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mormander asked: When a school's essay is "What is one of the most difficult things you have ever done or experienced?", how do you go about it without sounding melodramatic? Especially if you feel that there have not been many grueling hardships in your life? Thanks!
I created a free video that answers your question! It’s here: http://www.collegeessayguy.com/type-c-essay-and-analysis
If you’d like my complete guide, go here: http://www.collegeessayguy.com/webinar-landing
And if you’d like one-on-one help email me: ethan (at) collegeessayguy.com
russianrose asked: Is there any good source to get college prompts beside the common apps?
Yes! My favorite source is: http://www.allcollegeessays.org
After years of helping students write the UC1 prompt (my favorite college essay prompt), I decided it wouldn’t be a bad way to describe why I love what I do. Here’s that 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.
Here’s my 500 word response:
"I’d been to ten countries by the time I was four."
That was the first line of my college essay. Fourteen years later, it’s still a pretty good intro to me. I was a missionary kid, first in Spain, then Ecuador and Colombia, eventually graduating from high school in Miami, at my thirteenth school. I learned pretty quickly how to make adaptability my home.
I also got pretty good at making friends. I learned that, deep down, people wanted to connect. It helped to share something personal about yourself and just wait. Once people saw that nothing happened to you after you shared—that it was safe—people felt more comfortable giving a piece of themselves too. So I shared. I learned to give away pieces of myself. That nothing bad was going to happen.
I also learned to ask good questions. Most people ask boring questions when they first meet. But because I moved around so much I became impatient with small talk. Life’s short, I’d think, How’s your relationship with your dad?
And along the way I fell in love with language. Cummings, Rimbaud, Emerson. In high school I was the kid at the party writing down what people said in his notepad, writing poems, writing anything.
But I think my love of movies informed my love of college essay work more than
anything. I worked at a videostore when I was in high school, sometimes seven days a week. I’d watch three movies a day sometimes, twice that on weekends. I’d wake up at 5am to get one in before the 7am bus to school.
When I got to college I studied screenwriting. I became obsessed with film structure, and even piggybacked on my best friend’s USC Screenwriting classes when he and I moved to LA after college. I read every book I could get my hands on, collaborated on dozens of scripts that never saw the light of day, and continued writing down in my notepad what people said at the party.
A few years ago I had a revelation: almost everything I’d learned about screenwriting applied to college essay writing. The principles of good storytelling applied across the board. But no one had really written a book about the connections. That’s a book I could write, I thought.
I knew from experience you didn’t have to be an accomplished writer to be a great writing teacher. So I began teaching my college essay students some basic writing principles. They wrote great stories and those stories got them into great schools.
I love this process deeply. To me, there’s almost nothing better than helping students shape the chaos of their lives into 500 word personal statements. Why? Primarily this:
As storytellers—and that’s everyone, by the way, including you—we’re constantly trying to make sense of our lives, to give shape to the chaos. Telling stories helps us understand our place here.
That’s what I do with my students.
That’s what I’m doing with you.
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