7 College Essay Writing Tips to Blow Their Socks Off!

1. Write your college application essay before your senior year begins. Senior year is very busy, and you don’t need another distraction from concentrating on what’s more important: your studies. Get it brainstormed, drafted, corrected and finally written before September 1.

2. Find a topic that you know better than anyone. For example, you’re a dancer because you use dance as a way to express with your body what you cannot express with your vocal cords. Who knows the language of your body better than you do? Who knows more about what you say with your dance than you do? You’re the expert, which is why it’ll be a whole lot easier for you to communicate what you want to say. Read: your essay can be one easy task!

3. Keep it simple. By way of illustration, let’s say you’re standing on a street corner and you witness a car crash in front of you; you were the only one who witnessed the crash, and the police have asked you to write a description of what you saw. Why did the police ask you? Because they know you are the expert in what you experienced in that brief moment of the car crash. You could write about a brief moment in your life that had some positive impact on you because you are the expert on how that moment affected you. Keeping it simple also means using simple words, so throw away the thesaurus.

4. Make your first statement of the essay the most powerful. Readers in a college admissions office believe 80% of the essays they read are a waste of time. So make your first statement a “hook” – a pleasant surprise that catches their attention from the get-go. Here are some example first-sentences of what some of my students wrote last year:

“I was suddenly surrounded by rifles pointing at me.” (theme: paintball) “It was clear that I was completely cut off from civilization.” (theme: wilderness hiking) “I had nowhere to go but down.” (theme: overachieving) “Pain was a requirement for me to succeed.” (theme: dancing/ballet)

5. Read your essay out loud. Besides your eyes use your ears to hear what you’re saying. Reading out loud gives you another sense of how the essay is moving, and you’ll be able to tell if it sounds right or needs improvement. Then get friends and family members to read and listen to what you’re saying. Ask for comments and suggestions.

6. Essays should be no longer than 500 words. Give the admissions reader another reason to LOVE you – keep it shorter than 500 words. The 500-word limit has been a standard for years, and the Common App now allows you to write more than 500 words. With short attention spans in a college admissions office, do you think colleges are excited that the Common App allows you to write more than they want to read? Less is more, or quality beats quantity every time.

7. Keep your essay upbeat and positive. My favorite college essay requirement comes from the College of William & Mary: “Surprise us!” What they’re asking you to do is write something that’s positive. Why? Like most colleges they’re so used to reading the seven deadly topics they don’t like: divorce, disabilities, death, dysfunctional behavior, trips, sports injuries, and boyfriend/girlfriend breakups. Not to write about these topics would be a huge surprise.

Tips for Writing College Essays: Literary Analysis

Writers block. Talk about the number one time waster when it comes to studying and assignment completion in college. And let’s be realistic here, it isn’t just WRITER’S block, it is really PROJECT CREATOR’S block. Whether we are writing a paper, creating a PowerPoint presentation, a short video production, a website, or any time of major project in an English course, we eventually hit that brick wall of saying “what do I do next?”

Well, if you are participating in any sort of English class, whether it is literature, critical theory… etc. there is a good chance that you will run out of the creative juices at some point. The problem is that it can sometimes take FOREVER to get back in track, when you really just want to get the project done fast. So here’s a quick set of steps you can take to get the creative ideas flowing again.

Consider the Big Picture

Just ask yourself the following question about the (literary analysis) topic you chose to write about.

What are the primary themes or big ideas that are represented in the text(s) I’m concerned with?

Simple, right? If you have narrowed the focus of your paper well enough, you hopefully don’t have more than three of these. And those three should honestly be bridging up to an even bigger, singular idea. Anyway, take those ideas or that idea and take the next simple step.

Symbol Identification

English classes, and especially literature courses, are largely representing philosophy and world views (culture) through metaphor. This means that you can have a lot of creativity in your interpretation of a text. And you really can’t be wrong, as long as you make a compelling argument for it. But here’s the key to overcoming that writer’s block…

Symbols are a KEY metaphorical tool of authors!

So, simply pick out some symbol – whether it is a character, a description, an item… etc. – that helps explain the text’s or texts’ attitude toward that big idea. Now you can get into an elaboration of a particular symbol and big idea within your writing. At this point, find a few quotes surrounding that symbol that help back up your position, and you’ve just crunched out another 250+ words in your paper. Also, add your own elaborations after each quote to explain how the quotes prove your argument.

