Tag Archives: college

It’s College Application Essay Writing Time. Fear NOT…

This week I started meeting with students to help them with their college application essays. It’s so interesting to see their different approaches to the essay. There seem to be two reasons that students are intimidated by this part of the process.

The first one is that they fear they don’t have anything to write about. That is never true.  You cannot live for 17 or 18 years and not have stories to tell. The real problem is that most students think they don’t have anything “good enough” to write about. Also not true. This essay is very simply a story that captures who you are and how you’ve grown into the person you are.

So if you get stumped here, fear not. Think about those moments in your life that have mattered to you. When did you learn something about yourself that you hadn’t yet realized? Slow down and let those memories simmer. There is power there. Embrace it and then grab a pencil.

If your memories don’t help you, start thinking about the objects in your room that are meaningful to you. What do they symbolize? Why are they important? Why do you keep them? And then get writing.

The other reason students dread the essay is because they have something they very much want to write about but they fear other people will not want them to write it (parents, this is usually you).

I cannot say this strongly enough. If you feel compelled to write about something, you must write exactly about that thing. Remember, you do not have to submit that essay but you really should explore the idea of it. All other topics are likely to fall much more flatly on the page until you’ve written what you want to write.

This is where parents get nervous. What if family secrets are revealed? What if parents look like the bad guys? Here is where I caution everyone to just relax. Remember that these essays are not being submitted to the Washington Post. They will only be read by a handful of people. Quite honestly, if the admissions panelists remember your essay then you have done a very, very good job. Most of the essays they read are sadly quite forgettable.

Also, when students write these essays, they are rarely about what parents fear they will be about. They focus on the student’s journey and reactions. They are quite often amazing.

I once had a student who wanted to write about her relationship with her brother. Her parents said she could not write it because her brother faced unique challenges that were hard on the family. I never spoke to her parents so I don’t know what their specific hesitation was but I encouraged the student to write two essays. The one her parents wanted her to write and the one she wanted to write. (And then I encouraged her to share both essays with her parents before deciding which one to submit.)

Guess which one was better?

The first one was about her experience of giving speeches and it read like a list. Basically–I gave this speech, I gave that speech. I learned I can give a great speech.

The second was about playing a game with her brother. It captured a specific moment when her brother had a reaction that was hard to handle. The essay wasn’t about her brother but about her. There was absolutely no judgment in the essay at all–not about her brother, not about her parents, and not about herself. It highlighted a moment of clarity, a time when she was able to see her brother and herself in new ways. It was a beautiful story and I remember it all this time later–even after reading hundreds and hundreds of other essays. It is one of the few that sticks out in my memory.

The bottom line is that you cannot edit a blank page. So get busy writing. The magic of writing happens in revision anyway. You have at your disposal trash cans, erasers, and delete buttons. You alone have control over what you send out into the world. So just write, revise, and decide later what to do with it.

 

College Essay Writing Tips Series

Since so many students are stressing about their college essays, I’ve decided to write a series of College Essay Writing Tips. The links to each post can be found below:College Essay Writing Tips - the full list

Tip # 1 Helpful Revision Techniques

Tip # 2 We Are All Beginners at Some Point

Tip # 3 The Writing Process

I will update this page as new posts are published.

Best of luck with your essay and keep writing!

College Essay Writing Tip #2 – Remember We Are All Beginners at Some Point

pen and paperThis might be the most important tip that I will share with you because it speaks to confidence. Believing you can write a great essay is the very first step to writing a great essay. Measured confidence can take you pretty far because you won’t be afraid to fail. You’ll just dust yourself off and sharpen your pencil again.

The beauty of the college essay is that it remains hidden until you decide to release it into the world. If you hate what you’ve written, you don’t have to submit it. It’s that simple. So go for it!

You must remember that writing is like anything else. Baseball players don’t show up at The World Series final game without practicing (a ton). Pianist don’t show up at Carnegie Hall without practicing (a ton). Teachers don’t show up to the classroom – Doctors don’t show up for surgery – Magicians don’t show up to the stage – Preachers don’t show up to the pulpit without a ton of preparation.

When you sit down to write your essay, remember that you are very likely a beginner. This means that it might be challenging in ways you didn’t expect. Just keep writing and revising. You will get there!

Here is what Ira Glass has to say about being a beginner…

So trust your writerly instincts and get busy creating that first draft!

P.S. For the full list of college essay writing tips, click here.

College Essay Writing Tip #1 – Helpful Revision Techniques

For the next few blog posts, I’ll be writing about the dreaded college application essay. Most students not only dread it, but actually fear it.

