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College Essay Marching Band

Let’s say you are at the top of your class and applying to an Ivy League school. You feel confident because you got 2200 on your SATs, are class president, run cross-country, and are in five clubs. All your life, “failure has never been in your vocabulary because you have succeeded at everything.

Guess what? I have bad news. Of the 30,000 applicants to that dream school, most have the same qualifications. Others have a quality you don’t. One may be a stellar quarterback, another has wealthy forebears whose names are on campus buildings, some are geniuses from the swamps of Mississippi, and others have already performed with the New York Philharmonic. Your accomplishment? You broke the school record for the mile. And the kids in your school are slow.

Don’t panic. Help is on the way. You can rise above the other applicants, be an individual that the admissions folks actually like.

Start by imagining how they feel. You hate to write one five-paragraph essay. How would you like to read 30,000? Most of them are so boring, you would need to sew your eyelids open. Why? These essays reflect all that success: When I became a leader through my role in the Spanish club. What football means to me. How marching band has enhanced my character. In other words, same experiences, same essays.

Have I just described your essay? Don’t despair. You can set yourself apart. And you can write well without being Hemingway or Fitzgerald.

Just do as I say.

First, figure out what makes you different. Do you secretly collect antique coins? Do you have a special skill, like assembling Ikea furniture correctly the first time? If you traveled for Habitat, great. But don’t tell them what it meant to you. Describe someone you met, or how to apply roof shingles. (Just think how many people are glued to “This Old House.” Everyone loves the process of building.)

Another topic is your relatives, a perfect choice, assuming your twin is not applying to the same school. But don’t describe your grandfather’s death and how much you cried. Nobody wants to hear that. What they would enjoy is his experience in Vietnam. Perhaps he established a huge restaurant empire starting with a food truck. At the end, just tell them he died, and skip your tears. Make them cry that he is gone.

Or write about crazy relatives — not your parents; you don’t want the university to worry about heredity. Talk about your mean, cheap, scary great-aunt whose inheritance holds the family hostage. Describe her, even how she smells like ancient Chanel No. 5.

If you want to use a family tradition, skip Christmas. It has been done a million times. Instead, write about the classic family fight when everybody stormed out because the potatoes weren’t cooked correctly, just like last year, when the turkey was raw.

In other words, move the reader in some way, either to a smile or a sigh. Remember, she usually is bored stiff.

Your objections? But this won’t display who I am, you whine. Right. They really want to hear another essay bragging about accomplishments.

No, now they know how well you write and how interesting you are. I mean, did you ever beg for a five-paragraph essay? But I bet you love to hear a good story.

How to make something worth reading? A few rules:

Make sure the opening paragraph pulls you in. Are your descriptions visual? Do you include the five senses? Do you use strong nouns and verbs? Be wary of adjectives and adverbs. They slow the reader down. Do any great lines walk off the page? Does your final paragraph answer the question?

Make sure you read your essay aloud to a friend. You will hear your errors, and your friend will be thrilled to find them. Keep your parents out of the process. Like the engineer dad who salivates over “helping” you with calculus, your mom will rewrite your essay so it sounds just like her. And Admissions can’t tell, right? Sure.

Proofread. Don’t repeat words. It’s boring. Don’t hit the thesaurus button willy-nilly. If you are unsure of a word, read the sentence to Mom. But just one sentence.


If they want 500 words, don’t go over.

And never, ever describe a single tear falling down anyone’s face.

(Emily Farrell is a former English teacher at Strath Haven High in Wallingford, Pa., and a college essay coach. E-mail her at farrellec@yahoo.com.)

In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the University of Georgia and discuss the application’s essay prompts. After reading this article, you will understand what these questions are really trying to get at when they ask you about “blackberry moments” and “creativity.” More importantly, you will have some ideas about how to write a compelling essay that will help you stand out from UGA’s other 24,000 applicants.


About the University of Georgia

So you have decided to apply to the UGA, where the only thing hotter than your ardor for the Georgia Bulldogs will be your animus toward the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or the Georgia summer heat.


While the school is known for football, its campus boasts a wide array of pre-professional career tracks into any one of its specialized colleges, such as the Terry College of Business, the College of Veterinary Medicine, or the School of Social Work. Whichever field of study you end up choosing, you’ll get all the excitement that comes from going to a large research university with over 27,000 other undergraduates.


UGA admits about 5,500 new undergraduates every year, with about 550 of those students entering its honors program. Because the university is a large public institution, it gives more weight to test scores and GPA than smaller private institutions. In 2017, the SAT scores for the middle 50% of admitted students ranges between 1220 to 1360 and the average ACT score for the middle 50% of admitted students ranges from 28 to 32.


The Honors College is much more selective; for the one-in-ten students admitted to the Honors College, the average SAT score is 1490 and the average ACT score is 33. If you would like help getting your numbers up to this level, check out CollegeVine’s test prep program. That being said, a good essay can still help you stand out, and much of the advice we’ll offer below will apply to the admissions essays you might be writing for other colleges.


Read on for CollegeVine’s guide to tackling the UGA essays.


University of Georgia Application Essay Prompts

There are two different ways to apply to the University of Georgia. The first is using the Coalition Application, and the second is UGA’s own application. UGA says it has no preference, so if you are applying to other schools that use the Coalition Application, it probably makes sense to use that. However, no matter which application you use, you will need to write two essays.


For the first essay, applicants must respond to a question where they tell an “interesting or amusing story” about themselves. For the second essay, applicants must respond to one of four different prompts. One of these prompts (“describe an experience that demonstrates your character”) comes from the Coalition Application, so if you have already have a version of that essay written, you might just use that.


However, as I’ll discuss below, you may still need to do some careful editing in order to make your Coalition essay fit the school’s preferred word count. UGA’s admissions officers say that they want all of your essays to be between 200 and 300 words, which is slightly less than the 500-word essays that many other colleges require.

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