Not only is this a great way to add some more description and elements to your paper, this same process can be used as a way to create your thesis statement:

– Just look for the big ideas,

-Find a symbol (or a few) that make a statement about that big idea,

-Then argue that the symbol represents your author’s viewpoint on the big idea.

-Or maybe the author is satirizing that viewpoint. Use your own discretion here.

ACT Or SAT? Five Tips to Pick the Right College Entrance Exam

The SAT and ACT are both respected, nationally-recognized tests. Historically, there’s been a geographic divide between the two; nowadays, very few colleges require or prefer one test over the other. So which one should you take? Well, since you can’t really say one test is any easier than the other, that all depends on your skills and preferences. Basically, you should go for the one you’ll score higher on!

Here are some tips to help you make your decision:

1. Who says size doesn’t matter?

The ACT is a shorter test. The SAT takes a whopping 3 hours, 45 minutes, while the ACT comes out to a hefty 2 hours, 55 minutes, making the SAT about 30% longer than the ACT. Either way, you’re stuck taking a long test. If you have a ridiculously short attention span, then the ACT might be right for you, but realistically, after nearly 3 hours, why sweat an extra 50 minutes?

2. When in doubt, just guess… right?

The SAT has a guessing penalty – minus a quarter of a point for each incorrect response. Not so with the ACT. Guess away! So you should answer every question on the ACT, but on the SAT, you should just leave the answer blank when you can’t eliminate at least one answer choice. Does this make the SAT “harder”? Not really. With the right strategies, you can even make the SAT’s guessing penalty work to your advantage.

3. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s superscore!

The SAT reports each of your three “subscores” separately-one each for critical reading, writing, and mathematics. So, many colleges will combine your best three subscores from all the times you’ve taken the SAT to make a “superscore.” In the past, schools would not do this with the ACT. Recently, however, many schools have begun to make ACT “superscores” too.

4. What is the difference anyway?

Both tests have a grammar, reading comprehension, essay and math portions. The ACT has an extra “science” section, but don’t worry. I used quotes because it’s really just another test of your reasoning skills – not much chemistry, physics or biology knowledge needed. Broadly speaking, the ACT tests skills that you (should have) learned in high school, while the SAT tries to evaluate your innate problem-solving abilities.

For example, the ACT math section tests a few topics that typically aren’t covered until pre-calculus. While the SAT leaves out these topics, its math problems generally have more complicated setups.

The ACT’s essay is optional, but some colleges require it anyway. Its essay topics are always questions of school policy, while the SAT’s essays deal with more abstract moral or philosophical issues.

In the critical reading sections, the SAT’s vocabulary is harder, but the ACT taxes your critical reading and analysis skills. The ACT English section gives you a couple of long passages with grammar and critical reading questions mixed together; the SAT tests reading and grammar separately.

5. You can’t know if you like it till you’ve tried it!

How do I know which test is better for me? Try them! Take some free practice tests online and see which one fits your fancy. Both the SAT and ACT offer practice questions or tests on their official websites.

6 Helpful Tips on How to Choose the Best University

Deciding on a university is the first step towards becoming independent. The list of universities that you would want to go to can be random, or comprise of those institutions that you have thoroughly researched. The process of picking out a university that is best suited for you can be a little daunting. Following are some tips that can help speed up the process and minimize the pressure.

1. Opting for the Subject of Your Choice

Choosing a course that interests you holds the utmost importance. You will not only be studying it for the next few years but, it will determine your future successes. In order to first select a subject, you need to carry out research via the internet and attend as many university open houses as possible to learn, and gather information on which field of study appeals to you. In addition to that, surfing the internet for electives, or job abundance can also assist in making the right decision.

2. Looking Up University Rankings

Every known university will have a general ranking available on the internet. The best universities have separate tables for each subject, while some have calculated averages on display. For a student, comparing the ratios of one university with another, will bear fruit. For example, the student to staff ratio in different universities will determine the amount of individual attention that a teacher can give. The lower this ratio is, the better it is for a student.

3. Scaling the Library

When you are going to a university to study, it is a given that you will spend most of your time in the library. Visiting the library while on campus tour is highly recommended as it will help you judge your environment. Checking out cafes that operate 24 hours a day should also be on your list of things to consider before choosing that particular university.

4. Researching the Courses

After selecting a course, gathering information on its components will be the next step. The university website can serve to be quite useful when a student decides to delve into the details of the course that they have chosen. Moreover, universities often have several channels through which they can be contacted, should any queries arise.

