#19 College Essay Help from an Expert Transcript



I hear all the time. I just don’t have time to read for pleasure, really? Think about that because I think you do, but you do have to prioritize my suggestion or my hack is if you don’t feel like you can focus on the reading, then download audio book. But it’s going to be so important for you to not only explore topics that you’re maybe going to want to write about that are passions of yours, but reading makes you a better writer, seeing sentence structure, curing, word choice.


Those are things that will make you a better writer. So whether a college asks it or not intellectual curiosity, I believe. One of the most important things that any school wants to say


as we head into summer rising high school, seniors are faced with college essays to write the best time to tackle this project is right after school lets out for summer, but that’s not the first thing students usually want to do when summer freedom hits. However, those who follow my advice. Always thanking me by labor day when they are back in school and watching some of their peers in panic mode this week.


I welcome Betsy kettle of college essay helpers to the podcast with a background in professional writing, along with the heart of a mom and a champion of students’ Betsy arms, our listeners, they proven timeline for writing the many different essays. A student may encounter as well as solid writing advice grounded in her four CS.


After listening to our conversation, your team will have a project management system for essays that will allow who they are to shine through to admissions officers. Hi, I’m Lisa marker Robbins, and I want to welcome you to college and career clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation.


I am so excited to welcome actually this time, my friend. And college essay specialist that’s equal to the podcast this week. She is a fantastic resource to students. While many people who work with college bound teens are doing all of the things related to the college bound journey. Betsy’s background as a professional writer.


Benefits students by being a college essay specialist, she’s in New York city, but working with people all over the country and I’m going to guess probably the world, right? That’s a sometimes, sometimes yes. Well, welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy to be here and to be included in the friend category.


I’ve made it over the breach there. I’m excited. You have, I’m trying to think. It’s how long it’s been maybe a couple years since we’ve found each other and it’s fun working in this space, how you start out just collaborating and having resources and then friendships develop. So really neat. I love that.


And thank you for that locally in true. What I really am excited to talk about today is that special role that essays play in the college admissions space, because it’s timely. We should tell everybody we’re actually recording this in April. And our intent is to drop this podcast right at the end of may, when we’re all thinking summer, the unofficial start of summer Memorial day.


And so I would just really like to talk about, like, what does that role that the essays do play in the admission picture? Well, obviously I want to say they’re the most important thing, but I would be lying. They are super important though. And let me tell you why, so I could see your basic await what I think they’re very important.


They’re super important. I personally think they are, and we’ll cover kind of both sides of this equation. Why are they important? Because whereas your transcript and everything else on your application is sort of like. What you’ve done, the essay’s really your one and only chance to show who you are. And that’s the thing that’s going to help you stand out from what we now know could be tens of thousands to even over a hundred thousand applications.


So what we try and do, I always say is I want to create bananas. I don’t even want the admissions people to be comparing apples to apples. I want them to be comparing an apple to a banana. I want you to stand out so much through your essay. That they will go in that room and they will fight for you. So that is why I think essays are so super imposed.


Okay. I’m completely stealing the apples to bananas. So I won’t credit you, but for future use, I’m going to do that. So we, you, and I would say that college essay season begins really, as soon as school gets out, I think so. I mean, you and I have talked enough. The other big thing that I am a huge proponent of is reducing stress because I think you’ll get better as is.


So when I’ve had parents contacting me and they’re anxious, And that’s something we can talk about too, but some of them say, well, should my child gets started before or after a APS. And a lot of students are taking their APS in may. And I say, well, it depends is your child going to feel calmer if they start to at least brainstorm now, Would it be better to wait until after?


And I would say either is fine. So this is coming out in may and hopefully people will be listening beyond that. But I would say work backwards, try and have your, at least your main essay done by the time you step foot into high school senior year. And it makes all the difference. It removes so much stress.


So that’s, I guess my best advice on when to get started. That’s a good, kind of a good benchmark. So that main essay and I, and let me say. W while we’re talking to right now at the time that’s recorded in the class of 2023, who are juniors right at that threshold becoming seniors. I often think for families with younger students, since I work.


