Concise Advice Jump-Starting Your College Admissions Essays Topics

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Verusis committed to helping families and students make the most of their college experience.  We have compiled the following list of resources to help you on your journey.  Please contact us with questions relating to any of these resources:
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Recommended Reading
While you can get lots of information right here on the web, there are many books that provide useful information and advice, and also offer the advantage of being portable! Here are some of Verus' top picks for college informational books!

College Informational Books
  • Concise Advice: Jump-Starting Your College Admissions Essays
  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...to COLLEGE
  • Organizing from the Inside Out for Teenagers: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Room, Your Time, and Your Life
  • B's and A's in 30 Days: Strategies for Better Grades in College
  • Professors' Guide to Getting Good Grades in College
  • Debt-Free College: 79 Secrets for Successful College Financing
  • BROKE! A College Student's Guide to Getting By on Less
  • 101 TIPS on getting into MEDICAL SCHOOL
  • The Aspen Institute Guide to Socially Responsible MBA Programs: 2008-2009
  • Best Colleges US News World Report
  • Acing The College Application
  • College Bound & Gagged
  • Fat Envelope Frenzy
  • Admission Matters
  • Is Higher Education Right For Me?
  • The Students Transition
  • Application Process 101
  • The Competitive Edge: Getting Into America's Top Colleges
  • Just The Basics: Your Bare Bones Guide To Getting Into College
College Books - The Search Process
  • Best 331 Colleges - 2002, by Robert Franek with Tom Meltzer and Eric Owens - This perennial bestseller features plenty of comments from actual students in addition to the usual mass of statistics and descriptive data for each school.  
  • College Rankings Exposed by Paul Boyer.This book isn't an expose and it's not a complete guide to finding a college, but it does offer an alternative way to think about choosing a college and offers a specific set of criteria and questions to ask when evaluating a school.  
  • Visiting College Campuses (5th Edition) by Janet Spencer, Sandra Maleson, et al. Combines both general information on how to make the most of college visits as well as specific information on hundreds of the most frequently visited campuses.  
  • Colleges That Change Lives:40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You're Not a Straight-A Student (Revised Edition), by Loren Pope. At a time when all too much tension is focused on a few top schools, our review tells why parents and students might want to uncover some hidden gems.
  • Smart Parents Guide to College: The 10 Most Important Factors for Students and Parents When Choosing a College, by Ernest L. Boyer and Paul Boyer. Need help in sorting out schools and comparing final choices? Our review tells how the Boyers give concrete advice on how to evaluate schools and find the best match for the student's needs.
  • Please Understand Me: Character & Temperament Types, by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. Read our review to find out why this is a great place to start for those college-seekers who aren't particularly sure of a direction, much less specific colleges.
  • Peterson's Colleges With Programs for Students With Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit Disorders (6th Revised edition) by Stephen S. Strichart, Charles T. Mangrum II, et al.LD and ADD students are being diagnosed more frequently, and many colleges are addressing the needs of these students from both an admissions and education standpoint.  
  • Hillel Guide to Jewish Life on Campus (14th Edition), edited by Ruth Fredman Cernea and Jeff Rubin.Almost nine out of ten young people of the Jewish faith will attend college - this book helps families learn about the environment Jewish students will encounter at over 500 colleges.
College Admission Books
  • Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions: Words of Wisdom for Surviving the College Admission Process.Straight talk from admissions experts on on how to make smart choices - and not go crazy in the process. From SATs to picking a college, you'll find savvy tips to help parents and students alike.  
  • The Truth About Getting In: A Top College Advisor Tells You Everything You Need to Know, by Katherine Cohen. Verus calls it "among the best books of its kind out there today"  
  • On Writing the College Application Essay, by Harry Bauld - This is our favorite essay book ! Learn why "pet death" is an application essay killer, and much more. This hilarious book is worth reading even if you DON'T have to write a college essay.
  • Going to College.Without the Stress, by Tedd D. Kelly - An oddly named but calm and helpful narrator, The Dunce, helps students through the college admissions maze.  
  • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White - If Bauld is the definitive word on essay content, Strunk and White are the masters of style. They will help you avoid punctuation gaffes and usage misdeeds, all while developing your own style.  
  • A Is for Admission : The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges, by Michele A. Hernandez - This is the book that rocked Ivy League admissions offices when it was first published! Our review tells us that Hernandez sheds light on the secretive world of Ivy League admissions.
  • Getting In: Inside the College Admissions Process, by Bill Paul - Good things come in small packages, according to our review. A must read for Ivy League wannabes.
  • 10 Real SATs (2nd Edition), by The College Board - One of the best ways to prepare for standardized tests is to practice with the real thing, exactly what this book provides.  
  • 100 Successful College Application Essays, by Christopher Georges and Gigi Georges - These essays all "worked" for Ivy League applicants.
College Life
  • College in Three Years: Stop Wasting Time and Money, by John C. Attig. Can you save time and money by gaining a degree in less time?  
  • Once Upon A Campus: Tantalizing Truths About College from People Who've Already Messed UpBy Trent Anderson and Seppy Basili.  There is wisdom that you'll find in this recent addition to our college library.
Financial Aid & College Costs
  • Paying for College Without Going Broke 2002, by Kalman Chany with Geoff Martz - Here's the book you need to deal with FAFSA frustration. Includes advice on lots of topics, such as single parent families and sticky post-divorce situations. 
  • Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much, by Richard Vedder. This isn't a guide to avoiding financial ruin while paying for college, but rather an in-depth look at why college costs are so high now and why they continue to grow faster than virtually any other consumer spending category.
  • Peterson's Sports Scholarships and College Athletic Programs (4th Edition), Edited by Ron Walker. Every parent fantasizes about their student getting a free ride as a sports star. Our review explains why this is a must-read for families of students with athletic potential, even in "minor" sports.
  • The Princeton Review Student Athlete's Guide to College, by Hilary Abramson. This is more a guide for students who have been accepted to the college athletic system, but there is also information to help student athletes choose the right school.

