Posts Tagged ‘essay’

Last Day of JAD

Friday, July 31st, 2015

writing    writing 2

After a fun-filled month of rooting for the Red Sox at Fenway, reading novels on sandy beaches, enduring frigid AC conditions while watching summer blockbusters, and savoring finger-licking barbecue, it’s the end of July.  While we still have a whole other month of summer, today marks the end of our July Advisory Day Program.  For those not on Twitter, July Advisory Days occured every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  On these days we offered a short session on how to plan for the college interview and how to write the Common App college essay.

Although we received an incredible number of visitors this month, I recognize that some interested students are not able to visit campus during the summer, so I wanted to mention some of the takeaways of the essay part of the program.  Below is some essay-writing advice that I hope you find helpful:

1. Although the Regular Decision deadline to apply is January 15th and it may seem as though you have loads of time to write, start now!  Tomorrow (August 1st) is the day the Common App goes live–did you mark your calendars?–so please do create an account and check out the questions.  August is a great month to explore topics, perhaps get a few words down on paper, and get your creative gears in motion!

2. Know that the first essay you write may not be the essay you submit.  It might be.  But it probably won’t…and that’s okay!  You will likely have a number of great topics from which to choose, and you should absolutely consider writing a few different essays.  In this way, you will have options before deciding on the one that you think best demonstrates your writing abilities and tells us more about who you are.  Furthermore, please be sure to ask people you trust (including friends, family, and teachers/advisers) to look over your writing and offer constructive criticism.  They should be people who will be able to give you the honest feedback you need, as well as help you catch any errors in grammar or syntax.

3. Be sure you are sharing your story.  I can’t tell you how many wonderfully-written essays I have read that talk about applicants’ loving family members, supportive friends, or amazing mentors…but then the essays don’t have enough about the writer him/herself.  Remember that you are the one applying, and thus you are the person we want to get to know!  As difficult as it can be at times to turn your focus inward, please write about who you are.  The essay is the one part of your application that is completely within your control, so please make it count.

Enjoy the last weeks of summer!

(photos by Thomas Rettig)

Thoughts on Today

Monday, December 1st, 2014

wan xwan 3 in color

 

Today feels like an important day.  It is Monday, which marks the beginning of a new week: new to-do lists to make, new appointments and meetings to attend, new weekly goals to set.  It is also the first day of December, which means only two weeks left until the Early Decision pool is closed (on December 15!).  Fall seems to be wrapping up for the year, and winter approaches.  With the new season comes more application reading, more decision-making, and more future Crusaders!

During this time of year, our office fields a lot of calls about applications, and I thought that it might be helpful to address some students’ and families’ questions here.  Below are my thoughts on what to know:

1. We offer some helpful application tips here.  When it comes to applications, every material a student sends us is reviewed and every application is read by two different counselors (we try to read by region).  Our staff collectively looks at each file during committee and every staff member’s opinion matters in the final vote.

2. The high school transcript is the most important item in the student’s file.  We contextualize each student within their high school and note the various course offerings and the individual student’s level of rigor at their particular school.  Students at Holy Cross will be challenged academically, so we admit students who have pushed themselves in high school (whether that’s taking honors, accelerated, AP, or IB classes).  Senior grades are important, but we do look at the overall high school performance.

3. The essay is, for many readers, the favorite part of the application.  We read about all kinds of high and lows in school, such as adventures abroad in new and exciting destinations, or setbacks and how students bounce back from disappointment.  Although it is only a few paragraphs, the essay is completely under the control of the student and an opportunity to speak directly to college counselors.  For those students who have not written their essay yet (not to worry, you still have plenty of time!), please keep this in mind and try to think of a creative way to tell the reader an interesting personal story.

4.  We do track student interaction.  By this I mean that we add emails to students’ files, we look at whether or not the student has visited campus for a tour or stopped by a college fair to say hello, and we highly recommend interviews.  The Office will be closed December 24 through 26, and on December 31 and January 1, but please do come in sometime this month if you are able!

