Writing a Dissertation at College or University

Almost all universities require students to undertake a piece of independent research. This is often referred to as a dissertation or thesis. Because the dissertation relies more on the initiative of the student, and because it is usually a substantial piece of work, it often causes students a great deal of stress. Here are some hands-on tips to help you tackle the dissertation.

Tip 1: Start early – do not delay in getting the dissertation under way. A little bit done on a regular basis really does make all the difference. Set aside two to three hours a week to begin with. In no time at all you will have made substantial progress, which will serve to motivate you even further.

Tip 2: No data = no dissertation. While ideally the research process requires you to come up with a topic and then decide what data you need, in the real world I would never embark on a research project without first considering access to data. In many instances it makes sense to start with reflecting on what data might be relatively easily available to you that you could build a dissertation around.

Tip 3: Starting early means starting to write early too! Some tutors give the advice that you ‘write-up’ the dissertation at the end. This is nonsense. It does not matter if you have to redraft your work, 99% of writers do this. The dissertation is something that should come together gradually. The process or writing itself will get you to think through the material you have been reading and working on.

Tip 4: Make sure the data analysis and interpretation are linked to the literature review. To do so the literature review needs to have clear themes, or better still a theoretical framework (a collection of key concepts and how these relate to one another). Remember that your study needs to relate to the body of knowledge that already exists.

Tip 5: Tell the reader what your aim and objectives are and then in the conclusion tell them how you have met them. People who mark lengthy pieces of work often start by trying to get an overview of it. One way of doing this is to read the introduction and then the conclusion. You should make it clear to the reader that you have done what you said you set out to do. It is surprising how often students fail to do this!

How to Make College Students More Courageous

As educators, we know one of the best traits that can aid in success is confidence. Self-doubt can kill dreams and a lack of belief in oneself can deter anyone from achieving a goal and becoming successful. However, confidence is often something that we have or need at any given time. We need confidence, even for the smaller day to day routine things that we do. On the other hand, sometimes, we need courage to get through a situation. Courage is pushing through when things are tough or create fear. For example, it might take confidence to ace the final exam, but it takes courage to stick out a degree program when it puts finances in jeopardy, reduces work-life balance, and all your support systems are against you going for this goal.

As educators, we will see many students each year that need to build up their courage. They need our help and guidance on how to be courageous in a time of fearfulness or anxieties. Students face many life events along their four plus years with us, and to help them achieve their goal of earning a degree, we must also provide mentorship on how to be courageous.

Here are 3 ways you can guide students into being more courageous:

  1. Reduce Fears and Anxieties

If you want your students to be more courageous, remember that as a professor, your role is to teach, guide, model and inspire, not to show students how tough “the real world is.” Learning new content and balancing education with life is already hard enough, no need to instill fear on top of this. As an added bonus, as you minimize fears and anxieties, and students push through, they build confidence.

To minimize fears and anxieties in your students, there are several things you can do, here are some tips:

  • Set course expectations up front.
  • Link students to helpful resources.
  • Give them tips on what to do if they encounter technology problems.
  • Provide your contact information and answer emails/calls in less than 24 hours.
  • Give a little leeway in the event a student had a major life event occur during a specific week.
  • Humanize yourself. You can do this by sharing a little about who you are personally, doing videos in the courseroom, using humor, building rapport.
  • Don’t give negative feedback in the open forum. Use personal email or gradebook feedback.
  • Give feedback on assignments and discussion questions. This helps the student to know what they have done well with and where they can improve. No feedback leaves students in the dark as to what they can improve on and how.
  1. Encourage Students to Focus on What They Can Control

In a classroom setting, you are the authority. Students may feel intimidated at times or feel that they have limited power. Perhaps they don’t like the content, don’t understand it, or are having personal troubles while also trying to manage their education. As a professor, if you want to increase your student’s courage, help students to focus on what is in their control. This will help students persevere in the face of adversity or trials because they will realize they are not completely powerless.

