As you are working on your college application essay, you will brainstorm, write drafts, edit, delete paragraphs, proofread, write and edit more, and possibly turn it in for a grade. More than likely, you'll write more than one college admissions essay and have to answer many "short" answers.
For each essay and short answer, you should RYEOL.
What does that even mean?
📣RYEOL means Read Your Essay Out Loud.
👉🏼Because YOU are the best editor of YOUR essay.👏🏼
While receiving feedback from an essay tutor or counselor is important, reading your essay out loud is the easiest way to identify grammatical errors, to make sure you are answering the prompt correctly, and to hear how your essay flows.
You don't have to get in front of a mirror like you are auditioning for a play, but you do want to speak clearly, with confidence, and, well, out loud. Whispering does not count. 😶
Visualize yourself reading your essay with the admissions reader or scholarship committee.
Read the question, then read your answer.
👂🏼Hearing yourself read the essay forces you to pronounce those fancy words you choose. Application readers want to hear your voice, not a cluster of sesquipedalian words you looked up in a digital dictionary.
👂🏼Hearing yourself read the essay in your voice will help maintain the consistency of your voice. Application readers know when you are not being yourself or when a parent or professional has written the essay.
Once you've completed your essay...
📣RYEOL once then walk away.
📣RYEOL a second time making your edits (remember, YOU are the best editor). Then invite a teacher, counselor, college student, mentor, or parent to read your essay and offer feedback.
📣RYEOL a third time and finalize your essay.
Now you can be proud of what you wrote.
The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Ohio sponsors a $100,000 “Stop the Hate” essay contest for 6th-12th grade students.
The following paragraphs, from their website, describe the reason behind the essay. Stop the Hate® Youth Speak Out celebrates students committed to creating a more accepting, inclusive society. By reflecting on real-life situations and detailing ways to make a positive difference in the world, this next generation of leaders can win big.
Stop the Hate® is designed to create an appreciation and understanding among people of differing religions, races, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. By challenging young people to consider the benefits of a more inclusive society, the consequences of intolerance and the role of personal responsibility in effecting change, the contest also reflects Jewish values of responsible citizenship and respect for all humanity. You can also watch their chilling 12-minute film called HATE.
This year they honored the memory and spirit of Anne Frank, a young girl who famously wrote:
How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straight away.
Anne Frank was 13 years old when she was forced into hiding during the Holocaust. She hid in a tiny annex for two years with her mother, father, sister, and four other Dutch Jews fearing for their lives because of their religion. Despite the isolation and terrifying realities of her time, Anne remained optimistic about the power of every individual to change the world. Anne and her family were caught and murdered by the Nazis and she became one of the 1.5 million children who perished during the Holocaust. But the words live on to remind the generations that followed her that anyone – young or old – can positively change the world.
Over 75 years later, what can we learn from Anne’s perspective on human nature and creating a more accepting and inclusive society? Is justice something that requires individuals to create or pursue? Can every day, regular people change the world?
Students, grades 6 – 12, were challenged to think about their own life. Have they witnessed or experienced acts of injustice, racism, bigotry, or discrimination? How were they impacted by what they experienced, saw, or heard? What did they do, or what would they do, in response to these circumstances in order to create justice and positive change in their community?
In the fifth grade, a few guys in my class began making fun of Grant. I don’t know why he was the target, only that I joined in with the reoccurring taunts. That was bullying. And I knew better.
Also, in elementary school, Stanley made fun of me while playing scatter ball (think dodgeball with volleyballs!). Standing in line to leave the class, I threw my first punch toward him. Coach Porter saw me swinging. I then received a few swats with the paddle in front of the entire gym class (that’s discipline – 1980s style). Was I a victim of bullying or was I just very competitive and hated losing?