That’s because a blank piece of paper is scary. college essay writing tips monster under the bed

No, really. It’s worse than monsters under the bed even. How do you transform nothing into the most amazing story ever (and in 500 words or less)?

Not everyone can afford to hire an essay tutor, so here are some things to think about.

Write two drafts before you show it to anyone. The first draft will never be your best work. Magical writing happens in revision.

Read your essay out loud. Trust me. This is an amazing (and very inexpensive) way to find inconsistencies, over-used words, and grammatical errors.

Have some one else read your essay. After they read it, ask them these questions:

  • Where in the essay did you stop or slow down reading?
  • Did you stop because you liked what you read and you wanted to read it again?
  • Or, did you stop because you were confused?
  • What do you remember most about my essay?
  • What did you like the least about my essay?
  • After reading this, what is one word you would use to describe me? (This will speak to the theme of your essay. Here you can see if what you were trying to get across is actually what the reader took away from your essay.)
  • Are there any questions that my essay made you wonder about but didn’t answer?
  • Did I fully address the question(s) in the prompt?

These questions will help you see the strengths and weaknesses in your essay. It’s important to remember that this is not a time to explain to the reader why things were or were not the way they seemed. It’s a time to reflect on what the reader’s take-away was and if that was your intention. Remember that you will not have the opportunity to “explain” any aspect of your essay to the review committee. It will have to stand on its own.

Then revise, revise, revise.

Happy Writing (and revising!)

P.S. For the full list of college essay writing tips, click here.

 

Life in a Flying House…………

Is that not the coolest title ever? I wish I had thunk of it myself. Dang it. 

I received an email that those of you expats with children definitely want to keep in mind for next year. It’s a scholarship contest for children living abroad.

Unfortunately the deadline has passed for this year but the winners will be announced in early September and I cannot wait to read their entries.

But mark your calendars for next year. I am excited to even hear what the theme will be  – this year’s rocks.

Anyhouse, here’s the low down……..

Dear A Reason To Write:

I came across your blog online and really enjoyed your posts. As a member of the expat community, you have a unique voice among your peers. (I am really crossing my pencils that this is not simply a form letter because that was a nice compliment. 😉 )

I’m contacting you because I wanted to share some news with you about the Expat Youth Scholarship. I’m with Clements International, the scholarship sponsor, and the leading provider of insurance solutions for expatriates and international organizations. (Yes, that is what we call a plug – but please know that I do not know this company at all and am not recommending them or endorsing their products – they might be fantastic – I just do not know. But their contest sounds great so please read on.)  We’re awarding a total of $10,000 in scholarships to six students (remember I am not a numbers gal but if I do the math right that is a decent chunk o’change) and announcing the finalists on September 13.

Our company started this scholarship program in 2009 to give back to our clients and the expatriate community we serve. Now in its second year, the 2010 Expat Youth Scholarship offered participants a chance to use their experiences living in a foreign country to imagine where their journey might take them next. The scholarship’s theme, “Life in a Flying House,” is inspired by the idea that expat students who spend their childhoods moving between different countries and cultures develop rich life experiences. This year we received over 500 entries and will be awarding a total of $10,000 in scholarships to six, talented students from all over the world!

As an active representative of the expat community, I’m reaching out to solicit your help in promoting the scholarship to your readers. The winning entries are amazing and will be posted online for the world to see at www.expatyouthscholarship.com once the finalists are announced. We also plan to post details about the 2011 scholarship in the coming months, which may be of interest to your readers who wish to enter next year. (P.S. Kathy – if you are looking for judges next year, pick me pick me!)

You can sign up to receive e-mail updates at www.expatscholarship.com and visit our Facebook page (with over 500 fans!).

Thanks, Kathy

Good luck writers – get those pencils sharpened.

You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling……..

Today, with no one but me to do laundry, I actually folded some clothes. I opened my daughters’ dresser drawer to put away a shirt – I shifted some things around to make room – and I was almost knocked over by the softest, gentlest breeze of fresh air I have ever felt and smelled. I swear it whisked my bangs away from my eyes. My head tilted back. My eyes closed. My imagination took me across oceans. There might have even been angels singing. Oh heaven. The commercials are true! Fabric softener does make your clothes smell like a spring breeze.I might just buy stock in Downy.

There must have been something in that drawer that my daughters have decided is not India worthy. It has been left unworn, untainted at the bottom of their drawer. And it is the only thing we have left that still smells like home. (Well, to be fair, the cat litter still smells the same – but somehow it just doesn’t compare.)

