College Trends 2014: The Right Side of the Brain

Here’s the hard truth: SAT vocabulary words do not make a stunning essay anymore. Impressive, perhaps, but vocabulary alone will not shift an essay from the generic category into the impression-making category. Admissions officers read thousands over the course of an admissions cycle, and over half are roughly the same take on the essay prompt, telling the same story. The key to making an impression is to write an essay that is unique. The worst mistake is to write “what they want” because officers do not “want” anything generic: They want you to use this opportunity to speak directly to them to tell you own story in your own voice. Creativity is welcomed. There is no template for abstract thinking, and there is no “right” college essay format. In all truth admissions officers just want an essay that displays character and creativity, something showing them what an applicant can contribute to their college’s diverse community. Admissions has been adjusting for the modern cultural importance of individuality for years, and 2014 is no exception.

Blueprint Workshop

Blueprint for College Planning Workshop 

Lane Music in Franklin Square, 9648 Kingston Pike

Tuesday, April 15th from 7-8:30 pm

A message from Laurie Brandow:

Does your son or daughter have a dream college? Or are they even thinking about college? What’s the plan? Where do you start?

Let’s start with our workshop!

Along with my colleague Jesse Hedrick from Testing Solutions, we are holding the second annual “Blueprint for College Planning and Admission” workshop. We’ll give you the resources that you are looking for…

From Your-Personal-Statement-is-NOT-an-English-Essay, to Crafting the College List,  our topics and information will get you ready for it all. Learn about Demonstrated Interest and resources for Unraveling the Mysteries of Merit and Financial Aid.  Find out whether the ACT or the SAT might be a better fit for your student.

This year each of my 20 students received multiple acceptances from what we call ’right-fit’ colleges. My mantra: Organization and timeliness minimizes stress and maximizes smart decision making. In other words: Procrastinate Later!

Come by Lane Music at 9648 Kingston Pike in Franklin Square Tuesday April 15th from 7-8:30 pm to get the inside scoop.

SPACE IS LIMITED! So RSVP now by emailing either Jesse at or Laurie at

The cost is $25 per family. We will be giving away door prizes of a Regal Cinema gift basket courtesy of Collegiate Blueprint Consulting as well as a tutoring package courtesy of Testing Solutions.

Getting Started Writing Your Common Application Essay

The new Common Application essay prompts are specifically designed to give you the opportunity to reveal your true voice and unique take on a time or event that shifted your thinking. Your essay should show how you think and tell about what matters to you by presenting yourself as a three-dimensional, authentic and unique person.

So how do you do this? First, forget everything you learned about writing an English paper. Please do not to sit down and immediately start writing answers to these essay prompts. If you do that, you will wind up with an English essay.

There is no one correct way to write a college essay, but in general, college admissions officers are looking for two important things:

• How the essay provides evidence of your achievements that aren’t reflected in other parts of your application.
• How and why the events that you describe have shaped your attitude, focus and your intellect.

It’s really crucial to take the time to dig deep and think. A strong essay will demonstrate that you have thought about and gained a clear perspective on your experiences. You want the admissions officer to be there with you in the moment as you tell your story and hopefully experience a reaction. Use your first person voice.

Remember, everyone has a story to tell; it’s just a matter of discovering that story.

The New 2013 Common Application

The Common Application (Common App) is used by nearly 500 colleges including all members of the Ivy League and many other private and public institutions in the US and Canada. The University of Tennessee joined the Common App program for the first time last year. The Common Application allows students to apply to as many schools as they see fit by only having to fill out one universal application. Many schools, however, require an additional supplement as well which students fill out as part of the Common Application process. This supplement can be just a few extra factual questions or it may consist of one or more short or long essay questions.

The Common App has been unchanged for many years, but this past February the Common App Board of Directors announced major changes that are the culmination of two years of discussion about the role that the Common App essay plays in the holistic selection process. In addition, Common App deleted the short answer essay question, so now there is only one essay. The new essay prompts are designed to allow students to present thoughtful and creative expressions in essays that will allow the colleges to make better informed decisions regarding admittance. There are also several other changes to this year’s Common App, most of them being more technical in nature.

Each year the Common Application goes live on August 1st, meaning that that is the first date students can log on to and begin filling out their application. Because the essay prompts are all new this year, the Common App board decided to release the essay prompts early so rising seniors can get an extra early start developing their essay ideas. Here are the five new Common Application Essay prompts:

1. 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.

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

3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

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

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

So which essay do you pick and how do you go about writing it? I’ll talk about that in my next blog.