College Essay & COVID-19 Supplements
CollegeAdvisor.com (formerly Bullseye Admissions) presents its panel on writing the College Essay the optional COVID-19 Supplements in a 60-minute presentation and Q&A with Bullseye’s Head of Advising, Lauren Lynch. Lauren will provide information about how the college essay differs from a typical essay, topics to avoid, how to write about COVID-19, and more. Our presenter will share their insider perspectives on the college essay as someone with experience on an admissions committee.
2020-07-12 College Essay and COVID-19 Supplements
All right. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the bull’s-eye admissions webinars series. Tonight. I’m going to be talking about the college essay and the optional COVID-19 supplement, which is new to the common application this year. Just to orient you all to how tonight will progress. I’ll talk for about 30 minutes after which I will be more than happy to take some live Q and a.
You should have a tab on your screen that will allow you to download the slides from tonight’s presentation and also participate by submitting some questions that I will happily get to further on in the presentation. And to introduce you a little bit to me, my name is Lauren Lynch. I’m the head of advising here at bull’s-eye college admissions.
I’ve been in the field for over 20 years. I’ve worked at admissions at Williams college in Massachusetts. I was the director of college counseling at a high school. I’ve worked with other college counseling companies and I’ve worked independently with a lot of DC area families over the years. I’m thrilled to be part of bullseye and I’m happy to be able to share some of my perspective and experience with you today.
Also on the call with us tonight is Lily. My colleague here, she is not only our tech support, but will also be moderating and handling your Q and a issues. If you do have any issues throughout the presentation and need tech support, please let Lilly know. You can message her directly. Okay. Let’s let’s get started with the the heart of the presentation.
I realized, even as I’m looking at this first slide, that there’s something I want to correct perception about the college essay. Obviously it’s important to write a good college essay. This is your opportunity to stand out and really develop a sense of personality throughout the application process.
However, to me, one of the things that I find useful in working with students and families is to think of the college essay more as a personal statement or a personal narrative. It’s not a formal document. It’s more of a conversation the student is having with the reader of the application. This is particularly important because of how applications are evaluated in admission offices.
Typically almost invariably when applications come into an office, the reader of the application is looking first and foremost at a student’s credentials. The raw data the student is presenting. In other words, how well has the student done within the student’s curriculum? Admission officers understand that different schools have different kinds of offerings.
They are not comparing every student to every other student. They want to see that student within the context of his or her session. Also in a typical year, the admission offices are looking very closely at standardized testing. Obviously that’s going to be somewhat different. Rightfully so for this year senior class most colleges, if not all, are going test optional that in a lot of weeks makes the personal statement even more important.
It’s a way again, to communicate the kind of nature and personality who you are to the reader of your application, beyond the mirror data that you’re presenting in that rather structured and rigid format. In my experience, students identify choosing an essay topic and the writing process as really the most difficult and challenging for them.
Even students who are prolific writers, feel that they’re struggling to identify a topic that’s going to help them stand out in this process. Knowing how to approach it is a little bit overwhelming at times. It’s a way again, to get the reader a glimpse into your insights, who you are outside of the mere academics and kind of list of activities that are already in existence on the common application.
Even the most reluctant writer has a story to be told. I know that many of you out there are feeling a little bit overwhelmed and hopeless already with the prospect of writing a common application or coalition application, main essay. I really want to reassure you with the right thought and the right perspective into this process.
You were going to find what it is you want to say. It’s important in trying to identify a topic to really step away from that conviction that you had to find something to say that they are going to want to hear about you. They out there, the most important thing and choosing a topic and articulating your personal statement is instead keeping the focus on you.
What is it that you want to share? What is it that you want to communicate? You don’t know your audience, you don’t know the specifics of the person reading your application. That’s why it’s just more important than anything to really identify a topic that holds personal meaning to you so that you can communicate that passion, that interest, that enthusiasm in that topic, through your writing, to the reader of your application,
a lot of people, again, Feel like they’re at a disadvantage. They think I’m not extraordinary. I don’t have a story to tell there’s nothing particularly special about me. I want to guarantee you that admission officers all over the place genuinely look for reasons to include students. I know from experience having read hundreds of thousands of applications in my time at Williams, you read through each application with an eye to finding the qualities of that student that might help him or her surface in a learning community that are going to help that student stand out in the reading process.
The reader genuinely wants to connect with the student. The mandate of every admission office and any admission cycle is to collect a group of diversely talented, interesting individuals from different backgrounds and experiences with a wealth of different qualities that they’re going to bring to bear on that college campus.
As you’re thinking of your essay, as you’re questioning, whether you have anything valid or have substance to offer to the reader of your application, just keep asking yourself, why is this subject important to me? Why am I choosing to write about this? And if you can keep track of that, if you can keep a hold of that, you will write truly a very compelling, very thoughtful, personal state.
Your story should be written in your voice, help the reader, get to know you, help the reader, get a sense of, again, those passions and pursuits and how you become three dimensional. When you’re not a piece of paper and then admissions file. It’s of course, really important to proofread your essay, to make sure that it’s immaculate with no spelling mistakes and no messy grammar mistakes.