5. Student Life at a University

The primary reason for attending a university is to get a degree, but that does not mean you cannot enjoy your life on campus by indulging into various other activities that the university has to offer. Student Unions can help bring you up to speed on the events held or organized by the members of the society that interests you, or any extra-curricular activities. The same information can also be looked up on the university website.

6. Location

Perhaps the most important factor when choosing a university is its accessibility. Since becoming independent is part of the university experience, you don’t want a university that’s too close to home and not one that’s too far either. The costs that you may incur when traveling to and from home and the time consumed, are also factors that will determine your choice of university.

5 Tips To Become A College Softball Player

If you have the dream to become a college softball player, then these five tips will help you. I was always told to put school first, that is why school is tip number one.

1. School will always be first. If it’s not first now, make it first. In most colleges and universities you are required to have a minimum grade point average (GPA) to not only stay on the roster, but also to play. In most cases your GPA needs to be a 2.0-2.5.

2. Know that you will make mistakes, but you will have to be able to flush those mistakes. You have to move on and not let a bad at bat interfere with you next at bat. You can think of it like you are flushing the toilet, you are not going to us the restroom and not flush the toilet. So if you have a bad at bat or if you make an error, “Flush It” like you are flushing a toilet. Once you flush it, it’s gone.

3. Practice doesn’t make perfect, PERFECT practice makes perfect. I know you think and you have been told that no one is perfect, but you can be the PERFECT you. Be the best you can be.

4. You can either get better or worse do not stay the same. There is no point to just stay “as good as you are today.” Why not strive to be better tomorrow than you are today. To get better you need to practice. That does not mean you just attend practice, that means you show up, work hard and improve your skills.

5. Start contacting college/university coaches your sophomore year in high school, the sooner you get your name and information to the coaches the better. Also do not just contact 2-5 schools at the beginning. You need to make a list of at list of any and every school you want to go to. Contact as many coaches as you can. Keep in mind if you need to know your skill level. Not trying to crush any dreams of playing at a Division 1 (D1) University. But if your skill level is not at least equivalent to the current players, then you might not want to contact the coach. Community colleges have great programs to offer to student athletes. You can start off at a community college and improve your skills and learn how to play the game at a higher level than in high school. Then after playing at a community college you can pursue attending a university.

10 Tips for Transferring College Credits

College students head of each August to colleges both domestically and internationally. Many students leave with the belief that they will graduate from the college where they are headed. However, some will find that life circumstances such as loss of financial aid, family issues or poor academic performance may result in them having to transfer to a college that may be cheaper, smaller, or closer to home. There are some students who at the onset of their college career decide to attend a 2-year community college and later transfer to a 4-year college or university. Below are several tips to help maximize acceptance of transferred college credits.

1. Keep your Course Syllabus.

Make sure to keep copies of the course syllabus from all of your classes. The course syllabus provides information about the course number, number of credits, outlines the course objectives and details course content. The course syllabus will allow the transferring college to match the course with a similar course in their catalog to see if you can receive transfer credit.

2. Keep your coursework.

Keep all of your relevant coursework from each course in a labeled folder. Some colleges may request work samples in addition to the course syllabus. Also keep copies of the quizzes, exams and homework within the same labeled course folder.

3. Make an A in your courses.

Getting the transfer college to accept all of your course credits will be a daunting task. However, to help ensure that your course credits are accepted, you are encouraged to make the highest academic grade possible in your courses. Colleges are less likely to accept courses in which you demonstrated average (C grade) performance.

4. Keep a copy of all report cards.

All colleges provide a college transcript that details course number, course title, number of credits for the course, credits earned for that course and grade earned. However, it is important that the student maintain their own report card file. Review your report card at the end of each semester to verify that both the proper grades and courses were credited to your college transcript.

5. Start the transfer process early.

Once you decide that you intend to transfer, meet / email an admission advisor from the transfer college to determine what necessary paperwork will be required. Adhere to all posted deadlines to ensure that you are able to enroll in a timely manner.

6. Keep a copy of all files.

Don't give the transfer college your original paperwork / documentation. Make copies or have them make copies of the required documentation.

7. Complete any additional paperwork.

Some colleges may require additional paperwork, entrance exams, placement tests etc. Complete all required paperwork before the deadline otherwise it may delay your enrollment and / or the disbursement of your financial aid.

8. Provide an official transcript.

Transfer colleges will require that you provide an official sealed transcript from the registrar at your current college. Some will want the transcript to be sent to them directly from the registrar while others may allow you to hand deliver a sealed transcript to their office.