Kids all the way down the sophomores, having this information early helps inform even the college bound journey when they’re thinking of extracurriculars and college major and career clarity and all the other things. So if any of our listeners tuned in and then thought, oh, this isn’t for me. I think it’s for anybody with a high school or would you.


A hundred percent and I’m really glad you brought up the sophomores because while it’s too soon to start on your essay, you’re a hundred percent, right. Which is, if you aren’t living life experiences, if you aren’t out there engaging on a meaningful level, you will not have something meaningful to write about.


So, uh, one of the pitfalls. Is when seniors come to me and it’s already the fall and they’ve spent a lot of time resume building, but not a lot of time character building. They don’t really have as much to say. So I love that you’re talking to freshmen and sophomores and juniors. This is the time to read.


Go deep in your passions and your interests, and that’s going to make a huge difference when it comes to writing your essay. So you’re a hundred percent, right? Yeah. So as they’re thinking through all these things, sophomores juniors, getting ready to be seniors, you already mentioned that there’s one essay that you really want finished, completed by August 1st.


And you called it the personal statement. I know that’s the lingo that we use because that’s the right word for it. But. Some people call it something else. So why don’t you talk a little bit about that? The nature of the personal statement, and this is the one that everybody’s going to have. Yeah, well, it’s interesting because the common FSA or personal statement, and I actually referred to it as a story, I almost never use the term personal statement because to me, this is closer to like a memoir.


It’s a story, but the common app is one of the most popular ones. But we should probably mention there’s the coalition application. That is a slightly different set of prompts. They’ve added one this year. So from that context, they are slightly different questions, slightly different word count. And then the university of California schools have their four essays, personal inquiry questions, and places like university of Texas.


ApplyTexas. Has something completely different, but for our purposes, yeah. I’m talking about the common FSA, which is the most common. And when we call it personal statement, I mean, that’s the, we’re looking at that writing section inside the application and there’s seven different topics to choose from.


So as students are writing that you already mentioned, it’s a story, it’s a personal narrative. So. Why is it that you want him to have that one done by August 1st? I think one of the biggest reasons is that it will calm you down so much not having that on your plate. If you take it in small bite-sized chunks and you just work methodically and spend your time brainstorming and not thinking in terms of approaching it like an academic paper, which is very natural, listen guys, like that’s what you’ve been trained to do for.


Over 10 years, this is what you’ve been working towards. So don’t worry that this is going to be a really different type of writing for you for students. And yet that can be very overwhelming. Because it requires introspection honesty, vulnerability, and crafting. So I can cover kind of what I would say.


The four CS are about creating a great essay, but you will feel so much better if you can finish this by Lisa, as you said, August 1st. That would be fantastic. And I’ll tell you why in a sec, but certainly by the time you start senior year, because you will have supplemental essays. So if you are balancing trying to get your main essay and the supplementals, depending on the colleges you’re applying to.


Again, it’s a lot of work and that can feel very overwhelming. So every student I’ve worked with said the best thing that they did for themselves for what is already kind of a fraud and anxiety provoking experience is getting things done sooner rather than. Last point on that is the prompts for the common app have not changed this year.


I don’t actually believe you need to look at the prompts and answer that way. I don’t even have my students look at the prompts because again, it’s a story. As of August 1st, that is when universities tend to release their supplemental questions. So if you’ve finished by August 1st, now you can dive into your supplementals.


You can’t really do that. Before, because the prompts may have changed. So that’s why I think it’s a great idea to try and finish up towards the beginning of August. And again, certainly by the time you started senior year, it’s so funny here in Cincinnati, like school starts the week of August 10th. So that second week of August for many school districts, but because with my college major and career coaching, I’m working with students all over the United States.


We have those that don’t start until after labor day and those kids are getting out in late June. And so it’s just funny. We’re out before Memorial day and. Back in, in early August. So that kind of, I keep that in mind when I’m working with students too, like when is that free time? Because I think the heart of it is what, what you mentioned earlier that we both have a lot of passion around is reducing the overwhelm setting students up.


So they’re not as overwhelmed parents don’t feel like they have to be nagging them all the time. I know kids might think that we like to, but we don’t like to nag our kiddos and just setting them up for success. So it might look different a little bit based on when your student gets out of school. And when they’re heading back in, when they’ve got that more of a downtime to be able to do that, but definitely something to keep in mind.


