Live 5-Part Online Workshop from the College Essay Guy

college essay guyIf a private university or college is in your future, the Common App is your one-way ticket. You’ve got one shot at a winning application, and Ethan Sawyer, the College Essay Guy, is here to help!

Using the Secrets of Screenwriting to Write Your Personal Statement is his five-part webinar series for students and counselors that runs Oct. 12-16.  

In just five days, you’ll finish your:

  • First draft of your Common App main statement
  • Activities list
  • Additional info section

Plus you’ll get tons of tips and step-by-step help to conquer the Common App.  

Click here for more info.

Can’t make a particular session? No worries: He’ll email what you missed.

Can’t afford it? Don’t worry, there’s a pay-what-you-can option.

Are you a counselor? You’re invited too!

Click here to reserve your spot.

Wednesday’s Parent: The Road to Expertise for your College Bound Teen

expertiseMarketing your student to colleges is more than a list of activities and accomplishments on a high school resume. As I have noted previously, colleges look for consistency in extracurriculars. They also look for students who stand out on their college application. The best way to stand out is to take a soft skill (something your student is good at), and translate it into expertise.

According to Wendy David-Gaines, Long Island College Prep Examiner and POCSMom, students can use those skills to demonstrate expert ability, even though they might see those skills as hobbies or interests. Once those skills are identified, it’s time to show expert knowledge:

To show off expert knowledge, write a blog with tips, photos and/or videos. Tutor someone, teach a class at a local library, or organize a club event. Contact the local newspaper for coverage featuring a volunteer project, art showing at a local museum, free performance at a school, child care or senior center.

Becoming an expert will make your student stand out in college applications, scholarship applications and eventually in the job market. It’s all about the marketing and giving colleges, scholarship judges, and employers something that makes your student stand out among a sea of applicants.

For more ideas and information on how to take a soft skill and turn it into expertise, read Wendy’s post:

Turn This Into an Expert Skill

3 Ways to Effectively Write Your College Essay


college essay

Courtesy of Pixabay

Writing the ever-important college  essay can, at first, seem intimidating and challenging. But remember, this is the key to whether or not you’ll be accepted to college, so it’s important to put your best foot forward. Writing the application essay is your time to shine, but it doesn’t mean you should feel nervous. We’ve put together a few tips to help ease the pain of writing your college essay.

Be Your Authentic Self

The most important thing you can do when writing is to be yourself. Don’t write what you think an admissions officer would want to read; it could come off as contrived and inauthentic. Instead, use your own voice in the way you would normally speak. Moreover, don’t discount proper grammar and punctuation, but it should sound conversational to some degree; as if you were talking to a friend.

An easy way to sound original is to write from your personal account; this helps the words flow much easier because only you can write from your own experiences. Documenting your own narrative sounds much more authentic to an admissions officer because your unique understanding tends to stand out and sound more passionate. It’s easy to tell the difference between a genuine essay and one that’s not

Once you’ve written a rough draft, have someone who knows you well—like a teacher, parent or friend—read through to make sure the writing matches your voice. They can give you honest feedback and help keep you on track with your writing. Plus, having an extra set of eyes read your work will help you find mistakes you might have otherwise missed.

Get Organized

A good starting point for writing your essay is to come up with an outline detailing important points you’d like to make. Keep it to a few topics and, of course, remember to answer the initial prompt. Once you’ve got the basic outline, its time to start writing. At this point, it’s best to let your ideas flow and to get everything on paper. It’s much easier to edit your work than to struggle to come up with the right thing to say. Keep your writing focused; you don’t want it to look like a resume that covers everything you’ve accomplished up to this point. You want to keep the admissions officer engaged, so focusing on a few topics rather than many is more effective. This is also your chance to showcase your writing skills, keeping on topic and being succinct will look much better to an admissions officer than an essay that rambles.

Alternative Applications

There are a few colleges that have started accepting video applications in place of the traditional essay. In the video, admissions are looking to see your personality and who you are as a student, and the video is a chance to be a bit more creative than you could with a written essay. The website is solely for students to upload videos and send them to colleges. They can create a profile that covers their skills and interests, as well as share their videos. Users can even endorse others for their skills, much like one would on LinkedIn.

If you plan on applying to multiple colleges and the thought of writing a new essay each time is a bit overwhelming, you can also check out the Common Application. This site allows you to upload one essay and fill out one application to send to many different colleges—saving you time and headache from completing several applications. A single essay might be best if writing is not your strong suit. Bonus: the site offers guidance and support for students applying to college.

Admissions officers are looking for students who can bring something new to the table. They want to see who you are and what kind of student you may become while attending their school. It can’t be emphasized enough to be yourself when writing your entrance essay. This is your chance to show the university you are an individual who has unique ideas and a passion for learning. Take this opportunity to talk about your interests and excitement about continuing your education. You may just find that acceptance letter waiting for you in the mail.


About the author:  Jessica Gibbs studied Apparel Merchandising and Communications/Journalism at Colorado State University. She is currently a guest writer for CollegeFocus, a website dedicated to helping students deal with the challenges of college, including housing, finance, style, health, relationships, and transferring from a community college to a four-year university.