It’s also important that you keep that sense of freshness. Again, keep it in your voice. This should not be a formal essay. Again, this is a personal statement. It’s a personal testimonial. You’ll hear all the time. The expression in these personal statements, the encouragement to show the reader, what you’re trying to communicate rather than telling the reader.
And many of you might be wondering what exactly that means and what that looks like. There’s a difference between the kind of dry description of something and a description that instead is going to draw the reader into it. For example, you might, T to tell the reader something would be it was a rainy and windy night when I was out in the boat to show the reader would be something like the cold wind whipped the boat as the icy rain pelted my face, a little overdramatic, certainly, but I’m just trying to illustrate the difference between showing and telling.
Because I’ve been doing this for a really long time. I’ve had the luxury of developing some essay, pet peeves that I’m going to share with you. You don’t necessarily have to abide by my rules. But pretty ubiquitously admission officers don’t want to see titles of essays. I know students often feel like they have to find a really clever or catchy title that almost always will earn the admission officer.
Don’t waste your time with titles. The only exception to that rule is if a title is required based on the prompt that you were trying to answer, perhaps if it’s a supplemental school-specific prompt that asks you for a title, then of course you need to include. For me, I find too much dialogue embedded in an essay to be a little bit alienating.
It makes me feel a little bit removed from the narrative and the immediacy of the story. So I generally recommend that students really limit the dialogue that they’re including in their essays. The other thing that I think is a little bit off putting, at least personally to me is the kind of humble brag I’m so quirky and independent.
I was really surprised when they nominated me homecoming queen Not the best example, but I think you all know people who can humblebrag in ways that are a little bit alienating and off-putting the other aspect of an application humor is great in a personal statement, but it has to be genuine.
It has to really be again, true to the story you’re telling and true to your personality. And that’s the best way to use humor, forced humor. Doesn’t usually resonate very well with the reader of your application. Okay. The things that’s challenging, but important your entire application, and I’m sure there are those of you who are far along in the common application and those of you who have not yet even begun the common application, generally speaking you.
There’s a tendency to rehash in your personal statement, elements of your application that are already being captured through your perhaps extracurricular activity, a dropdown menu. It’s fine. If you want to highlight. One or two of these things or a few of these things in your essay, but try to find a different way to demonstrate a relationship with those activities than what you’ve already referenced or something that might be more on the surface.
One of the pitfalls, I think also is that students tend to get into a list habit when they’re writing their essays, that they, once you feel like you have a theme and a story you want to tell in your essay, it becomes very easy to start pulling out all of the examples of things you’ve done in your life.
That tie into that theme. I’m a leader and I show this through my marching band and through being president of the honor society and a leader in church It’s okay to reference these things, but don’t do it in a way. That’s just listing them, show again, the substance show the things about that activity, that really speak to the qualities you’re trying to communicate to the reader of your application.
The way I describe it to my students sometimes is imagine that you’re on a reality TV show, 80% of the time the camera’s on you. You’re performing you’re at school and you’re performing you’re in your extracurricular activities. And you’re performing that 80%. Again, is the data that’s captured on your common application that is out there for everyone to see what I want in a personal statement is that 20%, who are you when the camera gets turned off?
What is it that drives you? What animates you? What motivates you? What are your passions? What are your past times? How do you distinguish yourself when people are not in your space, looking at you, what differentiates.
If you are one of those students who was absolutely convinced that you don’t have a story to tell other than rehashing stuff that’s already in your application, ask your friends, ask your parents, T the other people in your life might be able to help you identify things about you that will really resonate with the reader that you may not even have thought of as a story to be told.
It’s okay to ask for help on this. This is a really tough thing to do. Again, if you are choosing to dig into some aspect of your application that’s already referenced elsewhere. Try to find a different way to describe it again. Don’t stay on the surface, try to go a little bit deeper, really help the reader, understand why you’re choosing to write about this, what its significance is in your life, how it has shaped you.
They are trying to understand not just who you are and how you’ve gotten to where you are at this moment in your life, but who you’re going to be on a campus who you’re going to be in a residential community, in a classroom, as a participant in campus activities, help them understand how things you’ve done in high school or things you’re choosing to write about are going to translate to that kind of environment.
So one of the things that is a little bit tricky, I think for students sometimes is how to just literally had to sit down and start writing. The first thing I recommend to students and I’ve heard from a number of students that in fact, this is the most useful tip they’ve ever gotten is that you write your essay without any eye to lengths.
I never want my students to do a word count their first time out, or even sometimes their second time out with an essay. It’s really important that you find your voice, that you find your story and you find the rhythm of that story. Therefore, write what you need to write. You will have someone like me or another bull’s-eye advisor or someone in your life help you go through the essay at a later date and edit as necessary for length.
But by. Preemptively limiting your word count. You’re perhaps curtailing the story and the real essence of the story that the reader might really connect with. You might not know the aspects of the story that the reader’s going to want to hear more of. Let someone else help you tease that out as you go along.