EFC CAlculator

Use this EFC calculator to estimate your EFC (Expected Family Contribution)

The purpose of an EFC calculator is to assist students and parents in estimating their expected family contribution. EFC is what the government thinks you can afford after the calculation. We can help you lower this simply by avoiding common mistakes, For more information please contact us.

What is EFC?

Expected Family Contribution (or EFC) is a term used in the college financial aid process in the United States to determine an applicant's eligibility for federal student aid. It is located on the Student Aid Report and Institutional Student Information Record received after completing the FAFSA. EFC is the amount a family can be expected to contribute toward a student's college costs. Financial aid administrators determine an applicant's need for federal student aid from the U.S. Department of Education (the Department) and other non-federal sources of assistance by subtracting the EFC from the student's cost of attendance (COA).
 
Note: This is THE actual EFC calculator found on the Department of Education website.

 The link provided is secured. Please look for the lock located in the address bar.


In my previous post, I featured a question and answer session with author Robert Cronk, who wrote a popular writing guide on how to write narrative-style college application essays. I found Concise Advise, which directs students on how to use movie-script writing techniques to bring their essays to life, a helpful resource.

I invited him to share more of his advice and tips here on Essay Hell, and this is the second part. (Here’s Part One in case you missed it.):

Me: What do you think is the most important part of a college app essay?

Bob: To me, it’s the element of character development, or transition, or transformation, or realization of something, even in small ways.  The best essays start with a moment that led to that development and ends with a better, stronger, wiser person.

Me: Do you have any pet peeves?

Bob: Too many to name, but here are a few, summarized so I don’t start ranting about them.  (1) Author Alan Gelb has a rule that says, essentially, “Never use your essay to brag, complain, or explain.” Good advice that covers a lot of sins and I hope is self-explanatory.  (2) Avoid TMI. Not every little detail is important to the story.  Use only the elements that advance the story. Keep it focused. I also recommend avoiding any topic of past drug or alcohol use, criminal activity, or mental issues one may have had.  Never forget the goal is to have the school want you there.  (3) Throw away your thesaurus! The essay has to be kept in your voice.  If you read your essay out loud, does it sound like you talking? If not, change it.

Me: Do you have some favorite essays or topics you have read over the years?

Bob: I’ve already talked about my favorite essay ever, and that was a super-mudane topic.  But in general, my answer on having a favorite topic is NO.  The important thing is having a topic that is unique, powerful, and memorable to the writer, not necessarily to the reader.

Me: Do you think parents, friends, teachers, etc., can be helpful to students?

Bob: There are those “counselors” like you and I who can give some advice on getting started and how to proceed, but the essay has to come from the writer.  Here’s the dangerous slope: It’s all well and good to get advice on word usage and grammar, but once you start hearing comments like, “You need to put yourself in a better light,” or “It’s too informal; you need to make it more intellectual,” or any of a hundred other suggestions, you’ll be in danger of losing your voice in the essay. Parents, especially, think that the essay is a place to toot your horn, but that is so wrong.  So thank everyone for their comments on grammar, word usage, or sometimes structure, and listen carefully for ways to make it more focused, but make sure to keep the essay yours.

Me: Do you miss the old topic option to write about anything you wanted, called Topic of Choice?  Among the five Common App prompts, do you have ones you like better than others?

Bob: Believe it or not, my best advice is to not even peek at the prompts before you write a personal essay. WTH, you say? I firmly believe that if you write according to the advice you and I are giving, it will totally fit one or more of the five prompts.  And for more specific prompts, like an individual school might have on a supplemental app, a general essay can be easily adapted to lots of prompts.  Just because the prompt changes, it doesn’t change what makes a good essay.  I also think that the old “Topic of Your Choice” is still there on the new Common App.  It’s disguised as follows: “Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”   This is just a wordier way of saying “Topic of Your Choice.”  And also why I guarantee that any personal statement you write will fit at least one prompt  Writing the essay without peeking at the prompts first leads to much less stress.

Me: Do you advise students to title their essays? (Here’s my take on Should You Title Your College App Essay?)

Bob: Funny you should ask, because for the actual student-written essays I use in my book, I’ve titled them, but they never did have titles before I published them.  I don’t think titles add that much, but it just might intrigue the reader. I titled one student essay “Carless Hair?” and another “My Illicit Affair with the United States.”  It might be a good way to engage the reader before they even start the essay, but in probably 95 percent of the essays I’ve read, having a title wouldn’t really add much.

Me: Any last brainstorming tips?

Bob: Write your essay(s) in the summer before your senior year.  Write several.  If you know how to start and how to structure the thing, it makes the process a lot easier. You don’t know how many people are like, “Help, this has to be submitted before midnight tonight.  Please review!”  I have no pity (Well, some, but not enough to respond to an email like that).  Get your essays done in advance, put them aside, and take the rest of the application season in stride.  Students,  you probably won’t do that, but at least get started during that summer.

Thank you Robert for sharing your sage advice on how to write college application essays! (If you want to read Part One.)

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