Have a fantastic week, and please do feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

(photos by Xiaofeng Wan)

Three Words: Please Read This (by Drew Carter)

Monday, October 6th, 2014

I recently saw an article in a magazine entitled, “Three Words to Live By,” which illustrated the fact that the best advice is short – three words, in fact. The author provided lots of three-word sayings to live by, such as floss every day, keep your word, bring her flowers, etc.

This got me to thinking about the college application process. Students are given so much advice but, do they remember any of it? Does any of it resonate? Would it help if the advice was doled out in shorter, easier-to-digest packets?

Perhaps it would.

So, here is my top ten pieces of three-word advice on the Common Application essay:

1. Love your topic

2. Write with joy

3. Trust your voice

4. Consider your audience

5. Develop a hook

6. Use paragraph breaks

7. Check your punctuation

8. Avoid the thesaurus

9. Submit on time

10. Thank your proofreaders

Want more essay advice? Follow us on Twitter: @HCAdmission

The Reading Season Routine

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Nancy NelsenAs I sat down to read applications recently, I suddenly had a flashback to my days in college and graduate school. There was something oddly familiar about the set-up at my desk. I was surrounded by the same must-have items that I needed to write a long paper, including a huge cup of coffee, a bottle of water, a pillow behind my back for comfort, a mellow mix of tunes playing on my iPod, and most importantly, atomic fire ball hard candy. Whether I’m gearing up to write a 20-page paper or reviewing admissions applications, having the aforementioned items seem essential to me when tackling a project of this magnitude.

 

Though I’m no longer a student, the task of reading such a large volume of applications is reminiscent of the feelings I had when faced with a big paper in school. I love the challenge, and I love the adrenaline rush.

Perhaps what I love most about reading applications is having the opportunity to learn about so many fascinating and talented students. After reviewing transcripts and doing calculations, I get to sit back and read hundreds of thought-provoking essays. Students’ college applications give me a glimpse into their world. I’m constantly learning about different cultures and experiences, as well as personal challenges and triumphs.

While I’m moved by stories about life-altering events, I’m equally impressed with lighthearted essays. My excitement surrounding an essay isn’t always related to the student’s choice of topic. Rather, I find it stimulating to read a piece where the author really lets his or her personality shine through the essay.

Reflecting on the last few weeks of reading files,  I can assure you  there  have definitely been some long days, but thankfully, since I stuck with  my college routine, I didn’t  have to pull any all-nighters!

 

Nancy Nelsen

Assistant Director for Multicultural Recruitment

Application Deadline Extended

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

AnnMcDermott.BLOG2This year, we asked our applicants to respond to the question, “What is the best advice you’ve ever received?”

Many students have chosen to reflect on the importance of compassion and kindness. Others have sung the praises of hard work and determination. We have been inspired by the advice that has been relayed to us, and would like to put it to good use.

Given the unusual circumstances and challenges many of our prospective students have faced with the Common Application this year, we are extending our application deadline to January 26th.

 

We hope that you will appreciate this kindness, and complete your application with determination. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Ann McDermott

Director of Admissions

Put the “y-o-u” in Essay

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Kate Stewart
By the time you’re ready to actually apply to college, many of the pieces of your college application already are the way they are. You’ve taken the classes you’ve taken, you’ve earned the grades you’ve earned, you’ve been involved in activities that have been important to you, and your counselor and teachers have been reflecting on their relationships with you and starting to write their letters of recommendation. Essentially, your college application has been a work in progress for the past few years and at this point much of it is already– to a certain extent– out of your hands.

Sure, you might take the SATs one more time to see if your scores improve (though we’re test-optional at Holy Cross). You’ll continue working hard through senior year to keep your grades up (because we will see them). And hopefully, you’ve contacted us to set up a personal interview (we HIGHLY recommend this).

But one piece that’s still completely in your control and ready to be molded by you is your college essay.

This is great power, and it’s exciting! Consider the college essay an opportunity, and take full advantage of it. This is your chance to share something unique about yourself and to give us a glimpse into one aspect of your life that we wouldn’t otherwise have been fully privy to. We know you aced AP Calc and we know you’re captain of the soccer team and we know your teachers love you … but such is the case for many of our other applicants, too. So now let’s get personal. What wouldn’t we discover or understand about you just from reading your application? Let us in.