Your opening sentence is your most shortened sentence in the essay. M a lot of ways, what you want to do is grab the reader’s attention really quickly. What you may not realize is that your entire application, including your essay is likely to get read in about five to 10 minutes. What that means is that the reader’s not necessarily going to feel compelled to give a huge amount of attention to an essay that loses them early on, either through very flat and uninviting language or a kind of story that’s off-putting or alienating in any way.
This is not an English essay. It doesn’t have to be formal, as I already said, of course, yes. The grammar has to be correct. The spelling has to be perfect, but it’s. Ideal to have a really relaxed tone a very inviting tone, bring that reader in, share your voice. One of the big tests for this is for you to read your essays out loud.
Go in your room, close the door, read it like you’re reading a play and act in a plate. Does it sound like you, is that how you talk or these words you actually know the meaning to please be true to your own voice and your own language. Yes. Again, it should be polished, but it shouldn’t be overly edited and overly perfected so that you lose again, that, that personal nature and that personal quality of the narrative.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is by having too many cooks in the kitchen, choose carefully, who you want to have, look over your essay. Absolutely. Someone should be looking over your essay with you and for you, but there reaches a point where there are too many different voices, too many different commentaries.
Not only will it drive you crazy in the writing and editing process, but again, you really run the risk of losing your voice of having people edit it out and make it like auto tuned, like a Brittany Spears song. You don’t want that. You want it to really sound like you through and have it really feel like the story.
And the truth. You’re trying to communicate. If you’re writing, if you’re feeling like you can’t really find your voice, you don’t really know how to start or what to say. I usually recommend to my students that they just unplug a little bit, step away from your computer. Go sit in the backyard. Bring a notebook and a pen, listen to music and just write, think of it as a journal entry or a letter to a friend.
Think of it as a really informal opportunity to share some information about yourself. Thanks Lauren, for the insights. Now we’re going to take a quick break and I’m going to send a call to you guys. So have you guys triggered the essay writing process? You can let us know in the poll and if you haven’t started, no, that’s totally okay.
You don’t have to stress. You can definitely get started after this webinar and hopefully, we’ll give you guys more information. That’ll help you craft a perfect essay.
So wait a few seconds to let you guys all put your answers in the pool. We can see where everyone is right now. So so far, it seems like a lot of you guys are brainstorming. Some of you guys also haven’t started yet, which is like I said, totally fine. So you guys already started on your essay, which is really awesome.
And I can see there’s some people who already finished their content. So that’s really awesome. You guys are really ahead of the game. Yeah, I’m going to close the poll. So it seems a mixed basket, a lot of people brainstorming hope that’ll help you guys with clucking up some questions for Lauren.
Okay. I want to say if you were one of those people who Have not yet started the common app essay, please. Don’t panic. You have plenty of time. I don’t want this to be something I think far too often in this process, there’s a tendency for students and families to compare yourselves to everyone else and feel inevitably that you’re behind in turn of doing something wrong.
I want to guarantee you, you are absolutely fine. Everything will get done. Whether or not you choose to work with someone like me or not this process is manageable and you will get through it and hopefully tonight we’ll help you get started and organized a little bit with your thoughts about the essay.
I will tell you with great certainty, that there are certain topics that admission officers just invariably roll their eyes at. Try to avoid being a person who writes the essay that makes the admission officer roll their eyes. I do not mean that you can’t write about these things. It’s the, how you write about things that is going to be really crucially important.
On the surface, these are really overused topics, but there’s sometimes a lot of meaning behind them. And that’s what the admission officer is really gonna want to get to. Again, the most important thing as you’re writing, keep challenging yourself. Why did I choose this topic? What do I want to communicate to the reader of my application?
What is important for this reader to know about me that is going to help the reader have a sense of who I am in my private life, outside of the classroom. Maybe being on the football team has taught you the importance of teamwork and maybe that’s crucially important to you because you were horribly teased as a middle schooler and you didn’t have any friends.
And this is the first time you’ve really felt a part of something. That gives you a sense of value and purpose. That’s a story I, as a reader would want to read, I would want to get to know that person who had found him or herself through being on the football team. It’s just important again, to dig in.
A lot of people kind of gravitate to these topics, I think because they feel like because they’ve never experienced a major tragedy nor have they experienced a major triumph. They don’t have the worthwhile story to be told. That is not the case. Everyone has a story. You do not have to have cured cancer or lost someone in your life in order to grab the reader’s attention.
Again, what you’re writing about is less important than how you’re writing about it, how you’re communicating to the reader, why this topic is important to you and why you chose it. In my experience, the quiet essays, the quiet moments in the essays can sometimes be the most powerful. And I think that’s one of the reasons that I really urge students again, initially, to avoid over editing for length.
You want to tell your story, you want to get it out there, let that SAP piece itself and unfold the way it’s meant to before you start editing for word count your essay is not an action movie. It does not have to move quickly with lots of flashes and beings and explosions. It can be a quiet story of who you are in quiet moments and be equally compelling.
