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The College Essay: Do It While It’s Hot!

It’s hot here. Glancing at my Google Drive while writing this post, I see that a student has been working on his Common App Personal Essay. The message has been delivered; this often-feared personal statement needs to get done. So if your student has had enough of the heat, it’s time to get indoors and write.

True, not every student enjoys writing. Some just don’t like writing about themselves. But the August 1st launch date of the Common App looms large, and the student who gets the job done will feel better having fun in the sun.

If your student is stuck or needs help getting started, email me. Everyone has that essay inside; sometimes it just needs a bit of help finding its way into a document.

The Coalition App, a Common App alternative, has similar essay prompts to the Common App. While the Common App caps words at 650, the Coalition states, “Good essays are often 300 to 400 words in length” and recommends 500-550 words maximum. Too short!

While the Common App is much more widely used, the Coalition App will now be accepted by some large research universities popular with my students, including Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland. The Coalition App won’t go live until mid-August, and Penn State’s questions won’t be live until September.

Remember, the Personal Essay is only one component of many colleges’ applications. There are often essay supplements, and students may want to bolster their candidacy with targeted, proactive social media. That’s why I created Supplementing the Supplement, now available on iBooks.

Looking for the best tuna sandwich? Try Dartmouth!

While traveling last week, I made sure to stop in Hanover, NH. Now we know that’s the home of picturesque Dartmouth College. So what brought this Brunonian to Hanover? It was the wonderful Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery, a tradition in town since 1947. Last summer, I enjoyed the best tuna sandwich ever at Lou’s, and I wanted to have it again. This year didn’t disappoint; in fact, I had the best chocolate shake ever!

While it’s tough seeing campuses in action in the summer, Dartmouth is an exception. It’s long had a summer term, a component of what Dartmouth calls the D-Plan. In fact, all rising juniors must take a full course load during that delightful time in New Hampshire.

Dartmouth in the summer (photo taken after eating the tuna sandwich)

Colleges in the Future: Change is Coming

Those of you who follow this blog know that I often feature innovative college programs and changing business models. This week, the Wall Street Journal offered More Colleges Dropping Out, explaining that the number of colleges (including online colleges) has declined. That trend is expected to continue. The Journal quoted Michael Horn of the Clayton Christensen Institute:

“In the next 10 to 15 years, we’ll see many fewer traditional colleges serving many more students.” He added that “an increased number of upstart educational programs” will be “online learning in shorter bursts throughout people’s lives.”

I agree! There will always be a place for the elite colleges, but even those schools will continue to innovate and form partnerships with other universities and businesses.

Case in point: Skidmore College, another stop on my recent trip. Skidmore is known as a classic liberal arts college, but it provides its students with plenty of opportunities across the spectrum.  Skidmore offers joint-degree programs in engineering, health and business, working with institutions such as Dartmouth, Clarkson, Syracuse and Rochester Institute of Technology. It also appoints “a distinguished executive at the senior level, who will teach a variety of courses, participate in the development of the College’s program in business and in the interactions between the Management and Business Department and the liberal arts program, and energetically enhance Skidmore’s contacts with the leaders of both the Saratoga and the national business communities.”

Joint degrees are blossoming at Skidmore.

Write Away!

Over the past few months, I’ve written about the good work of Social Assurity and ZeeMee in advocating for proactive use of social media. Recently, Chris Teare, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at Drew University, authored “College Applicants Can Use ZeeMee to Show as Well as Tell” for Addressing how much information a student should submit to admissions offices, Teare states, “We already have a lot to evaluate, and there is only so much additional information that will help an applicant, so my advice is: Don’t overshare by sending us everything; be a good editor and send us only your best.” He adds that “fine colleges like Drew still expect to see a lot more writing than video once you’re enrolled.”

Yes, colleges, essay prompts, and apps will change, but writing will not go away. I am here to help. Encourage your student to beat the heat and avoid the rush by getting that essay done now!


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