Here are some tips you can share with students to help empower them to take control over their education:

  • Give students tips on avoiding procrastination
  • Share resources on balancing life and work
  • Give students tools on how to achieve better time management
  • Help students become intentional about their leaning. You can provide them with assessments that can help them better understand how they learn. (Check out the Learning Connections Inventory (LCI) through Let Me learn).
  • Share school/university resources.
  • Educate students on the importance of, and how to, build support systems and strong networks.
  • Teach students how to create SMART goals.
  • Encourage students to take an honest look at the people and activities in their lives. Then have them personally assess what/who might be best to cut versus keep in order to achieve those SMART goals.
  1. Teach Communication Skills

It takes courage to do something when you are scared or to press on in the event of pain and sadness. It is important to let students know that they are valuable and can use their voice to make a difference. By teaching students how to speak up, you empower them to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others- and that often takes a lot of courage. In today’s society, the next generation in line must be heard. They are facing extreme levels of violence and rage, but the power of speech can change that and create a positive movement. As a professor, you can also educate your students on how to speak up on less socially involved issues, but still critical aspects of a student’s life; for example, how to speak up for an advancement or say no to outside tasks that don’t fit their goals.

Here are some ways you can help students improve their communication:

  • Educate students on the importance of various communication styles (formal, informal, verbal, non verbal).
  • Provide tips on how to use social media- alongside pros and cons.
  • Provide guidance on how to listen and the value of patience.
  • Educate students on how certain words can be perceived as having self-doubt. (For example, watching how often a student leads with “I think” or “I feel” in negotiating or business).
  • Model being respectful and discuss the importance of having an open mind.
  • Provide feedback on how to be clear and concise, yet substantially answer a question.
  • Share resources, such as books, articles and videos on how to communicate with confidence.

By boosting students’ levels of courage, we are helping them to persevere through the trials and tribulations that life throw at them while they are taking a leap of faith into bettering their lives. As we boost courage, we also instill confidence. Courage and confidence are two key ingredients into helping our students reach their goals, obtain dreams and earn their degree. It is in these amazing students and their achievements that we are fortunate enough as professors to leave a bit of our legacy, behind.

17 Best Apps for College Applicants and College Students

Phones are not just for phone calls any more. They can be computers, maps, tour guides, game centers, cameras, search engines, and many more things. With the right apps, they can even become a tool for college.

We researched many of the education apps out there and chose the 17 most useful apps to the average college applicant and student. These 17 apps can help you with the college search, with college prep, with your college applications, with academics once you are in college, and with the college lifestyle in general.

Pretty useful, right?

While these 17 apps should not be your sole providers of information, they are certainly a convenient and fun way to take on a small part of the college admissions process.

So browse away, and happy downloading!

1. Peterson’s College Guide

  • What it does – allows you to search for information on thousands of institutions, including such statistics as selectivity, financial aid, and majors offered.
  • Best used for – quick research or browsing to get ideas about different schools. For extensive research, rely on information from the school’s admissions office and website. Also very handy for campus tours.
  • Favorite Feature – “Shake for a College Suggestion” feature. Simply shake your phone and explore the random colleges that come up.

2. College Confidential Mobile App

  • What it does – provides college admissions articles and allows participants to discuss various parts of the admissions process. You can participate in discussions on the go, check college application blogs, and interact with other users.
  • Best used for – Background research and gauging what other college applicants are talking about.
  • Favorite Feature – “Campus Vibe” section, which allows iPhone users to browse through hundreds of reports from students who have gone on college visits at a specific school.

3. futureU SAT

  • What it does – allows you to play SAT prep games on the go. Games are based on a Kaplan curriculum and accompanied by test taking tips.
  • Best used for – supplemental test prep.
  • Favorite feature – portable nature of app allows you to study anytime or anywhere, which is great for consistent test preparation.

4. SAT Vocab Challenge Vol. 1 by The Princeton Review

  • What it does – quizzes you on 250 vocabulary words often encountered on the SAT exam. You can test yourself on definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and positive and negative connotations.
  • Best used for – on the go vocab studying.
  • Favorite feature – some challenges are timed to simulate the actual SAT test-taking environment.

5. SAT Connect

  • What it does – provides on-the-go SAT studying with 800 test questions, 7 diagnostic tests, study guides, and vocabulary flashcards. Provides feedback on your scores and times and keeps track of your progress.
  • Best used for – diagnosing SAT problems areas for yourself and focusing on practice questions within those areas.
  • Favorite feature -gives you detailed explanations of the answers to any questions that you miss, which helps you to avoid making the same mistake twice.