If you are avoiding writing something too painful or personal, I understand that. But sometimes sharing personal things can be really important if you’ve experienced a hardship, a mental health issue an eating disorder something’s happened that has profoundly affected or shaped you that you want to share.
It is almost always okay to do there’s a balance though a level of discretion between sharing these things that have shaped you and have impacted you and sharing them in such a way that shows your strength and your maturity and your coping mechanisms. You want to be genuine, but you don’t want to be too raw.
And there is a fine balance there again, someone like me, someone in your life, have them look over your essay for you and make sure that what you’re communicating is that right. Blend of honest, But in tact, challenging as it is, it’s really important. These days to avoid politically and socially inflammatory essay topics.
Having said that colleges are filled with passionate advocates for social justice, for different political causes. That’s fine. You can be political. You just need to remember that you don’t know your audience. You don’t know who’s reading your application. You want to be respectful. You want to phrase things appropriately.
You want to understand that the reader of your application may have a completely different framework and viewpoint than you. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will say it, please do not discuss in your essay, any illegal activities you’ve been involved in or immoral acts. I years ago had a student when I was at Williams who wrote his essay about it was supposed to be a wonderful story of friendship, but basically the premise was that he and his friends live near a nature preserve and a protected wildlife preserve and would go and basically hunt and poach and kill animals at night.
And that was their wonderful bonding thing. And he was breaking the law and in my mind, that’s a little immoral and it didn’t really sway me favorably in his direction. So think about what you’re trying to communicate and why.
Really the most important thing is that your reader should come away with a deeper understanding of who you are, of what your passions and interests are. The essay is the three-dimensional hook in a two dimensional experience. Your application is what it is your grades are. They’re your testings, they’re your teacher recommendations.
Are there, is your reader going to think about you after they’ve stepped away from your application? That is the goal of you writing a personal statement is to be forthcoming enough with your personal qualities and beliefs that you are communicating something of value that will leave a lasting impression.
Don’t hold back. A lot of people feel shy. Self-conscious oh, I can’t really talk about that. It’s silly. The essay is a place to be silly. It’s a place to be goofy and passionate and empowered and honest and forthcoming. The essay is the best way you have in the application process to stand out to your reader.
Use it, make the best of it. Make your story yours, make your voice yours. I know in my time at Williams and my time since I’ve probably read hundreds of thousands of applications, I am not alone in this experience. Admission officers often read 30 or 40 applications a day. Again, it’s not about that.
Flashy, fancy, perfectly polished story. It’s about that tender moment or that quirky humor or that loving relationship. It’s about those thoughtful and genuine aspects of the application. And your experience that you’re choosing to communicate through the writing of your essay.
We are going to move on to talk about the COVID 19 supplement optional essay this year. The application has added this 250 word optional prompt. The benefit I think of having this embedded in the common application for this year is that it frees students up from feeling like they need necessarily to use their main common application essay to address how COVID and the fallout from the coronavirus has affected their lives.
This is the way through this optional essay to address any issues like that there might be, direct or secondary or even tertiary things that have impacted your life through their prone of virus. And this supplement is going to be the way to communicate that often students and particularly.
Let’s be honest. Parents are convinced that optional essays are in fact mandatory and that a student is going to be at a disadvantage. If they don’t answer any supplemental optional prompts, I think sometimes that can be true when it comes to school specific applications. It’s usually better to err on the side of filling out optional essay prompts.
This one is completely the opposite. I think you will be at a disadvantage if you fill it out and you don’t really have something that you really needed to communicate. This is really for students who have been profoundly impacted by the coronavirus. Remember everyone. Everyone around you has suffered to a certain extent.
Everyone has lost activities and friendships and sports seasons and jobs. Everyone has been impacted. So it’s really important to think about the degree of that. And whether it really merits an essay in and of itself. Just one quick kind of side note on that again, as I said before, admission officers really genuinely try to see the best in students want to see the best in students.
Every admission officer out there understands the impact that this has had on your lives this year. They know, and will look sympathetically at a diminished extracurricular resume, a lack of summer activities. That’s not to say you can’t try to do things or that you shouldn’t try to do things. But you don’t need to use this supplement to explain a way, the lack of substance on your on your resume for this spring.
And over the summer colleges understand this. They really genuinely do. So this is the prompt. I’m going to give you a moment. You should definitely read it through carefully. The thing that stands out to me when I look at this question is the phrasing of it. They very clearly want to know how these events have impacted you not have you been bothered or have you been disrupted, but how have you been impacted and really think about that impact is a pretty big word.
And again, that might help inform whether or not this is a good topic for you to be considering answering at this point. So have I been affected by COVID? This is something you really need to think about. Generally speaking, you don’t want to write about things. The whole generic population is also experiencing you missed a sports season.
Your social life has been impacted. Your job at the mall was canceled because the store closed down. These are things, again, colleges understand. I’m not trying to diminish them. I know they are important to you. But the issue is that they are looking at this supplement in comparison with students who are writing supplements about some really major significant issues, a death in the family, a huge financial loss in the family students who.
