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Writing Your Way to an “A”

Creating a Stand-out College Essay



This article will change your life. 

Did I get your attention? If so, then I’ve got a good shot at getting you to read the next paragraph. And that’s exactly what a college essay should do: encourage the reader to read on. If only it were that easy. But the simple act of sitting down to create an engaging, stand-out essay can send some otherwise confident rising seniors into a tailspin, often resulting in hours of procrastination, guilt, and angst.

“The hardest part about writing my college essay was coming up with something that I thought the admissions counselor would want to know about me while also being original.” says Dylan Lewis, a recent graduate of Wilton High School now attending Quinnipiac as a freshman. “At first, the task seemed overwhelming but then I chose to write about my experience working with Habitat for Humanity and the essay flowed naturally.”

Consider also the other side of this dilemma: the college admissions officer who reads piles of essays and is probably praying for a really great submission to come across her desk, and rescue her from the tedium of reading mediocre efforts.

Karen Pellegrino, associate vice president and dean of enrollment at Fairfield University, says that, “an extraordinarily well-written essay which reveals a great deal about the student can definitely have a positive impact on the decision.” But, she adds, “The opposite is true as well: a weak essay that shows little thought or insight can easily be a factor in a student being denied admission.” In short, a powerful essay can tip the collegiate scales in your favor.

So it’s time to get down to work. And with a few tips, the process of finally getting a personal, unique story down on paper can feel more like fun instead of dreaded torture. Did I say torture? Yes, but more important I said story.

As humans, stories are literally part of our DNA. We are hard-wired for telling and listening to them and as author Jonathan Gottschall writes in The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, “Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives.”

So it makes sense to structure the essay like a story to draw in the reader and to engage him/her in the subject about which you’ve chosen to write. Adding dialogue, description, action, and colorful phrases can put a brand new twist on a predictable topic. For instance, if what you’ve chosen to write about is how much you learned on your family’s trip to California, don’t stack your story with a bunch of generalities. Instead, find one occasion—and only one—that can help exemplify your journey and that will ultimately lead the reader to your “aha” moment, whether it be a new perspective, a life lesson, or how you’ve changed as a result of the experience.

Roll up those sleeves and get in there. What were the details? Set the scene, using as many sensory cues as you can to draw the reader in. Were you expecting a great trip to the Redwood Forest, only to find yourself stuck on the interstate in a hot, sticky rental car for hours with your mother’s 1980s music playing and your little sister whining? Did you feel like a caged animal? How did your change in perspective lead you out of your own metaphorical forest? Packaging your story is also important. So if your account of the trip begins with a bumpy ride through the redwoods, try to end your story with a reference back to those majestic trees. 

Pellegrino also emphasizes that the biggest mistake students make is to try to impress the reader: “Students often feel they need to tell a dramatic or traumatic story for an essay to be meaningful. As a result, sometimes students do not write about a topic that might provide valuable insight to an admission committee.” Instead, she says, “It is very important that students reveal something about themselves in their essay.”  

What you choose to reveal is up to you, but above all, have fun writing. Be glad that you have been given an opportunity to share a piece of yourself beyond grades and test scores. And when you’re done, pat yourself on the back for entertaining the admissions committee with your one-of-a-kind life, in a way that only you can tell it. With a great essay and a little luck, it won’t be this article that changes your life; it will be that polished paper that will nudge you closer to your next best story, at the college of your dreams.


Hook, Line and Tinker
Write Fast
Put pen to paper and write your story as fast as you can for five minutes. Sometimes the best parts of a story will come out if you forget to censor yourself. Edit later.
Hook ‘Em
The first sentence should have the reader scratching his or her head and wondering what comes next and how it will turn out.
Embrace the Thesaurus 
Livening up an essay with descriptive words can add emotion. Synonyms are your friends—buddies, companions, chums.
No Lists
Don’t list your accomplishments. Lists are boring. Instead, find an engaging way to incorporate them into the story.
Package It 
The beginning and the ending should complement each other.
Keep It Real 
Don’t puff up your essay with scholarly words to impress the reader. He or she wants to get to know you, not your vocabulary.


TURNITIN IS WATCHING
Tempted to “borrow” (aka plagiarize) parts of  your college-admission essay? Don’t do it ! Turnitin is an anti-plagiarism database service that’s been adopt­ed by hundreds of colleges to weed out cheaters. 

 

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November 2018

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

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ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Join us for a Forum on the Worldwide Refugee Crisis comprised of two panels in the Dogwood Room of the Barone Campus Center on Tuesday, November 13 from 3:30 - 7:00 p.m. Panel 1: The Syrian...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us in viewing a Sudanese-American Coffee Ceremony as representatives of the Sudanese-American House in New Britain, CT demonstrate how to prepare and serve traditional Sudanese coffee. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

In 1920, the 18th Amendment was enacted banning the sale of alcohol across the country. However, in our "land of steady habits," alcohol consumption was a habit that proved hard to break. In the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Members of Fairfield’s Arabic Language Club will offer a fun introductory language lesson—learn basic greetings, introductions, and more! Join us on Wednesday, November 14 from 7:00 - 7:30 p.m....