You can learn more about CollegeFocus on Twitter and Facebook.

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards


The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards—the nation’s longest-running and most prestigious recognition initiative for creative teens—are now accepting submissions for the 2016 program year with new scholarship opportunities provided by Neiman Marcus, The Herb Block Foundation and RBC Capital Markets.

For 93 years, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards have identified the early promise of some of our nation’s most accomplished visionaries including alumni Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath and more recently, Stephen King, Richard Linklater, Zac Posen and Lena Dunham. Each year, exhibition, publication and scholarship opportunities are made available to students in grades 7–12 honored through the program for their original creative work in 29 categories ranging from architecture, photography and poetry to painting, video game design and more—with opportunities expanding each year.

These awards don’t just apply to seniors–7th through 12th graders are eligible to apply.

New to the 2016 program year:

  • A special Editorial Cartoon category sponsored by The Herb Block Foundation to promote awareness of the editorial cartoon medium and provide three young artists with $1,000 scholarships for their outstanding work;
  • The Neiman Marcus Fashion Award and The Neiman Marcus Jewelry Award to provide one artist in each category with $1,000 scholarships; and
  • The RBC Flaunt It Award to provide two $1,000 scholarships to students whose work showcases and celebrates individual differences.

For all the details read the the full press release with the link for the contest information.

How to Develop Online Learning Skills


Many students are utilizing the flexibility and convenience of online learning platforms to attain their learning needs. Online degree courses, programs and virtual colleges have decided to target students by opening online courses. Do my essays platforms are also assisting students to tackle various questions by offering essential hints of handling diverse topics. As these online courses continue to increase, different challenges may arise as students continue to familiarize themselves with this new form of instruction. To be successful in online learning, students must be able to identify and develop crucial strategies that can be used to sharpen their online courses.

online learningFigure 1: Online learning portals.

Surveys have been used to determine the factors that enable students to be successful in pursuing their entire degree courses using an online platform. According to Roper (2007), there are different practical strategies that enable students to effectively succeed in completing an online course. First, students should be able to develop and adhere to a time-management strategy. The main problem that most students face when using the online platform is self-discipline needed to provide adequate time for online courses. Creating personal schedules that enhance online participation has been found to be difficult. In addition, devoting adequate time to handle written assignments, read online materials, and chat effectively with tutors has been found to be daunting task. In addition, interacting effectively with online scholars and other students is crucial for a student to effectively complete online graduate programs. Online discussions play a significant role when it comes to finding solutions to tackle problems. Online threaded discussions have also been found to enhance the success of online courses.

networkFigure 2: Networked learning.

Another important factor that enables students to be successful in online programs is to ask meaningful questions. This ensures that students are able to understand the content of the course and dig deeper into the subject. Students should devote enough time to craft important questions that can allow tutors to resolve the coursework with a higher level of specificity. Moreover, it is important for students to remain motivated even if they are not in direct contact with the instructor and other learners. The main motivation can be earning a good grade and graduating at the end of the course. The opportunity of earning a good grade and a degree while using the online platform can motivate students to pay close attention to the instructions offered online. It is also important to connect constantly with other students in order to compare how they are progressing. This will enable students to share successful hints as well as techniques that enable students to develop online reading skills. Collaborating with other students plays an influential role when it comes to enhancing the success of online course.

cloudFigure 3: Cloud source learning.

This document has analyzed the factors that enable students to develop successful online writing skills. It is crucial to develop and adhere to a time management strategy to ensure that enough time is devoted to understanding online materials. In addition, students should collaborate constantly with instructors and other learners in order to stay motivated. This will ensure that students are able to determine the rate of their progress and that most of their questions are resolved by their instructors. Making a connection plays an important role in analyzing the rate of progress and keeping students focused on attaining the required grades.

Wednesday’s Parent: The Safety Formula in College Prep


safetyCollege prep not only entails the typical kinds of prep: college applications, scholarship searches, test prep, essay prep and financial aid; but it should also include safety preparation. When you talk about safety, parents cringe. Their biggest fear in sending their student off to college is the concern that they will be safe away from their constant supervision. But keeping your student safe personally is just part of the equation.

Wendy David-Gaines, the Long Island College Prep Examiner and POCSMom, has this advice:

Concern about safety comes with the parenting territory. For parents of the college-bound, the word safety encompasses both the physical and the financial varieties. Fortunately, the following safety tips for the former also apply to the latter, making it easier to teach.

It makes perfect sense to prepare your students for the ramifications of financial irresponsibility and physical threats. Before they leave for college, have discussions about the topics listed below and set your mind at ease about their safety.

Physical and financial college prep safety pointers

For more information on safety concerns, read these posts: Top 5 Posts about Parent Safety, 6 Safety Apps for Students, and Preparing for College: Safety First.


5 Tips to Avoid Debt After Graduation


debt after graduationAccording to US News, graduates from the class of 2013 averaged just under $30,000 in student loan debt. This is a lot of money considering the average graduate from that same class had a starting salary of just around $45,000. While it may seem like an impossible task to pay back these loans, if you make smart decisions about your finances you can slay the startling student loan dragon and avoid the student loan money trap. The following tips will help you pay off your student loans and avoid the crippling debt after graduation that many recent graduates deal with.