Have not been able to eat well during COVID-19 because they rely on school lunches. Students who don’t have computers or access to internet and whose grades have suffered. These are the things that I think the common app is really trying to elicit in asking this question. And really trying to get more information about, again, the reader of your application wants to look at you and see you in the best possible light.
So help them do that by choosing very selective selectively, whether or not to answer this prompt, basically ask yourself, is it going to hurt me or is it going to help me in the application process to answer this? What do I have to say about it? And how is that going to be something that is going to factor into a decision someone might make when they’re evaluating my application?
Thanks Lauren. So as we’re wrapping up the presentation, I’m going to send a last question to you guys. So are you guys planning to answer the optional COVID-19 supplements? Yes. And let us know in the poll, we can see where everyone is. Okay.
Electrical ceiling for a few seconds. It looks like most people are still deciding just totally. Okay. A lot of people are also, they’re in like the yes or no range. So hopefully you guys will be able to figure out whether or not you plan to answer this prompt on the, remember it is optional, so I’m going to close the poll.
Okay. And then we can start off with the humidity. Yeah. I was just going to say about that, that, I think whether it’s the common application, whether it’s the COVID supplement, whatever it is you’re struggling with. I definitely think there’s a lot that feels like it’s hard to know the answer.
It’s hard to know how to approach things. Again, I think whether or not you choose to work with someone like me, there are a lot of resources out there. Talk it through with someone get some really honest feedback about how best to approach prompts like that and whether they’re a good fit for you.
Awesome. I guess I’ll help you guys with the Q and a just to explain how things will go. As you guys submit questions, I will copy paste your questions into the public chat, and then I’ll read them out loud. And Lauren’s going to give you an answer as a heads up, if you can’t submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link that came in your email, not from the website landing page itself.
So the first question I have for you, Lauren, What were some of the most memorable slash unique essays that you’ve read before? What a great question. I am definitely a sucker for the human touch. What I want when I read an essay is to come through it with a sense that this person is standing in the room with me.
I think hands down, one of my favorite essays was an observant you wrote an essay about, and he keeps kosher, wrote an essay about being on a very competitive travel soccer team. And how after every tournament, after every game, pretty much, his whole life, his whole team would go to McDonald’s and he couldn’t eat anything.
And that he was an integral part of the team. It was spectacularly meaningful to him, but because he was kosher, he couldn’t eat a hamburger at McDonald’s. And then he wrote about going to Israel for the first time and walking into his first McDonald’s in Israel and eating his first kosher hamburger.
What I loved about it was he was, his writing was impeccable, but it was a sense that the student in one essay he described team loyalty religious faith, and a sense of just being a real human being who was just really excited to eat that cheeseburger. Another student. I’ll just give one other example.
Another student wrote a phenomenal essay about how all of the times throughout high school, his mom had said, oh, write this down. This would make a great college essay. And when the moment came from to sit down and write the college essay, he realized what a collection of memories that was looking back through all these moments that his mom had commented on.
And that the bittersweet aspect of now finally sitting down to write this essay, knowing that his mom, wasn’t going to keep saying this to him. So again, in some ways it’s an essay about nothing, but it’s also very telling about a family dynamic and interaction, a sense of perspective and a sense of maturity.
Awesome. Thanks. Y the next question we have is this is more COVID-19 related, I think. Should we talk about the other kinds of activities we pursued during due to many activities being canceled, how we use this opportunity at home to learn new skills, et cetera. Yeah, that, that has come up a lot.
I think. My instinct would be, if you can put that on the common application in the activities menu, in one of those 10 spots, you have to list activities that would probably be a better way to do it. I think there are circumstances that would merit you using the COVID supplement to, to note these things.
If the activities you’re you’ve done are quite substantial have had maybe a big impact on the community have been really transformative in some ways then I would think that would be a good way to express that and a good way to use that prompt. I would just probably encourage, avoiding talking about it.
If it’s just like I couldn’t do my summer job at the mall I did an online course in Spanish. Not that’s a bad thing, I’m just not sure that really deserves some prompt in and of itself. Gotcha. So the next question is I have will AOS or she’s officers. Will they be confused if you write about a topic that was never mentioned in your application?
Okay. That’s actually a great question. The answer is absolutely not because I think we all recognize that the application it’s very finite. There’s not a lot of room for creativity in the application. And I think also a lot of people interpret the activities that should be listed or should be referenced as structured things.
Whereas a lot of what students, I think choose to write about in their main personal statements are the things that are again offline. And that 20% of the time, you’re not on camera. Maybe you’re an avid reader. Maybe you’re a long distance runner and you just run for hours by yourself. These are things that you may not be able to capture in the application, but are really meaningful to you.
And again, will help the reader get to know you and see what defines you and what distinguishes you. So no, it will not be a surprise or let me rephrase that. It might be a welcome surprise.
I know that you guys have met a lot of questions about also very specific. So I also just want to let you guys know really quickly on how you can get help. If you want to talk to Lauren, if you want to talk to new guard, both advisors and actually get these more specific questions answered for the Q and a, I’m going to try to pick out questions that are a little bit more generalized so that I’ll be able to give some answers to some more things.
