Essay and application advice



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Essay and application advice
2014-15 The Common Application essay questions

You should draft answers during summer between junior and senior year. See tips at end.

The Common Application opens August 1st before your senior year.

Pick one topic and write a 250 to 650 word essay. 

( ) Option #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.

( ) Option #2: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

( ) Option #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

( ) Option #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?

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

Scholarship applications also ask other essay questions. If they ask a specific question, be sure the answer the question asked. If they let you choose the topic, there are ideas below. Also, remember to save drafts of your favorite reflections that you’ve done at Sage to help give you a head start.
Other Common Essay Questions and How to Handle Them

Don't let a tough scholarship essay deter you from applying.

By Roxana Hadad, March 04, 2009 from Fastweb.com

The essay: It’s the most important part of your scholarship application, and it can be the hardest. But the essay shouldn’t keep you from applying. Take a look at some commonly asked essay questions and use them to prepare for your scholarship applications. Brainstorm ideas, do some research or create your own “stock” of scholarship essays. When the time comes, you’ll be ready to write your way to scholarship success!



Your Field of Specialization and Academic Plans
Some scholarship applications will ask you to write about your major or field of study. These questions are used to determine how well you know your area of specialization and why you’re interested in it.

Samples:

  • How will your study of _______ contribute to your immediate or long range career plans?

  • Why do you want to be a _______?

  • Explain the importance of (your major) in today’s society.

  • What do you think the industry of _______ will be like in the next 10 years?

  • What are the most important issues your field is facing today?


Current Events and Social Issues
To test your skills at problem-solving and check how up to date you are on current issues, many scholarship applications include questions about problems and issues facing society.

Samples:

  • What do you consider to be the single most important societal problem? Why?

  • If you had the authority to change your school in a positive way, what specific changes would you make?

  • Pick a controversial problem on college campuses and suggest a solution.

  • What do you see as the greatest threat to the environment today?

Personal Achievements
Scholarships exist to reward and encourage achievement. So you shouldn’t be surprised to find essay topics that ask you to brag a little.

Samples:

  • Describe how you have demonstrated leadership ability both in and out of school.

  • Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart.

  • Describe your most meaningful achievements and how they relate to your field of study and your future goals.

  • Why are you a good candidate to receive this award?

Background and Influences
Who you are is closely tied to where you’ve been and who you’ve known. To learn more about you, some scholarship committees will ask you to write about your background and major influences.

Samples:

  • Pick an experience from your own life and explain how it has influenced your development.

  • Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?

  • How has your family background affected the way you see the world?

  • How has your education contributed to who you are today?

Future Plans and Goals
Scholarship sponsors look for applicants with vision and motivation, so they might ask about your goals and aspirations.

Samples:

  • Briefly describe your long- and short-term goals.

  • Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

  • Why do you want to get a college education?

Detailing your financial needs can help.

Financial Need
Many scholarship providers have a charitable goal: They want to provide money for students who are going to have trouble paying for college. In addition to asking for information about your financial situation, these committees may want a more detailed and personal account of your financial need.

Samples:

  • From a financial standpoint, what impact would this scholarship have on your education?

  • State any special personal or family circumstances affecting your need for financial assistance.

  • How have you been financing your college education?

Random Topics
Some essay questions don’t seem directly related to your education, but committees use them to test your creativity and get a more well-rounded sense of your personality.

Samples:

  • Choose a person or persons you admire and explain why.

  • Choose a book or books and that have affected you deeply and explain why.

While you can’t predict every essay question, knowing some of the most common ones can give you a leg up on applications. Start brainstorming now, and you may find yourself a winner!

2014-15 COMMON APPLICATION ESSAY PROMPTS

The current Common Application, CA4, launched on August 1st, 2013, and the essay prompts have remained unchanged for the 2014-15 college application cycle. … With CA4, the length limit for the essay was increased from 500 words to 650, and students will need to choose from the five options below. The new prompts are designed to encourage reflection and introspection. If your essay doesn't include some self-analysis, you haven't fully succeeded in responding to the prompt.

Below are the five options with some general tips for each from http://collegeapps.about.com/od/essays/a/common-application-essay-prompts.htm:

Option #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.

"Identity" is at the heart of this prompt. What is it that makes you you? The prompt gives you a lot of latitude for answering the question since you can write about your "background or story." Your "background" can be a broad environmental factor that contributed to your development such as growing up in a military family, living in an interesting place, or dealing with an unusual family situation. Your "story" could be an event or series of events that had a profound impact on your identity. However you approach the prompt, make sure you are inward looking and explain how and why your identity was influenced by your background or story.

