College Pete

Stanford’s Top 20

Stanford’s Top 20

Summer is a great time to get working on that college essay.  Students often have more difficulty with the essay than any other part of the college application process, including the SAT.  Sure, most student’s hate taking the SAT almost as much as the rest of America hates the Miami Heat, but after 3 hours and 45 minutes the SAT is over, done with, and probably behind you.  The essay, on the other hand, has no time limit.  It’s never really finished, and even when you think it’s finished, there is always another tweak you can make here or there to marginally improve it.  And while the SAT (or its fraternal twin the ACT) is one of the primary components of a student’s application, it’s the Essay that actually provides the ‘texture’ and context that can sway a borderline candidate from a ‘maybe’ to a ‘yes’!

The most important part of the essay might just be the opening sentence.  Think about it.  Admissions officers quite literally read thousands of essays, so the opening line had better grab, melt resistance and create enough interest to keep them reading.  That’s a very tall order for one sentence!

Stanford’s admissions office was recently asked about their favorite opening lines.  Here are my Fave 5 from that list:

When I was in eighth grade I couldn’t read.

Cancer tried to defeat me, and it failed.

I have old hands.

Some fathers might disapprove of their children handling noxious chemicals in the garage.

On a hot Hollywood evening, I sat on a bike, sweltering in a winter coat and furry boots.
These lines get your attention without being ‘gimmicky.’  They keep you interested, and they make you guess and wonder what comes next. By themselves they evoke wonder and passion, surprise and suspense, and we can only assume that they introduce a compelling story. And that’s what makes for an interesting essay – telling a good story.

There are 17 other openers in the Stanford survey (and tons more from my previous students), all of which I’ll share at my 4th Annual ‘Thick Envelope Magic’ Admissions and Application Boot Camp on July 9.  This day-long event is not just about the opening line of the admissions essay, though an entire class certainly could be.  ‘Thick Envelope’ also covers everything a rising 12th grader needs to know, ask for, do and complete to apply and gain admissions to a great college.  Students who attend will be able to complete (and submit) their college applications before school starts.

This event is open exclusively to rising 12th graders.  Past attendees gave it rave reviews, and the curriculum has been updated to reflect all of the changes to the process (e.g.,, the essay now has a word limit), and  is even better this year.  If your student is a rising 12th grader and is home for the summer, there is no excuse to miss this event.  You’ll want to register them by clicking here.

Most college applications can be completed as early as August 1, including the University of Florida.  Give your student a head start and an edge on what can be a stressful application process.  My July event has 14 registered students, so I have room for 6 more.  I look forward to seeing your child there.

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