Our bath towels have long ago lost the softness and smell of home – their loving feeling. Now I get my loofa scrub when I get out of the shower and dry off with a towel that has been hung out to dry.

So I stood at the drawer for a minute and I thought. Think. Think. Think. There must be something I can do. So I decided to conduct a little experiment.

My blog friend at Mr. Smith Goes to Delhi had told me that dryer sheets were hard to find here. But what she didn’t say was dryers were harder to find. So, I did bring some dryer sheets with me. But, alas, we don’t have a dryer – well, unless you call God sneezing a dryer, but at least we don’t have a dryer that utilizes dryer sheets. So, they have sat unused on top of our washer. Until today. I put two in the washer with my towels. They did come out smelling nicer than they have been smelling. They are drying now and I will let you know how it goes.

P.S. I know some of you are thinking – they have fabric softener in Delhi – just buy some of that. Here is where you have to have lived somewhere that has a Tide laundry detergent/Downy fabric softener combination available to use with your laundry. And you have to have been somewhere where dryers aren’t uncommon. And you have to have smelled clothes that come out of the dryer toasty warm smelling of that combination. It’s similar to fresh bread coming out of the oven – except it’s fresh bread that you can wrap around your body. Soft, warm, spongy fresh bread with melted butter on it. And your doctor just insisted that you must stop the ridiculous dieting right now and gain 5 pounds already. See what I mean? Heaven!

And, yes, I have seen Tide here. But it comes in very small packages and it is expensive. So, please remember, I have three children who would like to go to college at some point. India has convinced them that being homeless is not the career path they hope to follow. So they might have to suffer through scratchy clothes in order for us to pay tuition. If I decide they aren’t actually college material, bring on the Tide – but that is yet to be determined.

Could you spell that please?

I am no stranger to people not understanding me. I was born in South Carolina and lived in the somewhat deep south until 4th grade. We moved to Germany for 5th grade and sometimes people did not understand what I was saying – I had me a twang. For 7th grade we moved to Georgia – minus some of the twang – I had lost most of it – and some of my words seemed odd and, strangely, less accented.

Six years in Georgia fixed that quite nicely. Pass me a mint julep. Pretty please. And then off to college I went. Up North.  Well (just barely) south of the Mason Dixon line. But North is in the eye of the beholder.  It was in a very diverse area but an area with no real accent of its own. Enter my southern drawl. Could you spell that please – I heard that more than once and it seemed so insulting. Doesn’t everyone say PEEEEEEnuhhhhts, puh leeeeees?

Then there was the time I went to visit my cousin in Wyoming. Play me some mountain music, Hillbilly. The friends of my cousin laughed so hard at my accent that their sody pop came right out of them their noses. I cried for over an hour. They were not tears of joy.

So moving to India and hearing the different accents hasn’t been too hard for me. I can sympathize. I just slow down my ears and listen up real good. It is really amazing, even the Americans here are from all over the world. It is the United Nations of Accents.

Last week, I started taking Hindi lessons. Okay, I have had one (ek) lesson. But I have been trying out some of my new words.

It turns out I still have me a funny little accent. The three Indian men in my daily life, Raju, Ravi, and Kahn all have a hard time understanding just exactly what it is I am trying to say. When they slow down their ears – they can understand most of it. It is a lesson in slow for all of us.

I was leaving to go to the market the other day and Raju and Ravi taught me how to say goodbye – ta ta. Sounds like Tigger – hey, I can remember that. I can even spell it.

Then they tried to teach me how to say “take me to” Defence (this is not misspelled – remember the British influence here) Colony market. I don’t even remember the words they tried to teach me because I am blocking this from recent memory. They told me – I practiced – they laughed – I made them pinky swear they weren’t teaching me to call our driver a jerk – and I practiced again.

Then I got in the car

Me: Kahn and then “what (I thought) they taught me to say”
Kahn: Ma’am?
Me: Doesn’t that mean “I want to go to Defence Colony Market”?
Kahn: Ma’am?
Me: What did I just say?
Kahn: Defence Colony Ma’am?
Me: Okay. Defence Colony Market it is. Can we go there?
Kahn: Yes Ma’am.

Then our driver explains the market to me. He’ll park here and wait for me here. There are two sides. You go down the right and then come back up the right. He’ll wait here. Here is where he will be. Waiting for me. Ma’am.

Okay, it is not lost on me that he could not understand “I want to go to the market” but he could completely explain the market to me. Maybe I am just language retarded. Maybe falling out of a swing when I was little and hitting my head on cement really was something to be a wee bit more concerned about.

My teacher is coming back on Monday and you can be sure, my first lesson will be – I want to go to…….

Ta Ta.