And I should mention too. I love that approach of don’t read the essay prompts for the common app before you write, because you’re just telling your story and a personal narrative, but at the same time, we should reassure everybody prompt. Number seven is topic of your own choosing. So it really doesn’t matter if you finish writing and you look back.


All the other prompts that you like doesn’t fit any of those number seven is write what you want, right? Yes, exactly. And the coalition has the same opportunities and it, admissions officers have pretty much told us they don’t. They’re not, they won’t mind. If you tell your own story versus answering one of the more formalized prompts, there are some interesting ones, but again, I’m a big fan of let’s figure out what story you want to tell and then look and say, Hey, that might be great for the gratitude prompt or the, when you’ve challenged, something that you haven’t believed in or overcoming a challenge or whatever it is.


There is a prompt for all occasions. And as you said, there’s always the opportunity to just write whatever. So you mentioned supplemental essays. So I want to spend a little bit of time talking about those. I also am a big proponent of when you start that personal statement, high watch students writing and their maturity and their way that they tackle these types of personal essays.


These stories really mature and grow them. So I actually see them when they’re not doing the personal statement concurrently with the supplemental essay. I feel like they’ve made so much progress in tackling that big piece. First their main story, that they actually have a very easier time writing the supplemental essays when they come.


So why don’t you for our list? Kind of define what supplemental essays are, what families can expect from them. And let’s even hit the topics that are the common topics we see. Yeah. The questions in there. There, there are. And I, yes. So let’s figure out the best way to tackle this. So supplementals, what should you expect?


It really will depend on the schools. You’re applying to how many, the types of schools. There are some colleges and universities that may have six to eight supplementals, which sounds crazy. I know there are some colleges that don’t require any. So that is why I strongly urge as you go through this process that students develop NSA tracker.


Let’s see, what were some of the other questions? I know we’re going to talk about what are some of the most common topics and then yeah, some of the most common prompts, even though they may not read exactly the same will be around the following things. They will be around why this. So a school may want to know what you intend on studying.


It could be around community is a really big topic they will want to know, and you have to read the way they’re phrasing it to see really what they’re asking. But generally the point is universities colleges. They want to make sure that you are going to be a good fit for the community, that you are someone who cares about other people’s.


Who is collaborative and compassionate and what you’ve already done to show those qualities. Again, every essay, whether it’s your personal statement or your supplementals always is about highlighting different facets of your personality and character. What are some other common ones extracurricular they may ask.


What have you engaged in that you’ve really enjoyed? Or what have you engaged in as an extracurricular that you’ve really learned from? Or what have you engaged in that you would like to bring here? Like, what might you be doing that you did before and how would you grow upon it? So, Those are sort of the most typical ones.


Lisa, am I forgetting anything? The big ones. The why us? Oh, my art college. Thank you. So obviously the most popular one, and that was the one I blanked up was the most popular. Essay topic for a supplemental is going to be the why us, why this college, what led you to choose it? How did you find it? What makes this the best fit?


That is probably not only whether you are asked for that answer or not. You should be able to answer that for every college are applying to not because they will ask for it in the supplement. But I should be able to say to you, why are you choosing this college? And that students should be able to give me meaningful answers to that.


Otherwise it may not really be an authentic. Genuine choice for them. It may just be a random thing on the list and amount of fan of that. I’ve seen someone intellectual curiosity. How do you exemplify intellectual curiosity? Diversity essays are up and coming. I saw more of that last year. But yeah, I mean, those were the big ones though.


The why my major or your future planning one, I always call it the why us extracurriculars community. Those are the big ones. There’s one thing I’ve been stressing a lot this year, which is reading. There are some universities that will ask you. Tell us about the books that you’ve read for pleasure outside of what has been assigned for you.


You mentioned intellectual curiosity. They may not ask that specifically, but if I had to put a bow around, what I think is the most important thing to show it is intellectual curiosity. If you haven’t had time. Or the inclination to pick up a books the days when you were reading Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or hunger games, I hear all the time.


