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It’s time for kids to write great college application essays, The Common Application will go live soon with more than 600 colleges using it, and many public universities are opening up their applications as I write (Yeah, Kansas University and the Universal App, both of which opened July 1).

Yet so many kids get stuck just coming up with unique topics for their personal statements. That leaves so many admissions offices with general, uninteresting essays to read.

So here are some creative ways to help your high school seniors get started with writing active, engaging essays that truly communicate their stories to admissions officers. Continue reading

Rice and Princeton release PDFs of 2016 Supplements

Both Rice and Princeton have released PDFs of their Universal and Common Application Supplements. Both have the same questions as last year, though it seems Rice eliminated the activity statement. Thanks for giving us a preview of what’s to come. Now kids can get started on their apps.

Check out our website and app for specifics. rice princeton



2016 Wake Forest Own Application Essayswake forest

Here’s a peek at one of the short responses from the 2016 Wake Forest own application.

3. Hashtags trend worldwide. Give us a hashtag you wish were trending. #______________________________________ Why?

Check out our website and app for the rest of the application requirements. 


2016 University of Michigan Supplemental Essays

U-M supplemental essay questions for the 2015-2016 Common Application:

Essay #1 (Required for all applicants. Approximately 250 words.)u michigan

Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.

Essay #2 (Required for all applicants. 500 words maximum.) FRESHMEN APPLICANTS

Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?

Essay #2 (Required for all applicants. 500 words maximum.) TRANSFER APPLICANTS

Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?

Georgia Tech2016 Georgia Tech Supplemental Questions

Additionally, you will be asked to respond to all prompts below on the Georgia Tech page on your My Colleges tab. The questions will be found in the Questions section – Other Information subsection.

  • Beyond rankings, location, and athletics, why are you interested in attending Georgia Tech? (max 150 words)
  • A Georgia Tech experience and education provides you an unbound future. What will yours be? (max 150 words)
  • Georgia Tech’s motto is Progress & Service. In 25 words or less, what is your personal motto?

What We Are Looking For
Essays are evaluated for both content and writing/grammatical skills. So, before submitting your application, you should take the time to edit and review your essay thoroughly. The traits of a strong essay include one that: 

  • Demonstrates authenticity
  • Brings the student to life on paper
  • Makes a strong case for admission
  • Is excellent in topic, style, and grammar
  • Demonstrates thoughtfulness

Our advice for completing this portion of the application

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your essays! Get started early!
  • Write your essay in a document editor to revise and edit. Once you have the final draft, you can cut and paste it into your online application.
  • It’s not easy to write about yourself – this is likely something you haven’t done in the past. Don’t overthink it; just write what you feel most comfortable with.
  • Don’t write what you think we want to read – write what you want to say!
  • Don’t blow off the essay! We wouldn’t ask you to write it if we didn’t find it to be an important way to get to know you and what you have to bring to Georgia Tech. 

2016 (2015-2016) UNC Member Questions

Fall 2016 Application Essay Prompts

uncAfter much discussion among the admissions committee, we’ve now selected the essay prompts for the 2016 application. We hope they will inspire you to write an essay that will help us understand who you are, how you think, and what you might contribute to the University community. Keep in mind that your essays will be evaluated not only for admission, but also for possible selection for merit-based scholarships and Excel@Carolina.
First-Year ApplicantsYou’ll submit two essays, the first of which is from the main part of the Common Application. These prompts are common to all schools who accept the Common Application and you can view the prompts here.The second essay will be specific to the UNC application. You’ll choose one prompt and respond in an essay of 400-500 words. Here are the questions:

  1. Teen activist and 2014 Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai said, “I raise up my voice-not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard”. For whom have you raised your voice?…..

You now need to check out our website and app for the rest of the UNC 2016 prompts:

Fall 2016 2015-2016 University of Chicago Writing Supplement

Thank goodness the University of Chicago relishes college application essays. Tuesday, June 2, 2015, they released their 2015-2016 prompts for Fall 2016 applicants. Here’s the text of its email announcing the prompts. Check our website and app for other updates as they get released. 

uchicag“As the University of Chicago prepares to celebrate our 125th year this fall, we’ve gotten a little nostalgic about our traditions. A lot has changed in 125 years–the swim test is no longer a graduation requirement, and the University’s groundbreaking work in economicspolitics, and molecular engineeringis supported by amazing new institutes. But surprisingly, a lot has stayed the same–our commitment to fearless inquiry, the importance of asking big, important questions, and our traditional Uncommon admissions essays. Every year, our applicants choose one of several prompts to respond to, none of which fit the “traditional” college essay mold. Think of this as a chance to think creatively, apply your knowledge, and have some fun. Wherever your imagination leads you, enjoy the adventure!

