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Story Up! The College Essay Blog

3 Things You Should Never Do in College Admission Essays

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 21, 2015 12:00:00 PM / by Carol Barash posted in Essays, common app, personal statement, tips and tricks, what not to do

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by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

Usually I’m princess positive in all things college essay, but I’ve been seeing a lot of really dumb mistakes lately--things you can easily avoid with a tiny bit of attention. Here are the 3 worst things you can do on your college essays and how to fix them.

  1. Tell someone else’s story: You may be tempted to write about someone else: your mother or grandfather or a famous person whose quote inspires you and serves as the epigraph to your essay. Forget all of them! The #1 job of your college admission essays is to reveal your character. So find the moments in your own life that show who you really are--moments of change, growth or learning, or just everyday moments when you made a difference in the life of your community. The topic doesn’t need to be fancy or from a place faraway, but it needs to be your own, something that really happened to you. Want to see stories that inspired other students?

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6 College Admission Essay Hacks every student needs to know

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 20, 2015 4:59:24 PM / by Carol Barash posted in college application essay tips, college essay, common app, essay help, tips and tricks

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by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

Colleges use your essays to decide between thousands of students who look the same on paper. Here are 6 quick tips to write authentic essays that stand out from masses of students with similar grades and test scores.

  1. Planning pays off: You can’t write a great essay the night before it’s due! Taking the time to organize your essays will save you time in the long run. Get everything organized with the Story2 EssayBuilder.

  1. Build a bridge: A great essay creates a connection between what you’ve done in the past, and what you will do in the future. Work back and forth between moments that have shaped you into who you are and a precise picture of what you’ll do in the future.

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From Youth to Adulthood: 4 Pitfalls to avoid in Common App Prompt #5

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 15, 2015 10:00:00 AM / by Carol Barash posted in college essay, common app, essay, common app prompts, accomplishment

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by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

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

This is blog 5 of a 5 part blog series: Tackling the 5 Common App Essay Prompts

It’s true of all admissions and supplement essays—and especially this prompt—that you need to get past the obvious to write an essay that shows admission officers who you are.

The big problem here is the word “accomplishment.” Your achievements will show up in the Activities + Awards section of the Common App. And, in general, big accomplishments are less interesting than more complex and ambiguous moments of learning and change. Often it’s a matter of how you frame the moments that shape who you are today, the moments that have created the person you will be in college.

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Problem Solving: How to Answer the New Common App Question #4

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 14, 2015 1:44:08 PM / by Carol Barash posted in common app, common app prompts, essay help, New Prompt, Problem Solving

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by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma--anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.

This is blog 4 of a 5 part blog series: Tackling the 5 Common App Essay Prompts

The high schools and colleges that govern the Common Application added this question to give students a chance to talk about their intellectual work and ambitions, as well as their big ideas about the world and the future. This is a great question for a student who has a clear sense of personal and professional purpose, but it also tempts students to write from their resume, rather than their heart or even their soul.

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Taking Things On: 3 Tips to Answer Common Application Essay Prompt #3

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 12, 2015 4:47:08 PM / by Carol Barash posted in act, essay, essay examples, common app prompts, challenge, reflect

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by Carol Barash , PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights  reserved.

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

This is blog 3 of a 5 part blog series: Tackling the 5 Common App Essay Prompts

You do something new, and you see yourself and the world differently. If you’ve had one of these moments, you will know. I once interviewed an applicant for Princeton whose parents had kicked him out when he told them he was gay. He had lived with a friend for a while, and was applying to college from a homeless shelter.

“How did you find the courage?” I remember asking him. “Would you do it again?”

“I just couldn’t live a lie anymore,” he said, looking directly into my eyes.

The keywords in this question are “reflect,” “challenged,” and “act.” It’s almost a series of questions, inviting you to describe a time that you took on something established, what you did, and what you learned: there is the challenge itself, what caused you to act, and then—this is the “reflect” part—would you do it again?

