Get Started on Your College Essay This Summer

Get Started on Your College Essay This Summer


Summer is here! And rising high-school seniors now is your time to shine. You’ve finally reached the top of the hierarchical high school food chain. I’m sure you’re floating on a sense of mastered self-confidence and appreciation for the academic respite, but don’t get too complacent on these sweltering summer days. Now is the perfect time to consider brainstorming—and even drafting—a few versions of your college application essay(s).

Now, now, I know what you’re thinking. But it’s summer; can’t I just RELAX? And the good news is, yes you can relax. The brainstorming stages for the college application essay can often be kind of fun. Luckily, this writing assignment requires minimal outside research as the subject is… you! So what easy steps forward can you take now to set yourself up for success during college application season this fall?

Firstly, I’d suggest you begin to familiarize yourself with the types of questions being asked of you in order to maximize productivity during your brainstorming sessions. The Common Application—a tool used by nearly 700 colleges around the world—announced earlier this year that personal statement essay prompts for 2016-2017 will be recycled from the year before. This is where you should begin.

After that I’d suggest you identify your colleges of interest, and do a little poking around on their websites or online profiles. Some colleges offer information that sheds light onto exactly what they’ll be looking for in a college application essay and/or from which critical lens the essay will be read.

The college application essay offers an opportunity for you to showcase not only your personality, but also your writing abilities. Ultimately, your essay should provide a clear, succinct and persuasive personal statement that illuminates the person behind your academic transcript. That being said, now’s a great time to begin thinking about the special characteristics possessed or interests maintained that favorably set you apart from others. Additionally, start observing the world around you; what excites you? What ignites you?

Spend 15 minutes each day identifying strengths and connecting these strengths to concrete and vivid examples. It will be easier to substantiate your claims later on if you are able to pull from evidence you’ve already identified in your initial brainstorming process. In a similar vein, it will also be easy to discard claims you find you can’t firmly support with examples. Jot down these daily thoughts in a notebook and revisit them frequently.

Now parents, here’s where you come in: speaking with family members, friends, and teachers to gain sense of best qualities can often help to spark your student’s critical thinking process. Have any family meals planned? Or how about any summer road trips? Use these times to prompt your student to begin reflecting on personal attributes. Often you can provide supporting details your student has forgotten about that can help strengthen essay claims.

Overall, the best thing you as a student can do now to set yourself up for a stress-free college application essay writing process is to reflect early, and reflect often. Use the remainder of these summer weeks to really stew over a few personal details. Relax, reflect, and remember to write everything down.

For more information take a look at the 2016-2017 Common App Prompts.

About the author:

Aniela Wendt is a recent college graduate currently working as a Certified Professional Governess in Manhattan, where she focuses on the creative, cognitive, and physical development of young children.

10 things you NEED TO KNOW about the New SAT

10 things you NEED TO KNOW about the New SAT

1. It’s a lot more organized

Instead of randomly serving up Critical Reading, Math and Writing sections, the test is  now more like the ACT, with each subject presented all at once in longer sections.

2. No more obscure vocabulary words

Instead of asking for definitions of seldom used, anachronistic words that only an erudite would know, the SAT has now replaced the vocabulary questions with ACT-style “meaning in context vocab questions.”

3. You’ll be asked to back up your answers

The new reading section includes 2-part GRE-style “evidence” questions, wherein you have to first answer a question about the passage and then pick the line of the passage that contains the evidence for your answer. Tip: make sure you are looking for the evidence for your answer and not the previous question. It’s a tricky business.

4. There’s no standalone writing section

Instead, the writing is folded into the writing-language test (part of the 800 point “evidence-based reading-writing” score).

5. The grammar and writing section is now passage-based.

The new writing-language test resembles the ACT English section to an almost embarrassing extent. This means long passages with questions about underlined portions throughout. It means more punctuation and structure questions.

6. The Math got more wordy

The math is getting more convoluted. They are trying to make the math section more grounded in “real-world problems,” but from what we can tell, this just means adding two sentences to each problem to give the pretext of a physical situation. If you’re going to ask about a function, you don’t have to first give an introduction explaining that the function models the production of fizzy widgets in the Roebuck county. But the new SAT feels differently, so many problems are longer than they need be.

7. And covers more topics

There is basic trigonometry and statistics on the math, which some students don’t learn until senior year (if at all). While the math may not have gotten harder exactly, the broader nature of the section makes it tougher for some.

8. And you can’t use your calculator on part of it…

Yep, that’s right, a no-calculator section has appeared! Mental math is making a come back, so start trying to remember long division sooner than later.

9. The essay is graduate level

The new SAT essay is now document-based and resembles the analyzing-an-argument essay of the GRE, the graduate school exam, and the AP English test. Essentially students are given a passage and have 50 minutes to write an essay that explores how the author of the passage uses literary tools to convey their point, story, intention to the reader.

10. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of the ACT, GRE, Common Core standards and old SAT.

If you need help handling this new monstrosity, check out Khan Academy’s free online resources or find yourself an amazing SAT tutor at Then again, you could always just take the ACT like most students last year…

The Pomodoro Technique: A Fun Exercise in Time Management

The Pomodoro Technique: A Fun Exercise in Time Management

Consistent productivity is something we all struggle to maintain. As certain courses progress each chapter may vary in difficulty. Ensuring that we always use our time most efficiently is extremely important when it comes to study habits. One way I’ve been able to maximize my focus is through the Pomodoro Technique.

The Pomodoro Technique is an exercise in time management skills created by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It encourages us to work with the time we are allotted instead of working against it. By allotting ourselves 25 minute work increments with 3-5 minute breaks in between we can eliminate the dreaded “burnt out” feeling we get after marathon study sessions.

Executing the Pomodoro Technique properly is simple. Chose a task to be completed and set a timer for 25 minutes. Any time a distraction comes to your attention—be it a text, email or snap—immediately write it down and then resume the task at hand. At the end of the first 25 minutes, allow a 3-5 minute break and then start another 25 minutes of focus. After four blocks of focus (also called “Pomodoros”) allow for a 15-30 minute break. Repeat the cycle until the task is completed.

It is important to record each Pomodoro we complete to reinforce a sense of progress. The best part of this method is being able to compare and contrast the number of Pomodoros needed to complete certain tasks over time. After a while more daunting tasks will begin to seem a lot more achievable and our estimate of the time they will take will become more realistic.

In addition to our work, the Pomodoro Technique offers us a clearer breakdown of our distractions in terms of priority . Knowing that we only have 5 minutes to take my mind off this Chemistry final on Friday helps us realize that aimlessly scrolling through our Twitter feed may be an activity best saved for later on. A more rewarding use of that 5 minutes could be finding last minute stub hub tickets to a sold out show this weekend.

For more information on the Pomodoro Technique visit where they have educational videos in addition to actual timers for sale.

About the author:

Tjani earned a bachelor’s in Chemistry at Tufts University.  He has tutored Chemistry, Biology and Math for 6 years.