6. Common App Mobile

  • What it does – allows you to fill out your applicant through your mobile phone but this not recommended.
  • Best used for – checking the status of your application and making sure that various stages of your application have been processed.
  • Favorite feature – the ability to check your application status on the go- you no longer have to hover nervously in front of a computer.

7. Dropbox

  • What it does – keeps documents in one easily accessible location, which is great for the variety of essays and other documents that you accumulate during the college application process. Allows you to sync files from various locations.
  • Best used for – storing essay drafts, recommendations, and resumes in a secure location.
  • Favorite feature – app uses an online storage mechanism, which means that your documents are safe from any ill-timed computer crashes.

8. iStudiez Pro

  • What it does – tracks homework and deadlines for all of your classes. You can also color code and label various extracurricular activities and place them alongside your class calendar.
  • Best used for – keeping track of the many obligations that come with being a college student. Having all of your schedule information in one place will make it easy to plan out your obligations and work schedule.
  • Favorite Feature – the “Today” view reflects all of your academic and extracurricular obligations for a particular day.

9. myHomework

  • What it does – provides a digital calendar for your homework assignments. You can sort your homework into different class lists or view it as a calendar.
  • Best used for – planning out your semester when you receive the syllabi for your classes. Knowing when all of your homework is due will help you to plan your workload and to avoid procrastination.
  • Favorite feature – you can set reminder alarms to give you fair warning about upcoming due dates.

10. Stanza

  • What it does – lets you download thousands of texts to your phone so that they are available to you in a more portable format. You can choose from a variety of free works or purchase other works from the app’s partner stores.
  • Best used for – smaller readings for your classes. For most classes it is best to own the actual book. However, for shorter readings, Stanza can save you from a very heavy backpack.
  • Favorite feature – you can transfer books from your e-reader or computer simply by dragging them over to the Stanza icon.

11. Mental Case

  • What it does – allows you to create flashcards using text, images or audio, or to download existing online flashcards. After you create the flashcards, you can quiz yourself directly from your phone.
  • Best used for – cuts down on the time you put into writing out flashcards and gives you more time to quiz yourself.
  • Favorite Feature – being able to make flashcards with high quality images is especially helpful for classes where you need to know diagrams and graphs.

12. Instapaper

  • What it does – saves webpages so that you can access them later, even when you do not have Internet access. Saves most webpages as text only files, making them easy to read even on your phone.
  • Best used for – bookmarking articles or pages that you need for class, or that you are just interested in. Being able to access these even without wireless coverage gives you more freedom to read and study wherever you like.
  • Favorite Feature – if you are looking for something new to read, you can check out what other friends are reading or choose from the Editor’s Pick list.

13. Evernote

  • What it does – allows you to make random text, audio, or visual notes about pretty much anything. You can record notes, ideas, or snapshots in a searchable database for easy access later on.
  • Best used for – remembering all of the random facts and ideas that you will absorb both inside and outside the classroom.
  • Favorite Feature – it converts text from any snapshot images into text that is readable and searchable on your phone.

14. Bump

  • What it does – allows you to exchange phone numbers and other contact information when you “bump” your phone with your friend’s.
  • Best used for – frenzy of introductions that you will encounter during your first weeks of college. You will meet so many people, and Bump provides an easy and fast way to get their contact information.
  • Favorite feature – it almost goes without saying that being able to exchange phone numbers simply by touching phones is pretty cool…

15. PocketMoney

  • What it does – keeps track of your finances with data from any checking, savings, or credit card accounts that you input.
  • Best used for – making sure that you do not overstep your financial boundaries in college. It is so easy to forget how much money is in your checking account, but this app makes that information readily available even when you are on the go.
  • Favorite Feature – charts and other analytics help you see where you are overspending and how to cut back

16. Wi-Fi Finder

  • What it does – shows you the various wi-fi hotspots in your geographic area and how to get there.
  • Best used for – finding places to study in your local community. The app is also helpful if you are studying abroad, where it can sometimes be difficult to simply stumble upon a wi-fi hotspot.
  • Favorite feature – clear directions to the nearest wi-fi location

17. Urbanspoon

  • What it does – helps you find nearby restaurants and view ratings and reviews for each establishment.
  • Best used for – finding a restaurant in your new college town. College is all about exploring new things, so challenge yourself to discover the unique local restaurants that your area has to offer.
  • Favorite feature – “Slot Machine” gives you a randomized restaurant choice when you shake your phone. It’s great for when you are feeling particularly spontaneous.

