College Applications: Resumes and Essays Brit/World Mrs. Wilson Name Period Tips for the Application Process

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College Applications:

Resumes and Essays


Mrs. Wilson
Name _________________________

Tips for the Application Process

  1. Read the application instructions as soon as you receive them. If you simply throw them on a desk, put them in a drawer, or kick them under your bed, you increase the likelihood or confusing or missing altogether the various deadline dates

  1. Application forms (including essays) are not like wine or stinky cheeses. They do not improve with age (i.e., by sitting around until just a few days before the deadline for their submission). Applications submitted at the last minute all too often give the appearance of last-minute applications. Get those bad boys into the mail.

  1. Give the teacher and counselor reference forms to the appropriate individuals as soon as you receive them. That enables those you are asking to write on your behalf (almost always on their own time) plenty of time to craft a glowing recommendation. To wait until right before Winter Recess to dump these forms on them is not very thoughtful.

  1. Don’t treat deadlines as to dates on which to do something. Treat them as the last acceptable date for doing something. There is a difference.

  1. Whether you type or print, neatness counts.

  1. Do not pad your resume. Be honest by listing only those activities in which you have actually participated.

Adapted from the Stanford Bulletin

Resume Format
Not all colleges require you to submit a formal resume, but having one can be beneficial not only for completing you application, buy also for requesting recommendations, applying for scholarships, and of course, applying for jobs. Remember that a resume is a data sheet that allows you to present a quick overview of all your accomplishments and goals. It should be thorough and concise. Some information to consider:

  • Contact Information – Name, address, phone numbers, and email address. Remember to have an appropriate email (please don’t put something like Do not put your social security number on this document.

  • Education – provide info about the schools you have attended, degrees and certificates you have earned, and info about GPA. You could also include test scores here. Don’t include info on low GPAs and poor scores. Also make note of special classes or programs

  • Awards – Concentrate on high school years. Examples: Honors at Entrance, CSF, National Honors Society, Scholar Athlete, etc.

  • Publications

  • Community Service – List volunteer activities and years involved

  • Co-Curricular – drama, band, choir, ASB, clubs, leadership positions within the clubs

  • Extra-curricular – Sports, band, play, scouts, etc.

  • Work Experience – list employment with dates

  • Hobbies – activities and special interests

After determining what information to include in your resume, you must determine what format to use. There are many templates available, but the best looking resumes are often the ones created by the individual. Some suggestions:

  • Length – most resumes are about one page in length, Don’t go over this unless you have a very good reason.

  • Appearance – clean and clear is the best approach. This is not the place for you pink, scented paper. Info should be concise, well organized and laid out in a visually appealing way. Pay attention to the balance of text and white space

  • Margins – stick close to 1 inch. Keep info centered on the page.

  • Font – Times New Roman is always safe. 12pt. font.

  • Paper – good quality, heavy paper in a neutral color. Most people stick with white.


The College Application Essay

Characteristics of a strong essay

  • It is a thoughtful, incisive reflection – it offers some sense of who you are as a person

  • It touches on personal qualities like leadership, self-discipline, tenacity, maturation, or commitment to others

  • it allows the students voice to come through in the writing

  • it is not solely a sample of good writing through grammar and usage

  • it is not an exhaustive list of all you activities, honors and awards

  • it is not an exaggeration of problems but an acceptance of responsibility for choices and behaviors


  • Read the instructions and answer the prompt fully

  • Write in your own voice, speaking honestly about yourself and where you have come from

  • Avoid lists of accomplishments

  • Be careful with humor

  • Avoid cute

  • After writing the first draft, allow the essay to sit. Then read the draft aloud to a trusted friend.

  • Don’t let your mom write it

  • Do let your mom correct your grammar (or bring it to me)

Common App. Topics:

  • 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.

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

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

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

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

Other Sample Prompts

University of Chicago:

Essay Option 1.

"A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies." –Oscar Wilde.

Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Autobots and Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).

Inspired by Martin Krzywy, admitted student Class of 2016

Essay Option 3.

Susan Sontag, AB'51, wrote that "[s]ilence remains, inescapably, a form of speech." Write about an issue or a situation when you remained silent, and explain how silence may speak in ways that you did or did not intend. The Aesthetics of Silence, 1967.

Anonymous submission.

Essay Option 6.

So where is Waldo, really?

UC Prompts for Freshmen

Prompt for all applicants

Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?

Freshman applicant prompt

Describe the world you come from — for example, your family, community or school — and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations

Don't Be Bland

by Bruce Poch | August 20, 2006 8:00 PM EDT

For admissions officers, reviewing applications is like final-exam week for students--except it lasts for months. Great applications tell us we've done our job well, by attracting top-caliber students. But it's challenging to maintain the frenetic pace without forgetting these are all real people with real aspirations--people whose life stories we are here to unravel, if they will let us.

The essay is a key piece of learning those life stories. I live near Los Angeles, where every day screenplays are read without regard for human context. The writer's life and dreams don't matter--all that matters is the writing, the ideas, the end product. On the other hand, in reading essays, context does matter: who wrote this? We are driven to put the jigsaw puzzle together because we think we are building a community, not just choosing neat stories. When I pick up a file, I want to know whether the student has siblings or not, who his parents are, where he went to high school. Then I want the essay to help the rest of the application make sense, to humanize all the numbers that flow past. I am looking for insight.

A brilliantly written essay may compel me to look beyond superficial shortcomings in an application. But if no recommendation or grade or test score hints at such writing talent, I may succumb to cynicism and assume the writer had help--maybe too much. In the worst cases, I may find that I have read it before--with name and place changed--on the Internet, in an essay-editing service or a "best essays" book.

The most appealing essays take the opportunity to show a voice not rendered homogeneous and pasteurized. But sometimes the essays tell us too much. Pomona offers this instruction with one essay option: "We realize that not everything done in life is about getting into college. Tell us about something you did that was just plain fun." One student grimly reported that nothing was fun because in his family everything was about getting into college. Every activity, course choice and spare moment. It did spark our sympathy, but it almost led to a call to Child Protective Services as well.

Perfection isn't required. We have seen phenomenal errors in essays that haven't damaged a student at all. I recall a student who wrote of the July 1969 lunar landing of--I kid you not--Louis Armstrong. I read on, shaking my head. This student was great--a jazz trumpeter who longed to study astronomy. It was a classic slip and perhaps a hurried merging of two personal heroes. He was offered admission, graduated and went on for a Ph.D. in astrophysics. He may not have been as memorable if he had named "Neil" instead of "Louis" in his essay's opening line. Hey, we're human, too.

An essay that is rough around the edges may still be compelling. Good ideas make an impression, even when expressed with bad punctuation and spelling errors. Energy and excitement can be communicated. I'm not suggesting the "I came, I saw, I conquered" approach to essay writing, nor the "I saved the world" angle taken by some students who write about community-service projects. I'm talking about smaller moments that are well captured. Essays don't require the life tragedy that so many seem to think is necessary. Not all admission offers come out of sympathy!

Admissions officers, even at the most selective institutions, really aren't looking for perfection in 17- and 18-year-olds. We are looking for the human being behind the roster of activities and grades. We are looking for those who can let down their guard just a bit to allow others in. We are looking for people whose egos won't get in the way of learning, students whose investment in ideas and words tells us--in the context of their records--that they are aware of a world beyond their own homes, schools, grades and scores. A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. To us, an essay that reveals a student's unaltered voice is worth much, much more.

©2011 The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me. I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

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