We are happy to publish the winning entries in our scholarship contest! These essays demonstrate tremendous insight into the application process. For those of you who are just embarking on the college application process, these essays will be very valuable!
First Prize: A.I., Atlanta, GA: Harvard ’18
Who Wants to be a Paragon?
Second Prize: Darya Bor, Scottsdale, AZ: Amherst College ’18
The Importance of Speech
Third Prize #1: Ryan Lenea, Seattle, WA: Middlebury College ’18
Don’t Be Frightened
Third Prize #2: Madison Tschauner, Hastings, NE: University of Redlands
Fourth Prize: Megan Riann Sekiya, Austin, TX: Tulane University ’18
Fifth Prize #1: Ella S. Conte-Wood, Seattle, WA: Western Washington University
Finding Power in College Shopping
Fifth Prize #2: Kendall J. Paris Flossmoor, IL: The University of Iowa
More than just a Number
College Essay Whiz is thrilled to announce that we have 7 winners in the 2014 essay competition. Over 80 qualified applicants from all over the country entered the competition, submitting essays that dealt with their personal experiences in the college application process. A five-person panel of judges evaluated each essay on the basis of content, style and personal insight. The winners, who were notified about their awards on August 15, demonstrated clear and articulate writing as well as valuable and unique perspectives about a wide range of application issues. We will be posting these essays on the College Essay Whiz website for the benefit of future applicants.
The winners are:
Adriano Iqbal (Harvard) “Who wants to be a paragon?”
Darya Bor (Amherst) “The Importance of Speech”
Ryan Lenea (Middlebury) “Don’t Be Frightened”
Madison Tschauner (University of Redlands) “The Number”
Megan Riann Sekiya (Tulane) “Plan B”
Ella S. Conte-Wood (Western Washington U) “Finding Power in College Shopping”
Kendall J. Paris (University of Iowa) “More than just a number”
We thank the judges who spent their time and expertise evaluating the essays, and we learned something from everyone who submitted an essay to our competition. All of the applicants provided fascinating stories, commentary, and conclusions. We wish all of you the best as you begin your college experience!
Over the past three years, I have visited approximately 60 colleges, universities and community colleges. From Berkeley in California to Berklee in Massachusetts, from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton to Colby College in Waterville, Maine, I have learned a great deal about what information can be gleaned from a college visit. I have walked on snowy campus paths at U Penn and Haverford on a freezing February day and the beautifully landscaped grounds of Lynn University in Boca Raton in April. I have been awed by schools like G.W. and NYU, whose grounds are city streets, and by beautiful buildings and campuses at Georgetown, the University of Maryland, and MIT.
I have taken tours led by trained student guides as well as by my own former students who gave up their time willingly to show me around their “home.” I have attended high tech information sessions and have interviewed students in cafes. And I have been welcomed warmly by admissions officers who were willing and eager to take time out of their hectic schedules to give me the opportunity to ask questions and to develop an understanding of the admissions process from their perspective. In one school, two admissions officers spent almost an hour chatting with me about the school, its academic and co-curricular offerings, and dorms, answering every question thoroughly and candidly. One school even had my name listed on their electronic message board, welcoming me to the college. Only once did I feel unwelcome, at a college that never answered my email queries; when I arrived at the admissions office, I was met with the chilly explanation that the school “did not deal with private counselors.”
I spent a good deal of time driving and walking around campuses, collecting maps, literature and student newspapers. I spent a half hour with the head of the food service at one large university and with an admissions officer at a small school. Talking to students in the library at Tufts and having lunch with a junior at Swarthmore gave me invaluable information and a sense of the value of paying a preliminary visit to the schools that until recently had come alive only on websites and pages of guidebooks.
What a learning experience! Yes, you can develop a basic feeling about a school through its website and its virtual tours, and you can read all kinds of wonderful and detailed guidebooks about the schools in which you are interested. But when you drive onto a campus, meet students and professors, pick up the school newspaper, and talk to the folks in the bookstore, the student union, the cafeteria, and the pool, you get a clear sense of whether this is a place at which you might ultimately be happy.
I believe that the experience of visiting schools before you decide to apply should start as early as your sophomore year of high school. You can learn the value of taking photos of the buildings and grounds. You can learn early about the admissions process and the perspective of the admissions officers as well as their hopes for what they will be able to learn from your essays and your recommendations. You may discover that a school’s vision of community is exactly what you want…or exactly the opposite. You may find that the opportunities for internships and travel are exceptional, the living arrangements are outstanding, and the club offerings are endless. Or you may find that the major of your dreams is not offered at the school that you thought might be your ED opportunity, or that your ACT scores may be too low to be considered for admission. And that’s ok, too. It’s just as important to learn that a school is not for you as it is to find gems of schools that you hadn’t previously considered.
So in spite of the fact that one of the dozens of schools that I visited was less than cordial – actually, because of that – I plan to continue crisscrossing the country on my admissions journeys, knowing that I have learned a great deal more about the process of admissions – something that I hope to pass on to my clients over the course of the years to come.
Now that the semester is over, you have an opportunity to make some money by selling the textbooks you don’t need. You can also buy next semester’s textbooks at a lower cost! Go to Amazon for more information.
Welcome home, albeit briefly, for Thanksgiving: Make the most of your visit!
Although many college freshmen have already made a brief trip home since starting school in August, others are making the first trip home in awful weather. You may have been dragging a too-heavy suitcase crammed with books, college t-shirts and dirty laundry, and it may have been a long and weary trip. But you are looking forward to sleeping on your own bed in your own room as well as to gorging on Thanksgiving dinner and swapping college “war stories” with family and friends.
The high school with which I was affiliated for years would annually declare the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as “Alumni Return Day,” inviting college students to speak to seniors about their adjustment to college and to give advice to current applicants. The college students would often seek out some of their former teachers to ask advice and tell about their experiences. Sometimes they would boast gleefully that they had “rocked” a particular class because they remembered what they had learned in high school. Alumni Return Day was always a joyous occasion, full of hugs and tears as students who had never really understood how much their high school community had meant to them reunited ever so briefly before returning to college for final exams.
It’s wonderful to be home for a few days; it’s also confusing. Which home is home? You have just started to feel comfortable in the college environment (or uncomfortable, in some cases, and are already considering transferring). You may feel just a little odd not being surrounded by roommates and suitemates, even if you haven’t yet learned to love them very much. You slip and refer to the dorm as “home.”
But then you see your family at the Thanksgiving table, you visit with your high school friends, and you remember what you are thankful for.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, and for some of you, a happy Chanukah as well.