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Plan For Success In College Essay

While college is certainly a time to have fun, make new friends and learn about yourself and the person you would like to become, we can’t forget about the real reason for attending an institution of higher education — academics.

In order to help ensure that your academic studies receive the attention they deserve, we’ve compiled a number of useful tips from some of our student guide pages and past blog posts. With this advice in your back pocket, you can hopefully tackle homework assignments, midterms and finals with ease and embark on the path to academic success.

1. Find out what kind of studying works best for you.

While there are some people for whom studying in groups works, it’s not for everyone. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re chatting with a group of classmates, you’re studying for your upcoming exam. Studying is often best done alone, and in a quiet place. Your college library is just one of the many quiet study spaces you can make use of on campus.

2. Schedule classes around your habits.

While early morning classes may be right for some people, they’re certainly not right for everyone. If you’re not a morning person, do not sign up for 8 a.m. classes! A very common mistake students make in the first semester of college is scheduling classes for when they are least productive. If you’re trying to achieve academic success and your brain isn’t fully active until after noon, make sure that you’re not doing any heavy thinking before then.

3. Consider listening to books.

Depending on your class load and college major, you may have bitten off more than you’re used to in terms of reading. If you find yourself strapped for time, rather than read each book, simply put on your headphones and listen to the book on tape while doing something else. While this may not be available for college textbooks, it works great for novels.

4. Set goals for yourself.

A good way to start off each semester is by setting an academic goal for yourself. Have you always wanted to make the dean’s list? Do you want to raise your GPA by a few points? Make it happen! And the goals don’t always have to be about grades. Finally take on that tough language course you’ve been putting off, or commit to a club that you’ve been thinking about joining. Success in college depends a great deal on the individual — make your goals work for you.

5. Rewrite your notes.

When studying for finals, many students simply reread their notes enough times to feel like they’ve retained as much as they possibly could. Paving a path toward success on college exams means taking it a step further — rewrite your notes, by hand! For some reason, the physical act of writing out the information helps you retain and organize it in your mind. And if you happen to be a good notetaker, it’ll be even easier!

6. Don’t procrastinate.

I know it’s difficult when we are inundated with so many opportunities for distraction (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), but resist the urge to procrastinate! Whether it comes to studying, scheduling your classes for next semester or buying books, you are best off diving in right away. You’re going to have to take care of your academic responsibilities at one point or another, so take some initiative and save yourself the stress of scrambling to finish everything at the last minute.

7. Balance work with play.

Knowing how to achieve academic success in college doesn’t just mean knowing how to get good grades. On the other hand, “playing hard” doesn’t just mean going to parties. You have to know how to keep yourself fulfilled both emotionally and creatively. Make sure that you have a healthy outlet for whatever creative juices are flowing inside of you — paint, keep a journal, join a fencing class — whatever! Just make sure it keeps you happy and gives you something to look forward to outside of academics.

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

Preparing to apply to colleges and universities? One small but significant part of your application is writing one or more short essays based on specific prompts from each college. Even those students who apply with the Common Application often have to submit a supplemental essay.

Having worked with many college admissions counselors, coached numerous high school students, and reviewed countless more essays, I have developed these 10 tips for helping you succeed in writing a strong application essay.

Every college and university that requires an essay gives multiple reasons for why they require the essay — and more importantly, how much weight is given the application…

But almost every admissions counselor agrees that a memorable essay does have an impact on the overall application.

Now that you know the importance of the college essay, here are my 10 tips for how to succeed with your college application essay.

Keep the essay’s role top of mind. Your essay is perhaps the ONLY chance for the admissions counselors to understand who you are beyond your stats — grades, class rank, standardized test scores, community service hours, activities, and the like. The goal of your essay should be to help separate your application from all the others that have similar qualifications — and to make you more memorable.

Answer the question; respond to the prompt. It’s amazing how many applicants either don’t directly relate their essay to the question or bury their response in the middle or end of their essay. For example, if the question is “Why Tufts?,” your essay should begin with your main and compelling reason why you wish to attend Tufts.

Be authentic. You may not believe this statement, but it’s true: most application readers can spot a canned and heavily edited essay a mile away. Your goal in crafting your essay is to write from the heart — and expose your soul, your core. Your essay is a window into who you are and the type of student you’ll be if accepted to that particular university.

Write with active voice. By choosing active voice, your essay will be inviting, crisp, vivid. Using active voice keeps the meaning of your sentences clear and easier to read and understand. Typically active voice will also keep your sentences shorter, more concise.

Take risks. One of the worst things you can do with your essay is to write something boring, bland, and unmemorable. Take a stand, admit a weakness, showcase how you overcame an adversity. It’s much better to be different than to blend into all the other applicants. One warning, though: don’t take the risk too far by going over into the dark side.

Tell a story. You may think responding to an essay prompt with a group of slightly connected sentences around a theme is okay, but doing so limits the power of your essay. Instead, tell a (short) story. Include a beginning, middle, and end — ideally with compelling action, theme, and conclusion.

Keep it simple. You are not going to gain any admissions points by writing as though you were producing a piece for an academic journal. You do not need complex sentence structures nor obscure words. Keep your writing concise, focused — and your vocabulary straightforward.

Avoid errors. Yes, of course proofread and spellcheck — but push yourself beyond the normal efforts. If you used references, check the spelling of authors, characters, and the like. Watch for words that sound the same but are spelled differently (e.g., passed, past; whether, weather). Do NOT use slang, emoticons, or any texting jargon; the essay is a piece of formal writing. Ask at least one other person to proofread your final draft.

Seek feedback. You do not — and should not — write your essay in a vacuum. Seek advice from knowledgeable adults about all aspects of your essay — from the topic to structure. Consider a favorite English teacher or guidance counselor, as well as a family member.

Embrace rewriting. Even the very best and experienced writers write multiple drafts of their work — constantly striving for the words and meaning to be perfect, precise. Because your essay can have an impact on whether you get accepted into a college or university, you too should be open to polishing your essay with multiple drafts until you (and others you respect) are completely satisfied.

Final Thoughts on Successfully Writing Your College Application Essay

Using the tips in this article should put you well on your way to creating an essay that will help your application be memorable among the hundreds of others each admissions counselor will read… but to utilize all these tips, you must start as early as possible — to give yourself enough time to develop your theme, write and rewrite your essay, ask and receive feedback, and conduct final proofreading.

See also our article, 10 Common College Admissions Essay Writing Mistakes — and How to Fix Them.

For more tips on writing your college application essay, please see our, Writing the Successful College Application Essay: Tips for Success.

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