Just tell you about the different, both segments that we have. We have two fighting claims. We have the starter plan, the scholar plan. And so they’re both in the form of monthly subscriptions where you can choose what advisors you want to work with. And then you can get one or two hours of one-on-one advising each month.
And so your advisors will help you with your college apps, your scholarship apps, writing by your extracurriculars, pretty much anything that you need help with. No matter where you are in the college process. And so Lauren is actually our head of advising at both sides. So if you want to get help principal day advisor, or talk to Lauren about different questions that you have about your college essays or about decoding that can supplement, I’m going to send a link where you can actually schedule a free consultation with Lauren and actually, figure out what you want to do next with the college process.
So while I’m sending out that offer going, do you want to tell the group a little bit about both I and your role.
So one of the things that I think is really important in this process is to remember, first of all, that there is support whether it’s us or elsewhere. It’s really important to feel like you’re getting help if you’re feeling overwhelmed with this. There are a lot of resources out there.
And at bulls-eye one of the things I think that differentiates us is that our advisors are, many of them are college students or recent alums. All of them have a lot of experience in college admissions, but the nice thing is they’re also relatively recently having gone through this process themselves, which I think imbues this with a sense of humanity for lack of better word.
I know there’s an opportunity to meet with me for 20 minutes. Consultation. So that’s something that if you wanted to do that, you certainly can ask them questions, find out more about bullseye. Obviously we’re here to help. And I know this is an overwhelming process and it doesn’t necessarily have to be awesome.
Thanks, Ryan. All right. So going back to the Q and a the next question that I have for you is, do you have more brainstorming tips for the personal essay? Yeah, I think that one of the things that people sometimes find helpful is just creating a list of qualities. Sometimes it’s helpful to ask your friends.
Okay. What five adjectives would you use to describe me? What was the funniest experience you ever shared with me? Why do you like me? Why am I your friend? You can ask the same thing of your parents. How do you define me? How do you experience me? It’s very hard again. I think I, I talked about this a little bit, but it’s very hard for teenagers as I’m sure you all know to be introspective.
It’s also hard sometimes at this stage to feel like you’ve got something really a weight or substance to talk about. So ask other people. My, my, one of my examples about this, I had a young man I was working with a few years ago. He was absolutely lovely and convinced, totally convinced he did not have a story to tell he did not have a common app essay prompt.
He couldn’t figure out how to answer this question. So we finally brought his mom into a meeting. And in speaking with her, I discovered that this young man for about 10 years or so had spent time almost every night with an elderly neighbor who was not very mobile. And this young man would go to his neighbor’s house and either sit with him if the weather was bad or help them get out for a walk.
And they developed a fast friendship and shared stories and. To me as an admission officer, that’s a story I want to read. That’s a person I want to get to know, and this kid, it never even occurred to him that was a story worth telling. So ask people in your life. If you’re really stuck, ask people, someone will have some ideas for you.
Awesome. Thanks Lauren. Next question that I have is it better to write an essay with related personal stories, connected with the central theme slash idea, or to focus on just one experience slash story? Unfortunately there no easy answer for that. It depends on how seamless it can be. And the relationship between the events you’re trying to describe.
And the main theme of the story, what you want to avoid is writing such an overly articulated, overly detailed story that the reader learns about a lot of stuff, but doesn’t really learn about you. So it’s always that balancing act between sharing your narrative, but also really keeping certain that the spotlight is on you at all times.
Don’t lose yourself in the details of your story. Awesome. Thank you. The next question that I have is can we talk about the black lives matter movement and the rights and protests for African American rights on the COVID-19 supplements?
That’s a tough one. I’ve had that question a lot. The timing of it certainly seems like that’s an open invitation. Many students for many good reasons have been really politically active and really engaged and involved. I think if you do that though, you have to really tie it into COVID-19.
It can’t just be the timing of the black lives matter protests and movements, crucially important as they are, is coincidentally related to COVID-19. So if you’re going to use it for that prompt, it has to be directly related to it. Otherwise it’s a little bit of a stretch. I would say though, that is absolutely fair game and could make a really compelling and really remarkable mean common application statement.
Okay. Awesome. Thanks Lauren. Next question I have is, can you talk about can you talk about how you helped people in your community during COVID-19 for example, handing out food and masks to people who could not afford. Yeah, again, I think that’s the kind of thing when you’re choosing whether or not to address this prompt, I think that’s fair because you are, again, it’s specifically about the pandemic, it’s specifically about your relationship to it.
And how you have helped to impact the community around you. While I said before you want to avoid using it to discuss superficial things that have maybe escaped your life during these last few months. I think it’s okay to talk about things added to your life because of the pandemic things that you’ve brought into your life or given to others because of your your actions because of COVID-19.
