Collaborative endeavors are the proving grounds for Murphy’s Law: everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The shredded beef, which was supposed to be tender, was still hard as a rock after an hour on the stove. With our unseasoned cooking minds, all ideas were valid. Put more salt in? Sure. Cook it at a higher temperature? Go for it. Collaboration requires people to be receptive. It demands an open mind. All ideas deserve consideration.

“When we‘re connected to others, we become better people,” said Carnegie Mellon University‘s Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture.At Carnegie Mellon you‘ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse community of scholars, artists and innovators. Given the students, faculty, staff and resources that have been available to you as a student, how have you collaborated with others, in or out of the classroom? Or, what lessons have you learned from working with others in the past, that might shape your experience in the future?

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As a whole, this prompt lends itself to reflective writing, and more specifically, talking the reader through your thought processes. In many cases, the exploration of your thought processes and decision-making is more important than the actual outcome or concept in question. In short, this essay is very much about “thinking,” rumination, and inquisition. A good brainstorming exercise for this prompt would be to write your problem on a sheet of paper and then develop various solutions to the problem, including a brief reason for justification. The more thorough you are in justifying and explaining your solutions in the essay, the more compelling your response will be.
Now, taking your chosen topic, it’s time to outline it. Outlining works great for some people as a pre-writing tactic, and we always recommend it. For others, it can be harder than simply getting down to writing. If you’re really struggling to outline and would rather just follow the pen to a first draft, that’s fine, but do yourself a favor and make outlining your second draft step. At some point, everyone needs an outline, but it’s your call when to do it. Let’s follow this through with Ramya’s essay on the Patriots. The model we’ll use for this essay is a five-paragraph, anecdote-driven essay.
I was an avid reader early on, devouring book after book. From the Magic Treehouse series to the too real 1984, the distressing The Bell Jar, and Tagore’s quaint short stories, I accumulated an ocean of new words, some real (epitome, effervescence, apricity), and others fully fictitious (doubleplusgood), and collected all my favorites in a little journal, my Panoply of Words.
I look at the ticking, white clock: it’s eleven at night, my primetime. I clear the carpet of the Sony camera charger, the faded Levi’s, and last week’s Statistics homework. Having prepared my work space, I pull out the big, blue box and select two 12 by 12 crème sheets of paper. The layouts of the pages are already imprinted in my mind, so I simply draw them on scratch paper. Now I can really begin.
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Colleges will sometimes also have a place to offer additional information or context about hardships you might have faced during high school. This is another place you could consider explaining or adding context for bad grades or the like. Even here, it’s important to not simply state, “I had bad grades but improved them.” A better explanation provides context and explains what specifically helped you turn things around, for example: “During my freshman year, as my parents went through a difficult divorce, I became distracted and stressed, and my grades suffered as a result. I was able to work with my teachers over the summer after my freshman year, however, and attended summer school to make up for weak performance. My family also repaired itself after a few years and time in family therapy. Though I regret my poor grades from ninth grade, I am proud that I was able to improve quickly as a sophomore, and that I developed both stronger study habits and tactics for dealing with emotional stress as a result.” The second answer is specific and also demonstrates maturity gained thanks to a difficult period.
Cutting the first photograph, I make sure to leave a quarter inch border. I then paste it onto a polka-dotted green paper with a glue stick. For a sophisticated touch, I use needle and thread to sew the papers together. Loads of snipping and pasting later, the clock reads three in the morning. I look down at the final product, a full spread of photographs and cut-out shapes. As usual, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride as I brush my fingers over the crisp papers and the glossy photographs. For me, the act of taking pieces of my life and putting them together on a page is my way of organizing remnants of my past to make something whole and complete.
There’s no reason to rush your essay. You won’t score extra point with the admissions department for finishing your essay in an hour. Unless you’ve helped write the State of the Union, your admissions essay will likely be the most influential essay you’ve written so far, at least as it relates to your own life. Give yourself at least a week to compose your essay.
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