University-specific applications

Most universities offer smartphone apps featuring calendars, upcoming events, university news, and important logistical information, such as dining hall menus or bus schedules.

Once you have decided which school you might attend, you should check their website or iTunes for any available apps.

Don’t Just Survive it – Thrive! Tips For Your Freshman Year in College

You’ve chosen the school you want to attend and you’ve been accepted. Congratulations! You’re preparing to embark on an entirely new and exciting stage of your life. College is more than just continuing school. You are charting the course for your future. Beginning college life is the greatest year of transition you will have experienced so far. That may seem overwhelming, but every step you take prepares you for the next one. You’re excited, a little frightened and full of questions. Attending orientation is a good starting point, but you may still have some unanswered questions.

Experts are the best source of information, so I’ll share advice from college students who have “been there and done that” and survived to talk about it. Their best overall advice to incoming freshmen is: Try and balance your time between schoolwork, making friends, and relaxing. College isn’t studying 24/7 or partying 24/7; Hang in there in there; once you get past that first stage, it gets easier; and Stay true to your beliefs, but be open to new challenges and experiences that college life offers.

HOMESICKNESS, SEPARATION ANXIETY AND OTHER FUN THINGS

Whether school is two hours from home or halfway across the country, you’ll probably experience some degree of homesickness. It’s perfectly normal, so don’t be surprised by it. Those first few weeks are an adjustment period. However, you’re more likely to feel lonely and homesick if you spend too much time alone. So get involved. Join clubs and groups that interest you. Talk to everyone. This may be difficult for you shy types, but college is an opportunity to grow. You can present yourself differently than you ever have before. If your friends think of you as shy and quiet, why not see what it is like to be outgoing and friendly? Your new friends will accept you as you are. Your RA (Resident Assistant) can also help you make the transition smoothly.

Stay in touch with family and friends back home by phone, email and IM. Being able to vent your feelings with people you know and trust will go a long way in helping you adjust. As you meet more people and settle into the routine, you’ll feel more comfortable.

SO WHAT’S THE BIG DIFFERENCE?

College is different from high school.

No one checks to see if you go to class or complete assignments. Classes meet less frequently, sometimes only once a week. If you miss classes and don’t hand in assignments, no one checks up on you. You go from highly structured classes, parents and teachers hovering over you to almost total freedom. You’ll quickly find you need to be very careful how you exercise this freedom. So go to class, take notes and pay attention! College is your new full-time job.

If you have difficulty with a course, it’s your responsibility to get help. And the sooner the better! Take advantage of every resource available to you – teaching assistants, tutoring programs, speech and writing centers, mentors, peer advisors and academic advisors you can speak to. Don’t forget about your professors. You can meet directly with them during their office hours or get in touch via email. Meet with your academic advisor regularly to ensure you are taking the courses you need. Working together with other students in a study group can be very helpful.

TICK TOCK

Time management skills are absolutely critical. If you haven’t already mastered this, get a handle on it now. One of the most daunting tasks for many students is the large amount of reading that is assigned. Reading boring material can be difficult. Discipline yourself to set aside time just for school reading. Plan ahead and keep track of when assignments are due. You need to realistically estimate the amount of time to allocate for academics (studying, reading, doing papers, completing assignments), your work study job, if you have one, adequate sleep, social activities, as well as maintenance tasks like laundry.

A good (loud) alarm clock, watch, post it notes on your computer, planner or palm pilot will help you get to class on time and keep track of assignments, quizzes and tests. The more organized you are, the less overwhelmed you will feel. Here’s more advice from the experts:

DORM LIFE

Keep your room as clean as you can. You spend most of your time there so it will affect your mood one way or the other. Make friends with those on your floor. They may turn out to be your best friends.

FAITH/SPIRITUAL LIFE

It’s so important to believe in a higher power because there are so many situations that are out of your control. Remain true to your faith and continue to practice what you believe in.