So, without further ado, here are the 2015-2016 University of Chicago essay prompts:

  1. Orange is the new black, fifty’s the new thirty, comedy is the new rock ‘n’ roll,
    ____ is the new ____. What’s in, what’s out, and why is it being replaced?
    Inspired by Payton Weidenbacher, Class of 2015
  2.  “I learned to make my mind large, as the universe is large, so that there is room for paradoxes.” –Maxine Hong Kingston. What paradoxes do you live with?
    Inspired by Danna Shen, Class of 2019
  3. Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story.
    Inspired by Drew Donaldson, Class of 2016
  4. “Art is either plagiarism or revolution.” –Paul Gauguin.
    What is your “art”? Is it plagiarism or revolution?
    Inspired by Kaitlyn Shen, Class of 2018.
  5. Rerhceseras say it’s siltl plisbsoe to raed txet wtih olny the frist and lsat ltteres in palce. Tihs is beaucse the hamun mnid can fnid oderr in dorsdier. Give us your best example of finding order in disorder. (For your reader’s sake, please use full sentences with conventional spelling).
    Also inspired by Payton Weidenbacher, Class of 2015. Payton is extra-inspirational this year!
  6. In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose a question of your own. If your prompt is original and thoughtful, then you should have little trouble writing a great essay. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.
  7. In the spirit of historically adventurous inquiry, to celebrate the University of Chicago’s 125thanniversary, please feel free to select from any of our past essay questions. A collection of prompts can be found at U Chicago Past Prompts

From All College Application Essays.

These were also part of the University of Chicago 2014-2015 Supplement. We will update the entire set of requirements as they are released in mid-June. 

2. How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago. (Required, Upload)

3. Freshman Applicants Only: 

Share with us a few of your favorite books, poems, authors, films, plays, pieces of music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the categories listed, or add a category of your own. (Optional, Upload)

3. Transfer Applicants Only: Please tell us why you are planning to leave (or have already left) your current college or university. (Required, Upload)

*Students may create a UChicago Account before or after beginning the Common or Universal Application. To create a UChicago account before you begin working on either application, please visit If you would like to create a UChicago account after beginning to work on the Universal Application or Common Application, we will send you an email with instructions on how to do so. When you sign in to your UChicago Account, you will be able to submit your UChicago Supplement, complete and update your profile, apply for financial aid, upload supplementary materials, and view your admissions decision.

Questions about technical matters related to using the Common Application should be directed to the folks at the Common Application or Universal Application. Questions about our own requirements and recommendations should be directed to us.

commonappCommon Application Announces 68 New Members for 2015-2016

The Common Application will now include the following colleges. We will update our website and app with their exact requirements when the Common App is released.

Bath Spa University   England
Becker College MA
Brenau University GA
Capital University OH
Clark Atlanta University GA
Columbia College MO
Columbia College Hollywood CA
Coppin State University MD
Framingham State University MA
Hilbert College NY
Holy Names University CA
Houghton College NY
Jacksonville University FL
Johnson & Wales University-Charlotte NC
Johnson & Wales University-Denver CO
Johnson & Wales University-North Miami FL
Johnson & Wales University – Providence RI
Lourdes University OH Maine
Maritime Academy ME
Malone University OH
Maryland Institute College of Art MD
Marymount California University CA
McKendree University IL
Mercy College NY
Millersville University PA
Millikin University IL
Mitchell College CT
Monmouth College (IL) IL
Newcastle University
New Jersey City University NJ
Northumbria University
Nova Southeastern University FL
Ohio Northern University OH
Old Dominion University VA
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts PA
Piedmont College GA
Point Loma Nazarene University CA
Queens University of Charlotte NC
Robert Morris University (PA) PA
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College IN
Spring Arbor University MI
St. John’s University (NY) NY
St Mary’s University – London
SUNY Alfred State College NY
SUNY Cobleskill NY
SUNY College of Technology at Canton NY
SUNY Farmingdale State College NY
SUNY Morrisville State College NY
Texas Lutheran University TX
Truman State University MO
Tulane University LA
Underwood International College, Yonsei University South Korea
University of British Columbia – Faculty of Applied Sciences Canada
University of Glasgow Scotland
University of Idaho ID
University of Indianapolis IN
University of Limerick England
University of Maine at Fort Kent ME
University of Michigan – Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute China
University of Sheffield England
University of Southern Mississippi MS
University of St. Thomas (MN) MN
University of Toledo OH
Wayne State University MI
West Virginia University WV* (will not require essay or recommendations)
Wilberforce University OH
Wilkes University PA
Zaytuna College CA

