academics and leaderships made me a competitive candidate, but my personal insight questions, edited and shaped by Yelena, is one of the top reasons I will be attending the #1 public university in the world next fall. In terms of my writing, I had strong arguments; however, they were not so coherent and well structured. Then, Yelena came along and took my writing from good to near perfect.
I definitely recommend Yelena to individuals who need feedback or additional support in the application process. You will not regret it. The results speak for themselves, the professionalism is on point, and the feedback is off the charts. I am really thankful for her service and I am keeping her in high consideration for future academic endeavors."
Fairy Godmother Nicki Minaj started paying off her fans’ student loans, laptops, current classes, equipment and tuition on Twitter—after daring them to show straight A's—and she's up to $18K so far. And this is not a one-time thing: she's planning to start an official charity soon. [Vulture]Read More
- Ring the alarm! Today's the last day to register for the June 3 SAT! Late registrations can still be made until May 24. You can register for the June 10 ACT with a late fee until May 19. [College Board] [ACT]
- While we're on the topic, here's how one first-generation student from Flint, Michigan learned to take the SAT "like a rich kid." To recap: "They approached studying for the SAT with a near-professional intensity that was alien to me. I realized that they didn’t just want to score exceptionally well on the SAT. They were gunning for a score on the Preliminary SAT exams that would put them in the top percentile of students in the United States and make them National Merit Scholars in the fall. As a result, all the drilling they did for an exam that is supposed to be an equalizer in ranking students according to raw test-taking skills was only widening the American achievement gap." [NYT] I agree. To check out my pro bono services, click here.
"I have to thank you for all your help! Ms. Shuster's techniques for helping students with their essays are astonishingly effective. She just doesn't limit herself to fix our essays, but rather to make us part of the essay's revision by asking us questions about us that can help, she also ensures we are comfortable with her suggestions. Without Ms. Shuster, I doubt I would have had been able to be as confident about both my personal statement and supplements. All of this is pro-bono."Read More
Applications have skyrocketed to Ivy League schools. Cornell got 47K+ apps and accepted only 12.5% (a record low). UPenn had 40K+ apps and admitted only 9.15%—the lowest in history. Brown had 32K+ apps and accepted a record low of 8.3%. Stanford got 44+ apps and admitted just 4.65% of that application pool, another historical lowest rate.Read More
Writing the admissions essay is so stressful that I don't blame students for reading about seemingly easy, out-of-the-box approaches and thinking, well, if it worked for this guy, why not me? The problem with such methods, though, is you're not the only one thinking that. Once an admissions trick becomes a trend (and a national news story), it's no longer out of the box. Translation: instead of looking creative, you look lazy.Read More
I worked with Marie last winter pro bono in partnership with a public school in NYC and I knew right away she was a force to be reckoned with. Her first draft was impressive and it was clear she knew the power of a creative narrative. Her first line started "in media res" (in the middle of the action), which draws the reader in right away and continued with evocative descriptions that helped me feel like I was right there with her throughout her narrative. We worked on clarifying timelines and context, cutting cliches and repetitions, reordering paragraphs for a smooth, easy-to-read flow, and digging deeper to get to the emotional root of the story.Read More