GETTING ALONG WITH ROOMMATES

Be friendly, be courteous, be honest and be yourself. Never be afraid to confront your roommate if you have a problem. Be polite and respect each other’s space. Be willing to compromise with each other and avoid selfish thinking.

CHOOSING CLASSES

Try to balance required, core classes that benefit you in your career path with ones that interest you.

PROFESSORS

Using ratemyprofessor.com can be misleading. Some of the best professors have poor ratings on that site. Ask around and see what other students say about professors. If your choice is creating problems, switch the class as soon as possible.

OK, you’re armed with some practical advice from those who have gone before you. Here’s a last thought to keep in mind as you step into your future:

Change is a necessary part of life. Some changes are harder than others. Hang in there. No matter how hard things seem at first, have faith that it will get better – and it will.

5 Tips to Wow the Admission Officer With Your College Application Essay

It’s time in your life that you search the internet for essay help to use for that dreaded college application, right? Now calm down, pay attention, and read along to find out just how you can impress whoever will be reading your college application essay.

First, Get to Know Yourself

Before you can start drafting your essay, it would greatly help to list down your strengths and anything that comes up to mind when you hear the words “What makes you, you?” When it comes to college application, the best essay help to remember would be this one. Why? College application essays exist mainly for one thing; to let the admission officers get to know you like no numbers on your test scores or bulleted facts on your resume could.

Honesty Catches the Eye

Fact is that you would like to impress those admission officers in all ways possible. With this in mind, you might be tempted to answer the essay thinking about what are the likely answers that would make such effect. But another fact is this; those college admission officers already know what you’re thinking. They can already spot the formulaic, insincere answers that usually come up from applicants who think first on how to impress instead of what I believe or what matters to me. If there’s another essay help, you should remember it’s this; honesty first.

Specificity Over Generalizations, Please

Some colleges have prompts or essay questions while others give you the freedom to pick whatever you want to write about. In both cases, choose a specific topic – it could be an ultra-unique experience or perhaps a quirky quality/interest you possess – and expand on it, use it to relate to the question (if ever there is) and stick to that viewpoint. Nobody wants to hear about your beliefs on, say, religion; what people would want to know is why, what are the specific events that happened in your life that led you to form those beliefs.

Know the Basics

When students ask for essay help they usually get the technical stuff. Knowing the basics of these technicalities does help. Thus, you should outline your ideas; have a compelling introduction that introduces your main viewpoint in one paragraph; build using specific examples to support your main viewpoint in two or three paragraphs, then in one paragraph, form a strong conclusion.

“Does It Sound Like Me?”

That is what you should ask yourself once you read aloud your entire essay after lots of revisions and proofreading. If you answer yes, then you’re all set. If not, then no problem, just rewrite it again and this time, write like how you would talk to a close friend – minus the slang, of course!

Do not hesitate to ask your parents, teachers and friends (and if you can find an adult stranger who could provide you impartial feedback, the better) for essay help. Remember, this is college; your essay might be one of the factors that could set the direction for the rest of your life.

College Students and Stress – Stress Management Tips for College Kids

Stress is one of those ever-present concepts among college students, a feeling of unease and discomfort that many students accept as a given and don’t even try to manage or eliminate. Most of the stress college students feel does nothing to improve the quality, quantity or timeliness of their work and as such is nothing more than a drain which makes their already difficult jobs all the more impossible. Read on and learn a good primer for getting started managing the stress in your life.

Is All Stress Bad?

The first thing you need to understand is the fact not all stress is bad for you. We tend to think of stress as a unidirectional thing, as a concept with no possible positive connotations or effects and this just isn’t the case. The truth is there are two different forms of stress out there. While you certainly want to avoid and minimize one of these types of stress it’s a good idea to maximize the other. The two types of stress are:

1. Distress. This is the kind of stress you want to avoid. This is the stress that comes from damaging mental and environmental states and which drains your time and energy and causes you to feel bad about yourself, your work and your life in general. This is the form of stress most college students are accustomed to and it can be caused by everything from negative friends and relationships, overloads of unnecessary work, malicious professors, unsupportive family members or constant work performed which is neither important nor meaningful (to name a few). This form of stress needs to be avoided, minimized and hopefully eliminated from your life at all costs.