In seventh grade, for reasons unknown, John circulated a letter about me (think texting with pen and paper!). While I don’t remember reading the letter, I heard, from those who did, that he wrote a lot of hateful and untrue comments about me. Karla, the largest girl in our class, asked my permission to beat him up. I remember saying thanks but no, because I was already humiliated – without knowing the content of the letter – and just wanted it to stop. The principal eventually intervened.
In each instance, there was an element of hate. Nothing to the level of what teenagers deal with today. And nothing to the level that Anne Frank experienced 75 years ago.
Many Ohio students wrote about their experience with hatred. Middle school students wrote about the hate that comes through bullying, school shootings, synagogue attacks, and cruelty to animals.
Upperclassmen recounted the hate that comes from language barriers, being an immigrant, dating someone with a different ethnicity, and being a member of a transracial adoptive family.
The younger students seem to identify hate happening to other people while the older students feel the personal impact of hate.
Some hate comes from misunderstanding. Some from pure hatred.
What I learned is that students can identify hate, wrong, injustice, and immoral behavior, but are hesitant to intervene because they are afraid of retaliation (they needed a Karla in their corner!).
Many students admitted that they didn’t take personal responsibility to stop the hate. Some were emotionally or physically paralyzed. In retrospect, all wished they would have said or done something. The younger students worried if the student would turn the weapon on them for informing a teacher about the girl talking about harming herself. They wondered if they would get ridiculed or bullied for standing up to protect a boy being harassed at lunch.
One female recalled a story about a boy harassing her in the third grade. After attempting to ignore the boy for weeks, she finally punched him in the face. Then she was given in-school suspension. Reflecting on this incident years later, she concluded that in order to create change, she learned she had to be the change.
A female upperclassman concluded that, “a safe environment for people to grow is created by a community that wants to listen and learn.”
Many are in the process of being an agent of change and learning how to stand up against hate.
As a Christian, I know that “God is love” and that we’re encouraged to “turn the other cheek.” We all know that standing up against hate will not be easy, but as these students have demonstrated, once we recognize the hate, none of us can remain silent.
So, whenever you have the opportunity, do good to everyone (Galatians 6:10).
“Three seniors at Brooklyn, New York high schools are determined to get their entire classes to college, even though they aren't even sure they are going to make it there themselves. They are working as college counselors in their three schools because many of their friends have nowhere else to turn for support.”
Does this resemble your high school? Why or why not?
What would you do if your school lacked college planning resources?
Unfortunately, some public high schools lack the funding to support a college resource center. Some school counselors can only spend 22% of their time to work with students planning to go to college. They also have to do mental health counseling, check on attendance, volunteer as bus monitors, administrative duties, and much, much more. While private high schools may have better resources and support, rural and urban public high schools need help building a college-going culture on their campus.
This is one reason why this documentary was filmed. To help the general public understand what students have to do to apply for college and why it can be hard for many. It’s the raw and the real.
Only 16% of students from low-income backgrounds obtain a bachelor’s degree, in comparison to 60% of students from high-income backgrounds.
To help fill the gap, many organizations and CBOs (Community Based Organizations) are working to provide the college-going resources needed for these students. However, school counselors and peer leaders are still needed. People (not programs) are the key!
“PERSONAL STATEMENT is a feature-length documentary that follows Karoline, Christine and Enoch through their senior year and into college. They work tirelessly as peer college counselors to realize better futures for themselves and their peers. They struggle and they stumble, but refuse to succumb to the barriers that prevent so many low-income students from attending and graduating from college.”
I had the opportunity to preview Personal Statement during the 2018 NACAC Conference in Salt Lake City (a conference for college counselors).
You’ll laugh at what happens at the dinner table. You’ll feel the suspense when the students open their acceptance notices. You’ll see the determination of three students. You’ll learn how hard it was for one student to simply fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll understand how their life experience becomes their personal statement.
There are thousands of high-achieving students who don’t know HOW or WHEN or WHERE to submit a college application. And there are hundreds of school counselors that desperately want to guide their students to discover the right fit college and career.