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Failure: 4 Hints on How to Answer Common Application Question #2

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 11, 2015 3:30:00 PM / by Carol Barash posted in college admissions essay, how to write essays, common app, common app prompts, failure

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by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

This is blog 2 of a 5 part blog series: Tackling the 5 Common App Essay Prompts

The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

When I was a faculty advisor to the admissions committee at Douglass College, Rutgers, the stories of failure were much more memorable than those about success.

I remember an admissions essay from a young woman who wrote about getting pregnant and choosing to have an abortion. My hands shook as she traced her decision to be the first person in her family to attend college. “I want to have children later,” her essay concluded, “but not now.”

I looked around the table, and one of the committee members was wiping her eyes; another whispered, “Wow.” One by one, we shook our heads yes, and we admitted her. No one from her high school had ever been admitted to Rutgers before.

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What’s your Story: why the first Common Application essay prompt is the most popular

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 10, 2015 5:35:00 PM / by Carol Barash posted in storytelling, common app, common app prompts, what's your story

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by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

This is blog 1 of a 5 part blog series: Tackling the 5 Common App Essay Prompts

 Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The Common Application personal statement is meant to be straightforward and engaging, so don’t over-complicate them!  The instructions ask you to reveal something that distinguishes you or sets you apart from others in your own voice. They are not asking for something elaborate, but something uniquely your own.

The first question--which Common App member colleges say is the most popular and the most useful--allows you to write about any moment that has shaped who you are as a person. It’s the simplest to answer because it is the most straightforward and most capacious: really, you can write about anything important to you.

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10 Simple Tips from "The Perplexed Parents Guide to the Common App" Webinar

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 5, 2015 4:25:00 PM / by Ruben Porras posted in parents, college process, webinars, essay writing tips, college admission strategy

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by Ruben Porras, School Relationship Manager, Story2,
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.


Yesterday, Carol Barash, our CEO, led a great webinar on The Perplexed Parents Guide to the Common App. Not surpringly many parents had lots of great questions on how to best support their children during this process. When it came down to it, there are really ten simple tips that matter.  Here's a look at them: 

 

1. Listen
 
2.  Empower students to do their own best work.
 
3.  Encourage students to get started early.
 
4.  Help them get organized.
  
5.  Help them track down family + background information (social security number, education, etc).
  
6.  Talk to them honestly about how to pay for college.
 
7. Fill in the a ctivities section with specific actions and details. Encourage them to remember what they did.
 
8. Urge them to reflect and write essays about their character, not the topics that a certain college “wants.”
 

9. Plan time to complete specific supplements, honors program, and scholarship essays for each college.
 
10. Use Story2 EssayBuilder™ to plan, organize and complete authentic essays.

 

 

 

Want more advice on how to position students for a successful college admission process? Download a recording of the entire webinar here. Just want the slides? Click here.

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The 2015-2016 Common Application Essays: 3 Things You Don't Need to Worry About

[fa icon="calendar'] Aug 5, 2015 9:51:31 AM / by Carol Barash posted in college application essay tips, common application, Essays, advice, tips and tricks, story2

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by Carol Barash, PhD, founder and CEO, Story2, and author of Write Out Loud
© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

I can feel the tides turn when the Common Application opens up for business on the first of August. Students rush to Twitter, asking very basic questions, and I’m reminded how needlessly difficult and off-putting the Common App feels to high school students and others applying to college.It feels like a government form, and asks all sorts of questions that have nothing to do with how you’ll fare in college

And there are so many different options--submission dates, essay types, honors programs and scholarships--that you need to be really organized to make the process work. I’m short of breath just thinking about it...and remembering how my mother wanted me to get all my college applications off the kitchen table. But only when they were spread out could I really see the work ahead of me.  

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Storytelling Cannot Be Outsourced

[fa icon="calendar'] Jul 8, 2015 4:48:37 PM / by Parul Purwar posted in application process, storytelling, College

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by Parul Purwar, Intern, Story2,

© 2015 Story2. All rights reserved.

At Story2, we provide online tools to empower individuals to understand themselves more authentically and achieve their goals of getting into college, improving in work, and building a better life by learning how to tell their story.

This May, Parul Purwar joined the Story2 team as part of an internship through the University of Michigan Masters of Entrepreneurship program. In this post, Parul shares her thoughts about her graduate school application process:

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