If you keep putting off the writing or are filled with dread every time you think about it, ask yourself why this is. Chances are, if you’re having difficulty getting started or making progress, your topic might not be as meaningful to you as you thought. Don’t write what you think we want to hear, write what matters to you. Start a couple of drafts on different topics, walk away, see which one you look forward to returning to the most, and stick with that one. A great personal essay often comes from a place of passion, pride, pain, amusement, nostalgia, curiosity, confusion, desire, joy, love. Write about what makes you tick, what gets you up in the morning, what brings tears to your eyes. Write about experiences that have changed you, relationships that have bettered you, accomplishments that have truly mattered to you, moments that have stayed with you, challenges you’ve overcome. Write about who you are and who you want to be.

The point is, write about YOU. You’ll notice that all five of the essay prompts on the Common Application direct you to write about yourself. So even though we are looking to evaluate the strength and style of your writing, please don’t send us the English paper you just got an A+ on. Boring! Make sure that the people who know you best would be able to read your essay and know it’s yours. Also make sure that if those people are helping you proofread and edit, don’t let their opinions influence you to the point that you end up losing “you” in the essay.

Finally, help make it easier on us admissions counselors by crafting a piece that’s interesting to read! Inject your voice, your personality, your creativity, and in some cases, your humor. A few comments we often make when we’re reading college essays:

  • “Show, don’t tell!” Illustrate the who, what, when, where, and why with details, examples, anecdotes, even dialogue.
  •  “Too thesaurus-heavy!” Don’t use words that are outside of your normal vocabulary. It will sound forced and unnatural.
  •  “Get rid of the first paragraph!” Don’t feel the need to have a formal introduction and conclusion with three neat topic paragraphs sandwiched in between. You have a limited number of words to use, so please just jump right in there and grab our attention.

Believe me when I say that we here on the admissions staff at Holy Cross love and appreciate the college essay. We look forward to getting to know you.

Some Supplement Advice

Monday, October 7th, 2013

What does yLynnVerrecchia.BLOG2our stomach do when I mention the words “college essay?” Tie up in panicky knots? Flip over in anticipation? Growl with excitement? However you feel about writing your essay, the time has come to get serious about it.

We care about essays for two reasons: we want students who can write, and we want students who have something to say. Most of us who read applications consider the essay to be the dessert that comes after a steady diet of grades, scores, and other facts and figures.

In addition to the Common Application essay, Holy Cross has a required short (250-word max) response question. Hey, we like dessert! The short answer question is “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” We hope you’ll use your 250 words to share a piece of advice that has resonated with you and explain why. Maybe we’ll even take your advice!

Why should you get to have all the fun? I asked some of my colleagues to share the bits of advice that they would like to write about. Here are some highlights:
“It’s not all about you.”
 
“Make your own luck.”
 
“You have to be a friend to have a friend.”
 
“Listen first.”
 
“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”
 
“Trust your instincts.”
 
My advice to you? Start writing!

 

May the Fat Lady sing

Monday, September 16th, 2013

I love opera.

There. I said it.

I. Love. Opera.

I love the pageantry. I love the exaggerated emotions. I love how ambitious the productions are.

Loving opera does not make me cool nor garner me much attention (other than the quizzical looks from friends and family). But I do love watching it, listening to it, reading about it and talking about it. If I were applying to college today, I just might write my essay about my reaction to Figaro’s swagger or the sparkle in Carmen’s eye or how I feel hearing Violetta’s pained plea, “Amami, Alfredo, amami quant’io t’amo!” (Love me, Alfredo, love me as I love you!)

But when composing their essays, most students choose to write about topics that they think admissions counselors want them to write about; truth is, we hope for great essays and typically the best essays are on topics that the student loved writing about – for me, it just might be opera.

There are no right or wrong topics to choose for your essay – there are only the topics you want to write about and the topics you think you should write about.

So when the moment comes to choose a topic, seize the moment – choose a topic you want to write about, tell your story, sing your song and you might just have us yelling, “Encore!”

Andrew Carter
Associate Director of Admissions

Back-to-school shopping list

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

I had the bright idea of going to Target this weekend. Roughly three minutes in to my Sunday errand, I realized that it was — for most — the last weekend before school came back in session. This meant only one thing:

Back-to-school shopping.

