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Five Tips for Breezing Through the College Apps Essay Writing Process

Melissa Zhuang As a high school senior this year, my fellow classmates and I struggled to write our dreaded college apps essay. I’m not gonna lie, it was a very busy first semester, but it’s a process that truly forced me to take a step back and realize how far I had come. You’re giving yourself and college representatives a chance to see how you think and why you think the way you do. So current and future high school seniors, here are a few tips I have for you:

Read, Read, and Read!

Read the requirements, the deadlines, the essay prompts, the college website, and even the fine print! Take note of supplemental applications and their deadlines. You may have to upload your materials through a separate link/website. Pay attention to the details!  Colleges will reject essays if they do not fit their prompt, so don’t risk it! As you are writing your college apps essay, be sure to pause and re-read the prompt to make sure you haven’t gone off track.

Mark Your Calendars

Make sure to keep track of your deadlines. Some of my classmates created spreadsheets, others kept track with Google Calendar or their phones, and others took note in their planners. Here is what I did: I wrote down each school and my application deadline on a post-it note and stuck it on my wall to be sure I had an in-your-face, bold lettered reminder of the approaching deadline. I find the process of physically writing down my reminders much more efficient and memorable versus an online calendar.

Research for Your College Apps Essay

I’m sure at some point in the college apps essay process, you’ll be asked something along the lines of: “Why do you want to go to our college?” It could be a short response or an essay answer and one of the best ways to show your passion for the school is to make specific references to the programs, student/faculty activities, and other strong points of the school. Remember that there are literally hundreds of other applicants that will write similar-sounding responses about:

  • Active, diverse student body
  • Study abroad programs:
  • (All schools have programs like this, so if you mention it, be sure to take note of any university-specific quirks. For example, schools may have study-abroad programs targeted towards the study of film-making in London or programs that focus on volunteering for the needy. Emphasize why you want to participate in those activities)
  • Amazing/ talented/ award-winning faculty

Don’t Be Afraid to Delete

Go back to the first tip. What does it say? READ. Read the prompt and read the requirements. College apps essay requirements include “word count.” College admissions reps have to filter through hundreds of essays everyday so they must limit the length of the essays they receive. Make your words count. Remove unnecessary sentences, phrases, and words that do not contribute to your story or your message.

When you write your essays, the first draft is going to be absolutely, positively, dreadfully terrible. Read your drafts out loud or, even better, have someone else read it out loud to you. (*shudder*) Sometimes I found myself deleting full paragraphs and realized that it helped improve the flow my essay! Please, PLEASE remember to press save and make copies of each draft you make. Feel free to change your essays, but just make sure to have a backup in case you liked your original better.

Reduce and Reuse

Reduce your workload by reusing your essays. Now pause again and look back to the first tip. Re-read your essay and re-read the new essay prompt you are writing for. Similar essay prompts do not mean same essay prompts. There could be slight differences and you want to make sure you are answering the specific questions they are asking. Please also remember if you mentioned the university’s name anywhere in the essay, be sure to go back and change it so that it matches the university you are applying to (it happens more than you think)!

Here is an example:

Florida State Uni – Personal Journey Statement 2016 Film Application:

“A 500-1000 word essay describing who you are as an individual and why you want to be a filmmaker. This statement should concentrate on how your background has influenced your storytelling and filmmaking development…”

Uni of Southern CA – Personal Statement 2016 Film Application:

“We are looking for a sense of you as a unique individual and how your distinctive experiences, characteristics, background, values and/or views of the world have shaped who you are and what you want to say as a creative filmmaker. We want to know about the kind of stories you want to tell…(1,000 words or less)”

Both essay prompts are looking to see you write about your:

  1. Individuality
  2. Background Influences
  3. Storytelling

BUT only the USC prompt is looking for “the kind of stories you want to tell”

Applying to colleges is like dating. And in the words of Rhianna, make sure you make them feel like they are “only girl in the world.” Convince them that you’re in love with them and that you two are “destined for each other.” The college application process isn’t as hard as it seems!

Suffering from a slump that is making your college apps essay writing impossible? This might help!

 


Four Ways to Make Junior Year a Memorable Part of Your Life

Muskan Sharma Everyone knows that junior year is labeled as the hardest year of high school. People often tend to look back at their junior year with a lack of fondness due to the stress it caused. Although there are many challenges that lie within this year, there are also lots of ways to make junior year meaningful. To ensure that you make junior year a memorable part of your life, here are some easy tips and tricks. Follow them to make this year as fun, productive, and least stressful as possible!

Stay Organized

It’s incredibly important for us to know our schedules well. Write down all the things you have going on- sport’s tournaments, dance recitals, finals, AP exams- on a calendar. Being able to know these dates ahead of time will help you plan because fewer conflicts with your schedule will make things less stressful.

