The Missing Piece

September 29, 2009

The college application essay: telling your story

Here’s a funny look at one man’s approach to acing your college admission essay.


The college essay is a major challenge for students seeking admission.  Students find the writing process intimidating. 

So students write about their achievements instead of personal experiences.  Students write using huge vocabulary words and complex sentences.  Students focus on their accomplishments and personal experiences without answering the essay question.

College admission boards use college application essays to learn more about students.  So students must use the college application essay as their personalized introduction to college admission boards. 

My suggestion is to treat each college application essay as if you were on a n important date.  You know, you meet that special someone and you want to make a good impression.  With that analogy in mind:

Step 1: Find a story to tell. 
Students writing a college application essay must use this opportunity to introduce yourself to the college admission board.  You don’t want to waste the opportunity listing your every accomplishment.  Instead, you want to discuss your personal experiences.  You can find a story to tell by asking yourself the following questions:
                        What do you want people to know about you? 
                        What makes you unique? 
                        What challenges have you overcome?  

Step 2: Write in your own words.  
It sounds cliché but be yourself.  The college application essay is not a test of intellect. You don’t need  to use huge vocabulary words and complex sentence structures.  Instead, write about yourself the way you would talk to that special someone.
Step 3: Focus on the essay question and be concise. 
Students failing to answer an essay question hurt their chances for admission.  It’s easy to lose focus telling a story in your own words.  So remember the purpose of your story in relation to the essay question and be concise.   
For prospective students, writing a college essay is a challenge but it can be achieved.  My suggestions are to find a story to tell, write in your own words, focus on the essay question and be concise.

–Makeysha Durham


September 18, 2009

A successful interview requires self-discovery

After some hours of struggling to answer questions about his past work experience and life, one of my English students, an energy and economics expert, realized: “Ah, mastering an interview requires self-discovery.”

I couldn’t agree more.

 To talk convincingly about our experience, our visions, and talents, we must know deeply our journey: what we want and how we have pursued our dreams. We have to take that intimate walk into our own hearts, uncovering our best understanding.

Questions & Answers at dusk by Massimo Benenti.


So now, how do we decide which stories to share about our work? Well, first, let’s keep in mind that we don’t have to reveal everything about our lives. If we’re on a job interview,  talking about the boss we disliked or the major we canceled, might be distracting.

Rather, for any interview, wouldn’t it be more fun if we offered a sincere commercial of our best feats, capabilities, and intentions.

What would we say if we were introducing ourselves to Barack Obama?

When teaching my students writing and English, I often see them struggling to organize the data of their passion, even after they discover it.  We all have so many great stories and ideas inside of us.

So after discovery, the next challenge is to control the data in our conversations. And I believe, once we embrace the map of what we truly want and the compass of who we truly are, then interviews about our work and lives can be as vivid and pleasing as a walk on the beach.

—Malena Amusa

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