all college essaysIECA Spring 2015 Presenter and Exhibitor

Baltimore native Dr. Rebecca Joseph will be presenting at Spring 2015 IECA on the amazing topic of “Rehabbing Your Image: Using College Essays To Strengthen Applications of Students Who Have Experienced Challenges.” She will be presenting with fellow IECA member Elizabeth Stone and U VA Associate Director of Admissions Valerieieca Gregory and Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Educational Advisor and Former Stonehill and Northeastern Admissions Officer, Evan Read.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6• 3:00 – 4:15 P.M.

Dr. J, founder and creator, of All College Application Essays

Dr. J, founder and creator, of All College Application Essays


Dr.  Joseph is the the founder and creator of All College Application Essays. She will be exhibiting at IECA. Come visit us for info about her integrated mobile app and website. Enter for a free year and receive a free month at the All College Application Essays booth.

2015-2016 Common APP Essays Prompts and Commentary

By Rebecca Joseph

The NewsScreen Shot 2015-03-31 at 6.05.59 PM

The Common Application last week released its 2015-2016 freshman essay prompts. They include one entirely new prompt (prompt four) replacing the one about the place where you are perfectly content. They revised the first two prompts and kept two (essay three and five). The length of 250-650 words remains the same, and colleges can now make the essay optional. The Common Application also states that it will help kids identify all supplemental essays they need to write in a more streamlined way.

Here are the prompts with the new sections italicized next to last year’s prompts

2015-2016 Prompts 2013-2015 Prompts
Prompt One- RevisedSome students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.


Prompt OneSome 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.


Prompt Two- RevisedThe lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success.Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?


Prompt Two 

Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?


Prompt Three- SameReflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? Prompt ThreeReflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?


Prompt Four- NewDescribe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.  Prompt Four 

Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?


Prompt Five- SameDiscuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. Prompt Five

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.


Prompt 1. Thank goodness this prompt now includes talents and interests. It empowers students to tell any number of powerful stories about their passions. It changes “central” to “meaningful” freeing writers to tell a wide range of unique stories. It seems to me like a cool alternative to topic of your choice.

Prompt 2. I am glad that the new prompt starts with lessons from failure that lead to success as the former prompt led many students to stay mired in failures without discussing even more relevant successes. After all, colleges want to know who the applicants are now because of former failures.

Prompt 3. This prompt about challenging ideas or beliefs remains the same and always leads to fascinating essays. I always tell students that community service actions often challenge the status quo, and anyone who is the first in their families to go to college always challenge ideas and beliefs.

Prompt 4. This entirely new prompt is interesting and will now empower students to explore intellectual topics and other problems they solve in and out of classrooms. It does potentially overlap with prompt three as solving problems can often challenge beliefs or ideas.

Prompt 5. This prompt remains the same, and yet it’s the prompt that the fewest of the students I work with across all socio-economic, ethnic, and cultural groups tackle. Few teens view themselves as adults, and writing about bar-mitzvahs and quinceaneras does not usually lead to great essays. It takes more work to help a student see this prompt as relevant and to realize that many of their actions show how they are now “adults.”Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 6.10.02 PM

Final thoughts.

It’s a shame that the one explicitly happiness oriented prompt is gone because I witnessed amazing essays emerge from students grappling with what it means to be content in complex situations. But I can imagine that many of the essays that never had any dimension frustrated and even bored admissions officers.

I wonder why the multi-pronged application with such reach is now making the long essay optional. Writing the essay provides teens with an incredible opportunity to share unique stories that communicate what they can offer colleges. Colleges that make it optional may be trying to up application numbers while missing out on a key source of original data.

I do thank the Common Application for including a wide range of voices in their surveys and displaying more transparency in their non-profit work.

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