Cost: Free

Where:
Quick Center for the Arts
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

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Join us for a FREE lecture! Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults. However, the fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life. Learn strategies for preventing falls and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stamford Health Tully Health Center
32 Strawberry Hill Court
1st Floor Auditorium
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Sponsor: HSS Sports Rehab
Telephone: 203-705-2933
Contact Name: Pamela Villagomez
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Mishka returns as a duo to perform your favorites and new music off of his forthcoming album. An 'organic' singer mixing the relaxed styles of Jack Johnson with a deep reggae groove. His...

Cost: $25 Members Save:$3 /tckt

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOned
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

 BRODY WILKINSON EMERGING ARTIST SERIES Rambunctious Danish indie rockers New Politics formed in the late 2000s around the talents of vocalist David Boyd, guitarist/vocalist/keyboard player...

Cost: $28 Standing Room Only Limited Seating First Come First Serve No Member Discoun

Where:
The Warehouse at Fairfield Theatre Company
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: BRODY WILKINSON
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Wine & Cheese Reception: 6 – 6:30pm; Program at 6:30pm. Register online at the link below: A panel of journalists and professors, moderated by Larry Rifkin, will examine the state...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Each event in our Art in Focus series offers an opportunity for an hour of close looking and informal discussion around a single work of art, led by Curator of Education Michelle DiMarzo. On...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

 Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and Brooklawn Country Club Host a Business After Hours: November 15, 2018   The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and Brooklawn Country Club will host its November...

Cost: $20 Chamber Members, $30 Non-Chamber Members

Where:
Brooklawn Country Club
500 Algonquin Rd
Fairfield, CT  06825
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-255-1011
Website »

More information

Learn winning plays, key strategies, and new vocabulary in a fun and friendly environment. For grades 3-12. The club is taught by Dusty Brown, who competed in both the 2017 North American Scrabble...

Cost: $125 per student

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

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Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Fairfield Museum and the Fairfield Chapter of the National Charity League are pleased announce our 4th annual Holiday Pop-Up Market!  We have had tremendous success with this event and we are...

Cost: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Celebrate a Fairfield tradition from the early 1800s. Before Thanksgiving, friends and families visited neighbors, sampling a variety of pies at each house. As the revelers moved on, they grew...

Cost: General admission $5; Seniors and Students: $3

Where:
1750 Ogden House
1520 Bronson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Natural Pet Outlet is hosting Pictures with Santa! Bring your pet on Saturday November 17th from 10am-5pm and join The Natural Pet Outlet staff and Santa for a free 5 x 7 photo. No...

Cost: no cost

Where:
Natural Pet Outlet
3380 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Fairfield Museum and the Fairfield Chapter of the National Charity League are pleased announce our 4th annual Holiday Pop-Up Market!  We have had tremendous success with this event and we are...

Cost: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Join us Saturday November 17 from 11-2 in the Sportsplex in Fairfield to find out about LivenUp's custom IV Drips, Hyperbaric Chamber, Beaner, and Wellness Support Systems. Dr. Salerno...

Cost: $39-$275

Where:
LivenUp in the Sportsplex
85 Mill Plain Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

St Joseph High School's Maroon & Gold Gala is a scholarship event that casts a spotlight on the school’s strong commitment to community service and leadership. It is a fabulous...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Waterview
215 Roosevelt Drive
Monroe, CT  06468
View map »


Sponsor: St Joseph High School
Telephone: (203) 378-9378
Contact Name: St Joseph High School
Website »

More information

Described as “one of the sharpest, funniest storytellers in rock” by Rolling Stone and “an exceptional songwriter” by NPR's Fresh Air, Todd Snider’s due diligence...

Cost: 38

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Celebrate National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) with the first annual Pequot’s writer’s conference. Join Tim Tomlinson of the New York City Writers for a day of workshops focusing on your...

Cost: $100 lunch included

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

Parenting is never easy, but raising children with learning and attention disorders presents unique difficulties. This conference will help parents focus on developing their children's...

Cost: 50

Where:
Winston Preparatory School
57 West Rocks Rd.
Norwalk, CT  06851
View map »


Sponsor: Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities
Telephone: 203 682-1664
Contact Name: Alison Brown
Website »

More information

Please join us on Saturday, November 17, for Family Day: Life in Ancient Greece. Family Day activities include arts & crafts and a child friendly gallery tour designed for ages 4-10. Session 1: 1...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

On Saturday November 17 at 6 p.m. join a wonderful team of astronomers and view planets, stars, and constellations. Note: Families are invited to a special preview in the Learning Center...

Cost: $4/New Pond Farm member ($16 max/family), $6/non-member ($24 max/family)

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

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