I just don’t have time to read for pleasure, really think about that because I think you do, but you do have to prioritize. And my suggestion or my hack is if you don’t feel like you can focus on the reading, then download audio books. But it’s going to be so important for you to not only explore topics that you’re maybe going to want to write about that are passions of yours, but reading makes you a better writer seeing sentence structure, it’s hearing word choice.


Those are things that will make you a better writer. And so whether college asks it or not intellectual curiosity, I believe is one of the most important things that any school wants to say. I totally agree. And that’s great advice. I know every parent listening to this is yes. Yes. They need to read more.


Our kids, they get so busy, but you have to be intentional with that. I think like you said, reading more makes you a better writer. We get asked all the time too about improving act and sat scores. They still matter. A lot of colleges. Sometimes even a parent of an eighth or ninth grader will say, what can we be doing now?


They want to start test prep. Well, it’s too early for test prep then, but I’ll tell you, I always say read more. That will end up showing up later for sure. So great. Wouldn’t even have thought we were going to talk about reading and our writing podcast episode, but it’s a fantastic, it’s so important. It is.


So I want to go back to reinforce something that you mentioned in, let’s talk about this August 1st, when we were talking about many colleges are going to release their supplemental essay topics around August 1st. So I want to reemphasize to people. Personal statement, coalition essays. We already have all the prompts for those, for the next cycle.


We always get those usually about January or February before, while those students are still juniors. But let’s talk about the college supplemental essay topics, because that’s where we see more of a change from year to year. And what I’ve noticed is some colleges they’ll release them. There’ll be available early.


There’ll be available before August 1st, when the common app actually opens on August 1st many colleges, then you’ll go into the common app and that’s where you’ll find those essays and they will have changed, but I’ve noticed, and you would know more frequently than I, because you work with more students on.


There are some schools that even on August 1st and supplemental essays won’t be available yet. Am I right? Yeah, no, you are right. And one, one little hack I have is if you’re able to see what the current supplemental essays are, don’t write to them. Don’t start writing the essays, but they might give you a great insight.


As to what the flavor of the school is. If they’re talking about missions and personal philosophy and inclusion and community and diversity, that gives you a really good tip. What that school values. If they’re talking about how many books have you read? Well, he didn’t, you’re going to know that you better get busy the summer.


I get back into reading because that is actually something a lot of the elites will ask. So I actually encourage students to take a peak. At what supplemental questions have been asked as part of their research process? Well, even I know you’re big on research and doing more and more with that, as you’re saying that I’m thinking, okay, if I have a sophomore and oh gosh, we’re heading into that big junior year that everybody talks about and we’re going to be doing official.


That’s a fantastic thing to do is go and look at those supplemental essays to learn about the college. What they’re asking and families may not know that you can go ahead and open or start at a common app account to go in and look at that type of information. Yeah. Any age, a parent can create an account if they wanted to, you just create that account and you can poke around in there.


And every year it rolls over and it updates. So that’s a great tool. And oftentimes these supplemental essays are listed on the admissions site of the school themselves too. So great research idea. I love that idea. What do you think are the biggest mistakes students can make with these essays? Like what advice would you leave them with, like avoid this.


Yeah, well, let me first frame it in the positive or the forces that I believe they should have. So conversely, if it doesn’t have these, then it might be something you want to look at. So one, it should be conversational. Now not the kind of conversation that you as a junior or sophomore or senior might have with your best friends.


But if you’re having a real conversation, maybe with, imagine you’re being interviewed by someone you don’t want to sound overly formal. So my big tip. Right. Like you speak. I say that all the time. That’s the biggest advice I can give is write, like you speak, do not write like you swallowed up the source.


So one, the first is conversation. Two, is it clear? I am a big fan of metaphors and analogies, but there are times where I’ve seen students lean too heavily into that and they feel every sentence needs to play off the metaphor, or every paragraph has to be another component of that to the point where it’s distracting.


It’s unclear, it’s convoluted. And I am sure that your audience well knows that unfortunately with tens or a hundred thousand applications, these readers are not going to take the time to think. Well, that student is so super clever. They’re going to be like, I don’t know what’s going on here and I don’t have the time to figure it out.