1. Know Your Loans

If you are like most graduates who have taken out student loans, it is crucial to know the ins and outs of them. You should know your monthly payment, interest rate, and the term of your loan. Knowing this information will ensure that you don’t fall behind on your payments and will allow you to come up with a game plan to pay them back. It is also smart to stay in touch with your student loan servicer. These people can help you if you need more time making a payment, want to change the terms of your loan, or want to explore options that may reduce your interest rate.

2. Refinance

Just like you can refinance your mortgage or car loan, it is also possible to refinance your student loans. You can usually consolidate and refinance your loan or loans into one single loan with a private lender. Because many graduates now have steady jobs and a better financial standing, the private lenders who deal with refinancing may offer much better rates than the initial loan. Refinance rates start as low as 1.90% for those with a very respectable credit score though most borrowers’ rates average around 3-5%. Even if you can lower your loans by a few percentage points, you will save thousands in the long run!

3. Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loan forgiveness is essentially just what it sounds like. After a certain amount of time or under certain circumstances, you are “forgiven” for your loans and are no longer required to make payments on any remaining balance. One of the most popular plans is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program from the Department of Education. This plan offers forgiveness for those who work in a public sector job, like the government or a not-for-profit, who have made at least 120 qualifying payments on their student loans. Starting in 2017 you can apply for this program on the Department of Education’s website.

4. Maintain a Budget

Whether you have student loans or not, it is essential to maintain a strict budget. Mapping out all of your essential expenses and sources of income will allow you to have a better understanding of how much you can invest or save and how much extra spending money you have. There are also countless apps to help you easily track your budget and spending. Make sure to keep updating your budget as you gain a better understanding of how much money you are spending.

5. Cut Unnecessary Expenses

There are countless ways to waste money in today’s society. In order to stay debt-free as you enter the “real world” you must identify and eliminate these wasteful habits. Some examples of expenses you can cut include eating out, memberships to entertainment services like Spotify or Netflix, and spending money at bars or clubs. Once you take a look into your budget and spending habits, you should be able to choose which expenses are unnecessary and cut them out.


Today’s guest post is from Molly Day, the creator of Molly created her blog to help her stick to her goals and encourage other people to beat their student loan debt! Molly is working to pay off $30,000 in student loan debt over the next two years!


Netting Big Bucks from Niche Scholarships


niche scholarshipsShirag Shemmassian, an admissions consultant, was able to graduate debt free by using this interesting method – niche scholarships. It’s amazing how much money students can earn from niche scholarships that provide a nice chunk of money and are significantly less competitive!


To help students and parents identify scholarship opportunities they may not have been aware of, he created a Niche Scholarship Finder worksheet. He’s generously offered to make this worksheet available to my readers.


Go to this link below, enter your email address and download your free copy–and start winning those niche scholarships!


Wednesday’s Parent: A Quick Look at the Updated College Scorecard


college scorecard


This past Saturday, President Obama unveiled his new College Scorecard. “You’ll be able to see how much each school’s graduates earn, how much debt they graduate with, and what percentage of a school’s students can pay back their loans,” the president said in his weekly address.

College Prep Expert and Long Island College Prep Examiner, Wendy David-Gaines, explains how the scorecard works:

Information about the performance of U.S. institutions was collected from over 7,000 colleges and universities over a period of 18 years. In addition to families using the College Scorecard to personalize their own college ranking list, the national and comprehensive data can be used by policymakers and researchers for their own analysis. “The old way of assessing college choices relied on static ratings lists compiled by someone who was deciding what value to place on different factors. The new way of assessing college choices, with the help of technology and open data, makes it possible for anyone – a student, a school, a policymaker, or a researcher – to decide what factors to evaluate,” according to the White House Fact Sheet.

Parents and students can use the scorecard to make more informed, wise decisions about the ROI of a college education. For further information on the college scorecard, read:

College scorecard revamp heavy on outcomes


All the College Essay Prompts in One Place

college essay prompts


Zoomita, a college application online organizational tool provides all of your college application essay prompts organized in one place

What does it do?

Gives you all of the college essay prompts, word count limits, and deadlines for your college list in seconds.  Write, share, and edit essays without ever creating a file or folder.  Free.

 Why should anyone care?

The application essay is widely viewed as the hardest part of the college application process.  Students spend hours/days/weeks just tracking down essay prompts and dealing with document management.  Zoomita reduces that process to minutes.  And it’s free.

What about Google Docs?

Google docs is a great tool, but students will still have to find the essay requirements and create a system of files and folders to manage their drafts.  There are no files/folders to create in Zoomita and it is literally impossible to not know what the most recent draft is.  Human proof!

What about sharing?

One-click sharing.  Yep.

Another great feature: it automatically tracks the number of essays you need for your complete college list.

I believe the most important task in the college application process is organization. Zoomita helps your student keep all their college essays organized: an important tool to help devote more time to the essay and less time to tracking down the topics.