This is why I am encouraging all policy makers, parents, principals and people interested in higher education to watch and support this documentary. Especially if you work with low-income or first-generation college students!
HOW TO WATCH
Use this episode link: http://bit.ly/ARF_PersonalStmt to stream the film online.
You can check your local PBS station schedule to see when PERSONAL STATEMENT will be broadcast by your local PBS affiliate here: https://www.thirteen.org/schedule/
HOW TO SUPPORT
To help spread the message of this documentary, donate here. To make an immediate impact and support the college expenses of the main characters in the film (like Karoline above), donate here.
After watching the documentary, share your thoughts below…
It’s essay season! How many do think you’ll write?
Twelve? Seven? Thirty-eight? More?
There are many factors that will cause that number to rise or fall. The number of college applications. (Remember the Million Dollar Scholar?) The number of essay-based scholarships…that ask different questions. If you’re using the Common Application. If your personal statement could be written once and shared multiple times. If the application requires that you pick four of eight questions.
Not only will the number of essays vary, your word limit will vary as well. Aside from short-answers, essay word limits could be 250 or even 1000 words! And word limit is just that – a limit. Do not exceed! Do not pass! Creatives, just this once, do not color outside the lines!
You’ve heard how important the essay is to the admission process. Highly selective colleges may give the essay more value than others. Some colleges use the essay as a final deciding factor if they’re on the fence about accepting your application.
At most colleges, the essay may be less than ten percent of an application, yet students may spend more time writing than completing the actual application. This is one reason to get your essay prompts early in the summer and start writing – especially your personal statement.
In the Journal of College Admission (Summer 2018), Ashley Dobson talked about about the essay process with a few seniors.
Angela Weiss said, “It took a lot of my time, especially first semester senior year. It was extremely stressful to balance applying for college and still balancing schoolwork.” She wrote fourteen essays.
Students are applying to more colleges than ever before.
Dobson wrote, “According to the Higher Education Research Institute, 35 percent of first-time freshmen applied to seven or more colleges during the Fall 2016 admission cycle. More than 80 percent of first-time freshmen apply to at least three colleges each year.”
This is one reason why students are hiring professionals to review their essays. While it is unethical and illegal to write admission essays, having them reviewed for content, structure, and grammar is beneficial.
College planners are good choices for many college-bound students who are attempting to balance athletics, academics, and applications.
Remember, along with writing the application essays, students have to complete research papers, projects and vocabulary tests. And take time to breath. There is so much to do!
The essay prompts are unique, but sometimes confusing.
The essay prompts are too philosophical, and not personal.
Dobson also heard from Anna Jace, who shared about the different approaches to writing. “We learn academic essay writing, so we learn how to form an argument and things like that. But for colleges, it was more creative writing and writing about yourself, which kind of took me by surprise.”
If you are an underclassman, understand that grades and grammar are the keys to success in college. Keep learning how to read. Keep learning how to write.
If you are a junior, make a note to begin writing your personal statement (250- and 500-word versions) in June. Then get the essay prompts from the Common Application, UC Application, or Coalition Application and start writing.
If you are senior, now that it is September, it is time to finalize your college essays. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts provided by Cyndy McDonald of GuidedPath.
College Essay General Do’s and Don’ts
Your college essay, along with your high school record, standardized test scores, and extracurricular involvement, will provide the basis upon which the college makes its admissions decision. A thoughtful, well-written essay can positively affect that final decision. Keep this in mind and take full advantage of the opportunity which the college essay affords you.
No matter how many essays you need to write, contact me if you have any questions or need someone to review your work.
Juniors, if you are ready to start thinking about your Common Application (CAPP) essays, here are the new prompts for 2015-2016.
Once you contemplate and respond to question four, you'll have a better idea of what type of career you would enjoy and which major to pursue in college.
Since application season won’t start until September, you should focus on improving your GPA, taking the standardized tests (if your desired colleges require them), and taking campus visits. These are a few more steps towards success.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.