So I think something like that could make for a powerful, supplemental essay. Awesome. Next question that I have is I want to share a story about a hardship in my life, but I don’t want it to be too depressing. How should I approach it and make sure it’s okay. Boy, that is a really great question and kudos to you for wanting to write something personal and thoughtful like that.
I am not trying to advocate buying a service necessarily, but I would say definitely that’s the kind of essay you’d want to show to someone like me. Again, because there is that fine balancing act between being forthcoming and being expressive and sharing something that’s deeply personally meaningful to you without doing it in such a way that is going to give the reader any doubt about your ability to manage in a college environment.
So I don’t mean that as a discouragement, I think those can make really powerful, really compelling personal statements. But again, I think it’s a little bit about finding that balancing act and perhaps, if it’s not someone like me, someone you trust in your life who really knows your situation and setting, and can give you some feedback about how you’re coming across.
Awesome. Next question I have is it okay if your essay doesn’t necessarily relate to your intended major? Absolutely. Please. Your essay is your opportunity to strike off the beaten path. You don’t have to write about an academic interest. You are almost certainly going to have plenty of opportunities to do in other parts of the application process you are going to almost invariably have the supplemental prompt, the school specific supplemental prompts, which might ask you what you want to study or what you’re interested in. That’s a great opportunity to talk about academic interests at that point, your main copy, your main common application essay prompt.
You can talk about those things, but you absolutely don’t have to do so there.
My next question I have is how has it how important is it to have a scene in your application? What’s the best thing that you’ve seen?
Oh, I’m sorry, like an application scene. Not, everyone’s going to have a theme. Most of you are 17 and 18 years old. If that, I don’t think most people that age have a defined theme. Having said that it’s important to have again, your voice and your truth. One of the things that I think we do at bulls-eye, and I know a lot of companies do this is really help you figure out how to tell your story.
And yes, you’re going to hear the word theme. But not everyone has a well articulated theme. A lot of people have very divergent interests, what you want to make sure though, is that in your application, through your essay, you are furthering. The story of who you are. Usually the theme becomes self-evident and I don’t, I’m using the word theme loosely here because I, I don’t think it has to be like a fully articulated crisp theme.
But just because of your personality or your interests or the things you’re choosing to write about, or the things you’ve chosen to do that kind of carries through that’s the narrative. So it doesn’t, again, necessarily have to be this, perfectly articulated, this is who I am, and this is why, and this is why I do all these things.
It’s more, just a sense of who you are, the story of who you are that tends to usually come through pretty well in the application process. Awesome. Thanks Lauren. As a quick note, I saw in some of the Q and a, you guys are saying that. So I it looks like the free competition for what was very popular.
We already had 50 spots, fill up. So if you still want to, schedule connotation, just comments I guess like free consultation in the Q and a, and we’ll write your name down and make sure that you can actually book a time later on. We didn’t anticipate so many people signing up.
So if you want to have the opportunity to talk with Lauren and, chat with her and figure out your college apps with her I would just compliment you and we’ll get back to you. So for the next question that we have is what admissions officers assume that internship slash activities slash major sports events that ended in 2020 were due to COVID-19 should be explicitly say that they were canceled in the COVID essay or not.
Yeah, you, everyone knows that everything was canceled. You don’t need to specifically say that in the dropdown menu for activities, you can write You want to, you can say, I was supposed to go to regionals or, had made the nationals team, which was canceled.
You can do stuff like that. There, you don’t necessarily need to reference that in the main in the COVID supplement. I think the exception to that is if there’s something that was profoundly remarkable. I know someone who was on an Olympic team, that’s pretty neat. And that obviously got canceled that, that’s probably something I would want to read about in a COVID supplement, but yes, the readers understand that everyone’s lives have been impacted and activities have been lost.
Awesome. Thanks. Another COVID question. So if you were still able to continue doing activities during the pandemic, can I use the supplemental section to discuss that? Okay. I guess I don’t really know how to answer that. I think it depends again what value added would there be in discussing that in a supplement quit, it could be captured elsewhere in the application.
In other words, in the dropdown menu for the activities. Is that something that you would be able to describe and make note of, if not certainly that’s something that you could consider doing the COVID supplement for? I think it depends what the activity was and why you feel like it’s important to describe again rule of thumb if you’re at all uncertain about whether or not to use this supplemental prompt this year, read the essay question very carefully.
And if you are not answering the prompt as asked, then you shouldn’t be using it.
Great. Thanks. Next question we have is how to effectively tell a story and grab the reader’s attention. So I guess, a brief overview of any tips. Yeah. Yeah, again just to get back to some of the points I made before four, I would not worry about length initially. Sometimes I have my students who feel like they’re maybe not the best writers are a little bit stuck, figuring out how to get into a story.
Sometimes I encourage my students to start their story in the middle and not worry about how to begin the essay. Again, keeping it informal thinking of that intro sentence as a way to get right into a story. You don’t need to set the scene. I describe it sometimes, you don’t want your reader to be sitting in the theater, waiting for the curtain to rise.
The auditorium is getting dark. They’re getting bored, they’re reading through the program, they’re getting distracted and then the action starts and you’ve already lost them. You want them to walk into your story, right? As the curtain is rising, immediately draw them in to the story unfolding in your essay.
