Kim and her business partner, Susan Knoppow, founded Wow in 2009 as a full-service company that specializes in personal statement and supplemental essay coaching services to students applying to college, graduate school, and beyond. The company also provides professional essay coaching to educational consultants and strategic communications and writing services to businesses and nonprofit organizations. Kim and Susan are co-authors of a popular e-book for anyone who works with students applying to college: How to Write an Effective College Application Essay: The Inside Scoop for Parents ($9.99 on Amazon.com).
Last February, I partook in a Divas in Defense workshop. Within this class, our group met a woman who was a survivor of domestic violence. She was also close to becoming a victim of sex trafficking. From this I learned that intimate partner violence is the leading cause of female homicide and injury-related deaths during pregnancy. Although it is not a common hot topic, many people go through it everyday. These people are not only women but men and children, too. Therefore, domestic violence is an issue that is under-discussed, yet extremely important.
“Wow. I’m glad you are feeling better” and “I can’t believe you went through that” are common reactions people have when they see the scars on my upper chest. Quite frankly, the past nine months have been difficult, literally full of blood, sweat and tears. But through it all, I have been able to maintain my positivity and gratitude knowing that I have gained the invaluable experience of being a patient and discovering the vulnerability and trust that patients give their doctors. Patients indulge information to doctors that they may have never told anyone in their life and in doing so, place a great deal of trust and responsibility in the hands of a doctor. Many patients will not understand the mechanism of disease behind their condition and anticipate that the doctor will explain to them and their family why it is that they are feeling the way they are and ultimately heal them. And that is precisely what my surgeon understood: the privilege of being able to care for patients and the intimacy of the doctor-patient relationship. And as I awoke to the care of my worried parents, the first thing they wanted to discuss was the details of the procedure that was methodically and patiently explained to them by my “good” doctor.
There is only one recipe for admission essay writing that never fails: share a compelling personal experience that shows how you’re ready to build your future in this school. You can always lean into how you have always been of fan of the school sports team, or it’s been a family tradition to attend this school. Most schools love nostalgia and personal connections to their university.
Answer: Your essay can draw on whatever moves you, regardless of when the anecdote, event, or inciting incident you’re writing about occurred. However, what matters most, in terms of timeline, is that you show your readers how the event not only influences you now but will continue to inflect your thinking about yourself and the world as the years roll on.
Many students and parents wonder how big of a role essays play when it comes to college admissions decisions. While the importance of college essays—which are written over a period of a few weeks or (ideally) a few months—varies from school to school, most experts estimate that they make up for anywhere from 10-30% of admissions decisions! In other words, your four years of schoolwork, AP, IB, ACT, and SAT exams, community service, volunteering, etc. account only for 70-90%. These estimates are provided not to scare you, but rather to emphasize how critical it is for you to spend at least as much time on your college essays as would on any other high school pursuit.
A killer first sentence. You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don’t take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don’t want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!
Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock. Wait... paper beats rock? Since when has a sheet of loose leaf paper ever defeated a solid block of granite? Do we assume that the paper wraps around the rock, smothering the rock into submission? When exposed to paper, is rock somehow immobilized, unable to fulfill its primary function of smashing scissors? What constitutes defeat between two inanimate objects?
One of our consultants described his ignorance of his brother’s challenges—the writer assumed that because his brother Sam was sociable, Sam was adjusting fine to their family’s move. After an angry outburst from Sam and a long late-night conversation, the writer realizes his need to develop greater sensitivity and empathy. He now strives to recognize and understand others’ struggles, even if they’re not immediately apparent.
Though not every school uses the Common App—many state or public schools often have their own systems—the work you do in writing your Common App Essay will serve you in every other component of the process, including non-Common App schools (e.g., University of California [UC] schools) as well as the secondary and supplemental essays that go along with the Common App. (Schools that don’t use Common App may still ask for essays or short answers.)
4. Be coherent. Obviously, you don't want to babble, but I mean write about just one subject at a time. Don't try to cover everything in an essay. Doing so can make you sound busy, but at the same time, scattered and superficial. The whole application is a series of snapshots of what you do. It is inevitably incomplete. The colleges expect this. Go along with them.
Essay Prompt: Please explain a personal hardship or catastrophic life event that you have experienced. How did you manage to overcome this obstacle? What did you learn and how did you grow from it? This answer is critical to your application as Change a Life Foundation’s vision is to assist individuals who have persevered and overcome a hardship/catastrophic life event.
Success is also very important to me. I hope to accomplish many things in my life, but most importantly, I would like to make my family proud so that they know that all of their sacrifices were worth it. Success to me is having a career that I love and allows me to help my family members financially. I hope to no longer experience hardships such as homelessness, poverty, and economic difficulties, as I had in my young life.
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Before you begin to write, brainstorm some ideas. Most likely, the university gave you a prompt or a choice of prompts to write about. Take your time to carefully consider each prompt. If you feel yourself drawn to a particular prompt, think about why you’re being drawn to it. Reflect on your life to find any personal anecdotes that work well with that prompt.