Option #2: Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?

This prompt may seem to go against everything that you've learned on your path to college. It's far more comfortable in an application to celebrate successes and accomplishments than it is to discuss failure. At the same time, you'll impress the college admissions folks greatly if you can show your ability to learn from your failures and mistakes. Be sure to devote significant space to the second half of the question--what was your response to failure, and how did you learn and grow from the experience? Introspection and honesty is key with this prompt.



Option #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Keep in mind how open-ended this prompt truly is. The "belief or idea" you explore could be your own, someone else's, or that of a group. The best essays will be honest as they explore the difficulty of working against the status quo or a firmly held belief, and the answer to the final question--would you make the same decision again--need not be "yes." Sometimes in retrospection we discover that the cost of an action was perhaps too great. However you approach this prompt, your essay needs to reveal one of your core personal values. If the belief you challenged doesn't give the admissions folks a window into your personality, then you haven't succeeded with this prompt.



Option #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?

Here again the Common Application gives you a lot of options for approaching the question. A "place or environment" could be many things--a house, a classroom, a tree top, a church, a stadium, a stage, a family, a country, an imagined space, a book, an internal place, and so on. Think about where and when you are most content, and then analyze the source of that contentedness. Keep in mind that the "why" at the end of the prompt is essential. This essay prompt, like all of the options, is asking you to be introspective and share with the admissions folks what it is that you value.



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

I'm not a fan of the way this prompt is worded for it suggests that a single event or accomplishment can be so transformative that one becomes an adult overnight. Maturity comes as the result of a long train of events and accomplishments (and failures). That said, this prompt is an excellent choice if you want to explore a single event or achievement that marked a clear milestone in your personal development. Be careful to avoid the "hero" essay -- admissions offices are often overrun with essays about the season-winning touchdown or brilliant performance in the school play. These can certainly be fine topics for an essay, but make sure your essay is analyzing your personal growth process, not bragging about an accomplishment.



Some Final Thoughts: Whichever prompt you chose, make sure you are looking inward. What do you value? What has made you grow as a person? What makes you the unique individual the admissions folks will want to invite to join their campus community? The best essays spend significant time with self-analysis, and they don't spend a disproportionate amount of time merely describing a place or event. Analysis, not description, will reveal the critical thinking skills that are the hallmark of a promising college student.

If you find yourself grumbling about the loss of the "Topic of Your Choice" option for the essay, keep in mind that all five of the new prompts allow for great flexibility and creativity. The folks at The Common Application have cast a wide net with these questions, and nearly anything you want to write about could fit under at least one of the options.

See more essay tips for each question at http://collegeapps.about.com/od/essays/a/common-application-essay-prompts.htm

College App Advice From A College Counselor

College counselor Lisa Micele joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to answer those questions.



Lisa Micele’s 7 Common App Mistakes To Avoid

  1. Being too casual with the online tool. This is a formal application. Colleges are looking for a well-written essay (with evidence of how well you express yourself and develop your ideas.) Write multiple drafts. Have someone proofread for you. Always preview your application before you hit “Submit.” Your best application will take time.



  1. Students forgetting to send in their test scores directly from the ACT or College Board to each college or university on their list. Yes — you will enter your scores (and future test dates) on the Common Application, but that does not mean each college has received “official score reports” on your behalf. You will have an incomplete application without these test scores.



  1. Putting in one’s payment option and not completing the signature page. Again, the application is not submitted until the electronic signature is entered. (If you are seeking a fee waiver, please talk with your high school counselor. He/she must confirm you qualify.)



  1. Not using the activity chart wisely. The Common Application directs students to complete the activities section even if planning to submit a resume. Activities should be entered in order of importance to the student. Explain these involvements as fully as possible — clearly stating the full name of the activity and providing as much detail as possible.



  1. Not following directives by each college. If they accept a supplemental letter of recommendation, great! Go for it! If they accept an upload of the resume, feel free to do so. If they don’t accept extras, feel free to call the college and inquire further. Bottom line: Follow their directions.



  1. Neglecting to confirm the status of a complete file. It is the students’ responsibility to confirm the completeness of their application file. Check your status online (via your Common Application account) but never hesitate to contact a college directly to make certain everything is there.



  1. Final tip: Start your application well before the deadline and enjoy the journey. You can do this!


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