I’ll admit, between a mile-long walk from my parking space and lines that put any Disney coaster to shame, I got a little nostalgic. The rush for new binders, the “no Trapper Keepers” warning from teachers….I fondly remembered those waning days of summer spent in a Target loading up on school supplies to ring in a new year.

Now, on this side of the desk, my job has far less to do with No. 2 pencils than it does reminding seniors that there is still plenty to do in their autumn. Given that, here are important things to add to your college process list:

1) Start your applications. Yesterday. While even the earliest of deadlines loom two months away, you will thank yourself for starting — and hopefully finishing — your applications before Halloween. There’s a new Common App to figure out, many essay prompts and short answer requirements to write, and resumes to fill. Each one takes longer than you think, and all pieces should be submitted with care. Save yourself the stress and cross this off before November.

2) Don’t be a stranger. Many schools, including Holy Cross, pay attention to demonstrated interest. So, look into visiting opportunities that transcend the normal campus tour. Campus-wide Open House dates. Our visits to your high schools. The all-important interview (hint, hint). We like that you’ve seen the campus. Now, stay in touch by doing those added extras that can really help come decision time.

2a) If up to this point you ARE a stranger: introduce yourself! Actually stepping foot on campus not only bolsters your demonstrated interest folder but also allows you to get a true feel for the campus. You will never know which schools you like or dislike until you see the grounds and the facilities and students up close.

3) Keep your foot on the accelerator. There’s a lot happening senior year. Your schedule is likely the toughest it’s ever been. You’ve risen to leadership opportunities in your extracurriculars. You have to worry about college apps and standardized tests. Oh, right, and you’re trying to enjoy your final year of high school. It’s a heck of a juggling act! That being said, your first marking period grades — and often your performance through your midterms — is a vital component to the admissions process. We want to see that you’re continuing to challenge yourself, but we also want to see that you’re rising to that challenge. Don’t let senioritis sink your ship.

4) Befriend your guidance counselor. S/he should be helping you make your list, keep you informed of important dates, proofread your essays, and remind you to breathe a little. The better you know your guidance counselor, the more you know about your entire college process.

5) Try to enjoy these four months! Like I said, it is a lot to handle. But the searching and writing and visiting should all be at least a little fun, right? After all, you are trying to decide which place to call your home for four years. It’s a daunting task, but it should be an enjoyable one, too. We think this video helps.

If you have this entire list checked off by the time our calendar turns to 2014, you can bet that you will be resting easy, and that I’m going to enjoy reading your application.

Zach Wielgus
Assistant Director of Admissions

College Essay Tips

Friday, October 28th, 2011

As you are putting the finishing touches on your college essay, let me give you some tips to proofread by:

  1. Don’t make the mistake of taking a backseat in your own essay. Your transcript is about you, your recommendations are about you, your interview is about you, and, thus, your College Essay should be about you. If you want to write about someone important who was a positive influence in your life, you should let your reader know how you were influenced – how your life changed.  The focus of your essay should NOT be about all the great things your Grammy did and how you hope to be like her some day.  Too much focus on Grammy will make us Admissions Counselors want to admit your Grammy and we will completely forget about you!
  2. Proofread, proofread, profreed (whoops, *proofread* – see it’s important). Proofread is not the same as Spellcheck.  Ask solid writers who are familiar with your voice and your style to read your essay in order to correct grammatical errors, offer advice, and make suggestions.  These proofreaders should be mom, dad, a mentor, that great English teacher you had last year, your best friend, etc.  All of these people know you. They know your style, your voice, your humor.  They know what you are trying to say and they want to help you say it in a concise and efficient manner.
  3. Punctuation goes INSIDE of quotations. “Don’t put punctuation outside of quotations,” cried the pained Admissions Counselor, “because I don’t enjoy reading it.”  Follow that example and you’ll be golden in most American English scenarios (if you speak/write British English, then disregard, good neighbour).

This is not a complete list of tips.  See your local MLA manual, English teacher, and Guidance Counselor for a full list of do’s and do-not’s for the college essay.

Cheers,

Dan Weagle ‘08

Admissions Counselor