Do the homework and pay attention in class

This one sounds pretty basic but it is one of the most important ways to marginalize pain in your junior year . You don’t have to be a genius to do well in school. All it takes is doing your homework, showing up to class, and reading what you’re supposed to. When you do these things you will see that everything else works itself out.

Pick a test and stick to it

The choice between SAT and ACT is always hard, but it’s important that you pick one and stick to it rather than try to study for both. Take diagnostic tests early on and analyze them based on which one you score better, which one you felt you had better time management with, and which one you found to be more difficult. Based on your results, make a well thought out decision and stick to it! Also remember not to stress out too much about it because at the end of the day, it is just a test!

Enjoy time with your friends

This is probably one of the most important things to ensure that you have a junior year filled with enjoyment, Although it is easy for us to often become absorbed in school, it is also extremely important for us to make time to have fun with our friends. Go out, do something crazy, you don’t want to look back on this time of your life and just remember stacks of textbooks piled high on your desk. You’re only going to be 16 once, so remember to make the most of it!

Muskan is currently a junior in high school student. In her free-time she enjoys listening to music, hanging out with friends, and trying new foods. Muskan also enjoys writing and aspires to be a journalist one day!


Five Tips to Help You Ace Those Final Exams

By Maeloni Edmondson Whether you’re in middle school or high school, we can all agree that studying for our final exams can be tiring and stressful. “Where to start?” and “how will I ever get through this?” we say as we struggle to keep from drooling all over our work. Although I usually find myself in these same situations, over the years, I have gathered strategies to make these dreaded moments pay off. And so, here are my five tips to help you ace those final exams!

Get a good night’s rest. It’s crucial to have your full 8 hours of sleep before anything. There is no point to study when you’re tired, as you will be distraught and will not retain the information the next day. Getting good rest ensures that you will stay alert for your study sessions, and will overall put you in a better mood.

Work smarter, not harder. Instead of memorizing the whole textbook, try to figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Watch summaries and educational online videos; create mnemonic devices and acronyms by associating previously learned knowledge with the book’s information. Use study guides, handouts, and flashcards. If you feel confident with your knowledge of the material, try teaching it to a friend or family member.

Create a study group. Who says you have to suffer alone? Surround yourself with peers who you know want to actually study. Share tips and quiz each other! If you can’t meet up one day, try video chatting. Technology is your friend on the path to productivity

Keep your study sessions brief and scattered. We’ve all experienced late night cramming. Although it is sometimes impossible to avoid, it is detrimental to our minds and our spirits. Make sure to start studying ahead of time: have a half to one hour sessions thrice a week instead of forcing yourself to memorize information the night before. Review what you previously studied at the beginning of each session, and make a summary of what you covered at the end.

Be kind to yourself.  Take breaks throughout sessions. Give yourself an easy goal, and reward yourself with a treat after completing it. Drink lots of water and do activities that make you happy. Even if you don’t receive the score you hoped for, know that no letter or number will ever undermine your accomplishments, intelligence, and happiness.

Maeloni Edmondson is a junior at high school and an aspiring Communications/PR professional. She sings, performs, loves to cook and experiment with makeup!

 

Read more useful tips and stories on acing academics, career and life from GT20 interns and contributors here!

 


Four Winning Qualities of an Effective Leader

By Mangesh Darke Being a leader is something anyone can achieve; however, there are a few secrets to being an effective person-in-command that not many are aware of. When most people think of leaders, they see people who are confident and convincing. However, one of the most important characteristics an effective leader should possess is approachability.  Unless a person is easy to talk to, he/she would be unable to lead effectively which is why this is one of the most important qualities of an effective leader.

I am the Chairman of the Student Advisory Council at GiveTeens20® and I strive to be very personable and approachable. The reason this is so important is because people are more likely to listen when they do not think they are bossed around. If your leader was a smart, yet nice person, you would be more inclined to follow him as opposed to a smart, yet rude person-in-command. People want to see leaders that can be role models. This is one of the reasons why I try to lead the SAC in a way in which everyone feels respected.

Lead in a way in which no one feels as if they are being bossed around; the leader should make everyone feel like the group is working toward a common goal. Another characteristic of a great leader is being a great listener. Leaders must be good at listening to the opinions and warnings of those he / she is leading. In my case, I always try to understand the opinions of SAC members so that I could make the best decision for the team. Overall, an effective leader is someone who is capable of taking charge and making the best decisions for the team while being someone who acknowledges and respects the opinions of the team.

Mangesh Darke is the Chairman of the Student Advisory Council at GT20. Although he is currently a freshman at college, his heart really belongs to exploring, learning and discovering what life has to offer!