2. Eustress. This is a form of stress that is talked about so rarely that few college students are even aware it exists. Eustress is the kind of stress which propels you to work hard on projects and assignments you consider to be important and worthwhile. Eustress doesn’t drain energy, it energizes you and makes you feel better about yourself and your life. Projects which cause eustress may be tiring because they require a lot of work but they never feel draining in the same way as stressful projects. Positive people (friends, family, faculty) and large, ambitious projects which are meaningful to you are common sources of Eustress.

What Stress Management is Really About

Now that you better understand exactly what stress is all about and the fact there are two different forms of stress out there the whole idea of stress management should take on a whole new light. The point of stress management is two fold

1. To eliminate Distress from your life.

2. To maximize Eustress in your life.

Why Most Stress Management Doesn’t Work

The reason most stress management systems or techniques is simple- they simply aim at eliminating distress without attempting to maximize eustress. Eliminating distress is good, it’s great, it’s necessary even. But if you remove distress from your life you’re just going to create a vacuum in your life which you will unconsciously fill with either the same distress you previously pushed aside or from some other negative source of pressure. By actively working to produce eustress, by clearly defining what you’re going to focus on after you get rid of the distress in your life you won’t have to worry about defaulting to negative feelings and drained energy when you find yourself with some free time.

Eliminating distress from your life by cutting out the problem at its source while simultaneously increasing eustress in your life by maximizing its sources isn’t something we’re taught in school so it might take a little practice. Thankfully all you need to do is sit down and write down what and who make you feel distress and then write down what and who makes you feel excited.

When you have your list it’s a simple matter of cutting the one list from your life while focusing on the other. It’s a little easier to say than to actually do, it may be simple but it’s not easy, but above all it is necessary work and the only effective form of stress management out there.

College Study Tips – 8 Tips To Ease Your Reading

Sometimes ordinary reading methods may not help you to remember the chapter content well. You feel the reading is tough and get bogged down in this murky reading assignment. You can try the following reading techniques which help to ease the reading and help you to remember what you have read better.

Tip 1: Read it again. It’s often easier in the second time.

For many students, if they try to read the difficult material again, such as technical writing in science text can become easier in the second time around. You may get confuse when trying to understand the content at the first time. Do not despair, take a short rest after reading the first round; when you return to read the material again, you will find it easier to understand than when you read it at the first time. Repeat read it again if needed.

Tip 2: Pause reading for mini review.

Don’t read the whole chapter if you find yourself has difficulties to understand the content. After reading one or two paragraphs, pause briefly to summarize what you have read so far, verbally or in writing. Use your own words to review back what you have read so far. Then, jot down some notes or create a short outline or summary.

Tip 3: Look for essential words.

When you are stuck on a paragraph, try to mentally skip those adjectives and adverbs words. Just look for the essential words in the paragraph. Those essential words normally are in verbs and nouns. By focusing the essential words, your mind can absorb them better.

Tip 4: Consult your instructor.

Most teachers welcome their students to approach them if they need any help in their study. If you stuck with your reading, admit it and arrange an appointment with your instructor for consultation on the part that you are confused with.

Tip 5: Read It Aloud.

Instead of reading with your mind, try to read out with your mouth…aloud and use your ear to hear what you have read. Try to read it out for several times and each time using a different inflection, which emphasizing a different part of the sentence. Be creative and imagine you are the presenter talking to your audience.

Tip 6: Change positions periodically when reading.

Changing positions of readings periodically can combat fatigue and refresh you mind. You can play with standing as you read and read it aloud when you get stuck on a tough paragraph. Beside that, you also can choose to walk around while reading, it make you remember better.

Tip 7: Find a tutor.

If there is a need, approach a tutoring service to help you. Many schools provide free tuitions for their students, or you can find a paid tutoring service on the subjects which you need helps.

Tip 8: Get a group of study mates

Other than the professional tutoring services, you can also form a study group among your peers and schedule discussion sessions for the selected chapters each week. You can use this group study to perform reading session; each one will rotate reading aloud and allows other to ask questions which related to the topic. When you answer the question, it helps you to remember better.

Summary

The ordinary reading methods may not enough to help you to remember what you have learned in a chapter. You need to find a few reading techniques which can help you. Above tips are just among the many reading techniques which you can try them on.

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.