And that’s one way to create a strong narrative and a compelling essay. Awesome. Thanks. Our next question I have is it’s an important to specifically address what you learned from your story, or do we just write the story from beginning to end?
Not everything. In fact, essays often work better when not everything is explicit. However, you have to write it in such a way that you are communicating the why am I choosing this topic? Why is it important for me to share this experience with the reader of this application? If you are communicating that and you’re communicating it clearly, you really don’t have to focus on laying it out explicitly.
You want to get the nuance across. You want to get the meaning across, but you don’t have to do it by exhaustive language. That’s going to, paint that red line with the arrow on it for the reader to follow the reader should be able if it’s a well-written story and a well-written narrative to follow you along that journey.
Next question I have is how can I write a COVID-19 essay without sounding like everyone else? If I knew how to answer that question. I think everyone, again this comes back to the main common application essay. Everyone always has this fear that they don’t have anything uniquely their own to discuss or disclose, make it your own story.
Your story is not everyone else’s story. There is no one else like you out there, you may not feel like you were particularly unique or special or unusual, but I can guarantee you that you are different from everybody else and help the reader understand the ways in which that’s true. Thanks. Our next question I have is how should you pick which essay topic to use if you have a few of those.
So I should have mentioned this and thank you so much whoever brought this question up, I always have my students choose, the last option, write about whatever you want to write about. Again, this kind of goes back to the title one. I think the temptation is there too often to shape your essay, to answer the prompt versus shaping the essay to answer what you want to communicate in in the scope of your essay.
So typically I encourage my students to craft their essay based on what they want to communicate. And the prompt is almost immaterial. There is, that option to write whatever you want to write about, use it. Awesome. So what were some of the most unique slash attractive such memorable opening sentences?
I would have to go back and look, I, I can remember the impression that opening sentences left advice use first person use present tense. Again, don’t start with dialogue. That’s laying the script, really get right into the story. Be as descriptive as possible. Be evocative, help the reader get a three-dimensional colorful, vivid sense of where you are while you’re trying to draw the reader into the story.
You’re trying to tell. Awesome. Next question that I have is what if you brainstorm for a while now and just can’t find the right topic that you really like.
Again, I think that’s when I would turn to people in your life for suggestions and ideas. One of the things I really caution against and I probably should have said this earlier. I think there is just way too much information out there. People have a tendency to overthink this way too much. And while yes, you want to be informed.
You want to know how to write a good essay. There is such a thing as too much information, and if you’re endlessly Googling good essay topics, and what’s a strong college essay, you’re going to lose track of your own story. That’s when I, again, I unplug go sit in the backyard, go sit in a park sit outside somewhere.
With a notebook and just let your mind wander a little bit, think of things that you’ve experienced that are remarkable to you. Memories you’ve had experiences. You’ve had relationships, you’ve had books, you’ve read defining moments in your life, big or small. Think of some of those things and try to step away from the constant tape running about what everyone else is writing about.
And is this going to be good enough? Because ultimately that’s not helpful. Your story is the only one that you are enabled to tell probably our last question for tonight. So in the COVID-19 essay, could we talk about personal growth, such as health improvement, or should we just focus on community impact?
Personal growth has in what Lillian. Such as health improvement. Yeah. Again, I would read the prompt really carefully and be selective at how you’re answering it. If again, it is addressing the specific prompt and you think it’s something that you really need to communicate and you find really important to communicate.
Ultimately that is your decision to do I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Again, you need to really be asking yourself, is this value added? Is this important for me to communicate to the reader of my application and why, what do I want that person to know about me in reading the supplemental essay prompt?
Thanks Lauren. So I guess we can wrap up the webinar here. Just as a quick reminder, if you guys do want to schedule that free con consultation with Lauren just leave your name somewhere in the Q and a, and just say, free consultation and we’ll get back to you and we have all of your emails when you guys registered.
So we’ll send you an email so you can actually book something. Yeah. Lauren, do you want to give a call? Sure I do. I think there was a lot of information that I gave tonight. Again, I think this can feel a little bit lonely sometimes for people I’m a little bit anxiety provoking. I absolutely want to reassure you.
I have worked with thousands of students in this writing process. Everyone does find their own voice. Give yourself the time and space to articulate your story, to think through what it is you want to share. Have some confidence in yourself that you have something worth sharing because I am absolutely certain you do.
Thank you so much for joining us tonight and I hope this was helpful. Thank you. Yeah. And then, so just dress things up. If you guys want to keep going to our webinars series, our next one is going to be in two days on Tuesday. So this one will be about how to apply with the coalition app. We previously had another webinar that was pretty similar about how to apply with the combat, but the coalition October will be a really great place where you can compare the two platforms and really decide which one you want to use, or if you want to apply with both.
So I highly recommend going to this webinar. Yeah. So with that, can you guys again, with, coming out tonight’s panel, have you guys learned a lot and hope to see you guys at the next one? Hey guys. Thank you.