So make sure that you are prioritizing being. Over being clever, which is not to say you shouldn’t let your personality show, or if you have a great sense of humor, please let that come through, but make sure it is. Make sure that your essay is well crafted. So important. You are showing a college. This is the kind of student I am and will be.


You are going to go into much higher levels of writing, depth of thinking, critical analysis, being able to communicate clearly make your employment. Tell your story, be persuasive, convince whatever your goal is. And the craft of writing is. And then lastly compelling. And I think that goes without saying that’s your fourth and biggest thing is compelling means it’s going to stand out because when you’re reading all these essays, your eyes can glaze over.


So the ones that make you want to see what comes next, where is this going? Oh, that’s so cool. I am never going to forget that aspect of this person’s essay that is going to. Really make all the difference. So circling back to what you asked at the beginning, why is it so important is it has to do such heavy lifting.


The essays have to make you stand out because all other things being equal. That’s going to be a really important way for them to identify who do we want on campus. Who’s going to make this, the kind of institution that is what we value and that we can provide the best for our students. Well, you created a very compelling, you hit one of your, C’s a very compelling argument for really being intentional, starting early, taking the time to, to craft really their story.


They’re building a story. So whether they’re juniors getting ready to write these or they’re sophomores and the earlier stages of college planning, I think that’s the topic that everybody needs to pay attention to. Betsy. If people want to connect with you, where do they find you? You’re like Tik TOK famous in my world.


So I’m going to just draw it. And then you’re not unpicked tech all that much. I am muni. I do love it. I love talking directly to students, but my website is college essay, helpers.com. You can reach out straight through that. Please follow me on tick-tock. It can get lonely over there. I’d love the new followers.


I answer every comment. I respond to the questions people ask, and it’s very meaningful. What goes on over there and I do lives and I offer tons of tips and brainstorming exercises. I am on Instagram, also at colleges, they helpers, I should mention a tick-tock it’s Betsy underscore college sanity, because college has, they have.


So I did want people to know that is a big component of what. Is keeping perspective around this process. So on Tik TOK, it’s Betsy underscore college sanity and put all of those in the show notes so that they know I really patented fantastic resource. You’re a clever, but yet still clear on that tick-tock name.


So hitting all your seas. Well, Betsy, thank you for making time. I can attest to the fact that you do great work because you came in with the most recent group in our launch career clarity course and taught on the, how to write the why my major essay and did a fantastic job that is just going to equip our students to do a good job.


So Betsy does great work and thanks for being part of the work that I do and helping face. Thanks. Betsy, thank you so much for having me. It’s been so fun.


I can’t say enough positives about Betsy’s approach to tackling what can feel like an overwhelming project. I’ve seen her approach work firsthand when she offered a bonus course for my students inside my launch career clarity. With my launch community, Bethy focused on how to write the why my major essay for specific colleges who require it and that framework can be applied to all essays.


My regular listeners know that now is the moment I give you your weekly college bound challenge for new listeners. Here’s the scoop. I encourage a weekly family appointment to work on your college bound items to get. This keeps the momentum going, but also keeps parents from overwhelming their kids with future planning.


While you, as a parent may be able to talk about all the college-bound items daily, your teen’s brain isn’t yet fully developed to the point where they can handle that. And parents, if you are planning to pay for college, either in part or in full, it is really well within your right to hold your teen accountable.


During this college bound process. So what’s your college bound challenge this week. If you have a rising senior who will apply to college, this fall, make a timeline for essays. Remember start with the personal statement and aim to have it complete by August. First parents allow your kids to be in the driver’s seat on this project, but have agreed upon benchmarks.


And check-ins on the timeline. If you’re unsure of the timeline, grab the link to my college planning, timeline PDF in the show notes. If you have an underclass. Don’t jump ahead to essays, but instead talk about the difference between resume building and character building that we touched on in this episode.


If today’s episode was helpful to you, please share with a friend who needs this to sharing, following the podcast rating and reviewing helps us resource more students to launch into a successful. Thank you for listening to the college and career clarity podcast, where I help your family move from overwhelmed, confused to motivated, clear and confident about your team’s future. .