9. Request several personal copies of your official transcripts.

Be sure to request several personal copies of your official transcripts for your own records. In the future you may be required to provide transcripts from ALL colleges you attended regardless if you obtained a degree. It may be challenging to get your transcripts if you no longer reside in the state or if you need to provide transcripts ten years later for employment / educational purposes. Do NOT open the sealed transcripts as this will make them invalid and unofficial.

10. Be patient.

Transferring to a different college may be intimidating. Take your time and don't wait until the last minute to start the process. Plan ahead to ensure a smooth transition to your new college.

Top 10 Study Tips For University Success

While it may be true that not everyone learns in the most effective way by doing the same things, there are certain fundamentals that you can follow in order to virtually guarantee yourself academic success during your time at University. No matter what degree you take or what College you’re enrolled in, University classes are all structured in similar ways. Lectures, text book readings, assignments, projects, quizzes, midterm and final exams. Knowing the format of the class beforehand allows students to create a strategy that when implemented and stuck to, results in good grades and less stress. Here are our top 10 study habits you should try to implement into your strategy for academic success at University!

#10 – Take Extensive Notes

Probably the most tedious of our top 10, taking good notes is hard to do consistently. In our ADHD world, many students find it difficult to maintain their focus long enough to record the information given out during lectures. However, when it comes time to write a quiz/test/exam you’ll be glad you have that pile of notes to review and refresh your brain with. Taking good notes is in itself an act of learning, as one cannot write something down that doesn’t make sense on some level. This small act goes a long way in creating the foundation for a solid understanding of the material being covered. Taking notes also has the added bonus of keeping your brain occupied and awake by staving off restlessness and boredom. An excellent method I learned in my first year of Engineering was to scribble down everything that seemed useful in some manner, almost as if you were transcribing the lecture. Later that day, transfer and rewrite the notes into an understandable form in another notebook. This will cement the information into your mind, moving the material from your short term memory into your long term. Lastly, notes have become a source of income for many students as those who take excellent notes are often sought after by the lazier students who are willing to pay a premium for a great set of notes to study from. You will not only get good grades, but you will be getting paid to do so as well. If that’s not a win-win I don’t know what is!

#9 – Obtain Old Exams and Assignments

If possible, try to find exams and assignments from previous years to give yourself a good idea of what subject matter the instructors are most likely to test you on. They don’t have to have the answers to be useful and in fact for many students they are even more useful without because this way the student can attempt the exam/assignment as a check of their knowledge, identifying any weak areas that they should go back and re-study. Old exams and assignments are often made available through class websites, student union websites, or through College clubs or associations. One common tactic many students use for science classes with a lab section is to find a graded lab notebook from a previous year. Labs are notoriously difficult in terms of time constraints and for what’s expected from a student lab report. Having a format to follow along with is an incredible help and knowing where not to make mistakes is invaluable as well.

#8 – Begin Studying For Exams EARLY

Between academics and your social life, time is not something you’ll have lots of throughout your University career. But one thing you should always make time for is exam studying. There’s nothing worse than leaving all of your studying for the night before an important test or exam. The stress causes your brain to panic and when you panic, you won’t learn as well as you normally would. Studying a little bit each night during the week leading up to the exam will not only make you better prepared but it will remove most of the stress you’d have if you had left your studying for the last minute. Early exam studying allows a student to identify weak spots in their understanding and to prioritize their studying accordingly. Just imagine studying until the early morning of the day of your exam only to find you’ve completely ignored a section that you have little to no understanding in. Don’t let that happen by studying EARLY!

#7 – Use a Laptop During Class If Possible

If permitted, use a laptop for note-taking during your lectures. Most students can type faster than they can write so they will be able to record much more information than they normally would. If the classroom has WiFi you’ll have the added ability to research topics you’re unsure of during lulls or breaks in the lecture. If a professor uses a word you’ve never heard before, just alt-tab over to dictionary.com and look it up! Or, if the lecture is completely flying over your head, e-mail the professor from your seat and set up an appointment to discuss the day’s lecture. There are many uses for a laptop during class, I’ll let you imagine the other not-so-academic uses. Many students have grown up with a computer being a staple in their lives so it’s only natural to use it as a tool for learning as well. It’s an easy transition for your brain to go from Facebook to Powerpoint! If a laptop purchase is in your future, refer to our article for tips on choosing a budget laptop for students.

#6 – Use Your Time Wisely

In between classes as well as before and after school, there are many opportunities to sneak in some studying or homework that many students either don’t realize or just don’t use. I’ve known people who would study on the bus during the ride to and from school. I’ve also known people that would combine their time at the gym with their study time! Just bring your notes and instead of watching the TV’s and listening to your iPod, wear ear plugs and read your notes. You get a workout for your body and for your brain! Always keep your notes handy and try to use any spare time you have even for simple review to make sure you’re on top of the material. All of those small moments you fill with studying will really add up to a solid understanding and you’ll find that you require less studying when exam time arrives. That’s huge.

#5 – Get Your Questions Resolved ASAP!

University classes tend to operate with the “snowball effect” as the primary method for topic progression. That is, the information is cumulative and the last stuff you learned will be instrumental in understanding the next stuff! So anytime you don’t understand something or have a question about the subject matter, get your question answered as soon as you can. Whether by asking during or after class, through an e-mail or phone call to the prof, or even by asking a fellow student, you need to stay on top of the subject matter in order to be ready for the next stuff that’s coming. Don’t let the holes in your understanding be knowledge pits for the future!

#4 – Get To Know Some of Your Classmates

This one can be extremely difficult and stressful for many people these days. Meeting people is becoming increasingly difficult in a world of social stigmas and fears of disapproval. I’m not going to tell you how to meet people, just that when you do, the benefits will be immediately apparent. Having a buddy to sit with during class, having someone to lean on for notes from a lecture that you missed, being able to bounce questions and ideas off of somebody, and most importantly having someone to check your assignment answers with before you hand it in, are all spectacular reasons to swallow your nerves and start saying “Hi! My name is….” to the people in your class.

#3 – Explore Other Class Resources

Many class outlines will have “optional” reading listed along with the required textbook. This is often a HUGE opportunity for easy marks and guaranteed success in the particular class. Professors are humans just like me and you. Their job is to relay the required material and then test you on it. If they’re using the required textbook as reference for the learning part, where do you think they’re going to get the material for the testing part? If you said “the required textbook”, you’re wrong and you need to stop thinking like a high school student! Professors will often take test questions out of their favorite textbooks, resulting in quality assessments from a trusted source. Those favorite textbooks are often listed as optional reading material either on the class website or on the course outline. Also don’t forget the mighty Internet. YouTube is an insane resource for How-to’s, recorded lectures from other schools, and general knowledge videos on every subject matter imaginable. Use Wikipedia and Google as well to find extra(often better!) resources on whatever it is that you’re struggling with.

#2 – Pre-Read Lecture Material

I discovered this one by accident, even if it is, or should be common sense. One night I was bored. Really bored. I grabbed a text book for a class whose lecture I had the next morning and I began reading from the point we stopped at in the previous lecture. It was difficult to understand and took a lot of focus to push through it but the next day in class while listening to the Professor, it crystallized in my mind and was easy from then on. It had the added benefit of being committed to my long term memory giving me a greater and more thorough understanding of the material. It makes sense if you think about it, I was essentially learning the material twice. Once independently and once with the help of an expert. These combined into a solid understanding that I still possess to this day. Now I’d love to suggest that you do this for every class, every night. But we all know that isn’t reasonable so what I do suggest is that you use this technique for anything that you deem to be very difficult or abstract. That way you’ll have a great head start on understanding and mastering the hard stuff, leaving plenty of time for filling in the gaps with the easy stuff!

#1 – Go To Class!

While going to class sounds too simple to be our #1 most effective studying habit, it truly is and I’ll tell you why. Going to class not only keeps you disciplined and focused on what you’re at University to do, but it also lets you absorb the subject matter simply by sitting through the lectures. If you’re an auditory learner this is huge because just listening to the lectures will create an understanding that should be enough to pass the class in itself! If you’re a visual learner then watching the notes being written on the board or reading through the slides during the presentation will give you the necessary understanding to pass the class. Going to class also ensures you have the latest news on assignments, tests, quizzes, and exams straight from your Professor’s mouth. You don’t want to be that student that shows up for class once a week only to find there’s a scheduled test on that day! Simply going to your classes like you’re supposed to is much more powerful than most students realize. If you look at the nine tips before this you’ll see that most of them actually require this step as a pre-requisite so that should also be an indicator of how important it is to attend your classes without fail.

As a student who has both failed classes and received honors in classes I can definitely say that the above tips and techniques will work for you. Whether you use some or all of them is up to you, but just remember that University is an individual sport and you’ll only get out of it what you’re willing to put in! I hope you’ve found these tips useful and informative, good luck and stay classy!