All posts by Ramona Burns

A Closer Look at a Winning Application

“I love essays that demonstrate all of the elements of good writing—clarity, organization, correct spelling and punctuation, and engaging prose—not to mention the flare of vivid descriptors, unexpected verbs and inspired narrative flow. When I encounter an essay that is clearly the product of someone who cares about their writing, it is a treat.”

– Greg Orwig, Vice President of Admissions and Financial
Aid, Whitworth University

In the last chapter, we looked at what the college essay is all about (and not about). Now, we’re going to take a look at how a young man we’ll call Ben—who has since graduated from his dream college and is starting his career—made the most of the College Essay Yes-Yes’s in his own winning application.

Yes, Yes, Always Do These! Essay Writing Tips

1) Make it Personal

Does your essay tell a personal story? Does it have a voice? Your voice? Or can it be interchanged with an essay by Typical American College Senior? If you took your name off the essay and left it on your friend’s or teacher’s desk, would he or she be able to identify the writer?

2) Make it Specific

Later, we’ll talk more about choosing topics. But my biggest one-word tip? Narrow. If you don’t think your topic is narrow enough, it probably isn’t. Also, if your story doesn’t have a specific beginning and ending point (preferably in a time span that takes less than an hour) you may be left with a whole lot of vagueness—and boring, general language—on your hands.

Once, a student of mine wanted to write about his trip to Europe. Travel essays are risky in themselves (we will talk about that in Topics), but he insisted.

“Okay,” I said. “We can give it a try. But narrow it down.”
So he chose France.
“Smaller,” I said.
“The Louvre?”

“You’re getting closer.”
“The Mona Lisa?”

I gave him a sideways glance. “Everyone talks about the Mona Lisa when they talk about the Louvre.”

“But that’s the thing! I wasn’t into the painting,” he explained. “I liked another one in an adjoining gallery, a painting everyone else ignored for Mona.”

And, boom: we had a topic.

3) Make it Vivid

You want your reader to enter into your story, not peer at it from the outside. While you don’t want to include details just for details’ sake, you need to engage the reader enough to want to emotionally invest in your story. This essay is ultimately about you, of course, not the swampy pulp of orange juice that stuck in your teeth that jittery first morning at your new school. But that swampy pulp is detailed enough to help me feel, and experience, your story with you. And make me want to read on.

4) Make it Narrative

Not an essay-essay. A story-essay. You know. In case you haven’t gotten that idea yet.

5) Make it Natural

You’re going to put a lot of time into this. A lot of drafts. You should. If there’s ever a time to polish a piece of writing, it’s now. However, this is not the time to try out your newest “impressive” vocabulary words or imitate James Joyce.

As Mary Henry of Purdue says, “I like the real stuff. Students shouldn’t try to sound like professors. Essays should be
conversational and paint a picture.”

It’s a balance: sharp but informal; entertaining but analytical.
Be you, but be the best you, you can be. Getting an idea? In the next chapter, we’ll look at a sample student essay and see how the writer brilliantly incorporates the yes-yes’s above!

Never, Ever Do These! Essay Writing Tips

1) Don’t give them the “five-paragraph special”

Just in case you didn’t think I was serious. . . Nope. Don’t do it. Get that five-paragraph mold out of your mind. Is it gone? Like really, really gone? Good.

2) Don’t rehash all the information from your application form

That’s what the application form is for. You don’t have to squeeze in every last detail of your activities and coursework in the essay. In fact, if you do, admissions counselors will think you’re just made of what you do instead of who you are. This is important. Schools want human beings, not accomplishment machines, joining their communities.

3) Don’t list all the reasons you’re awesome

Show, don’t tell. You’ve heard it your whole life. And it applies to this essay process more than anything else. Instead of listing all your qualities (and I know you have a lot), choose one or two to illustrate with narrative. Stories, not abstractions, will stick in your reader’s brain grooves.

4) Don’t be a kiss up

Yes, you want to make connections between your life and your prospective school. But don’t just flatter them. Beautiful campus,
cutting-edge facilities, award-winning professors? Skip it. If your essay sounds like a brochure for the school, you’ve got an audience problem. They’re already convinced. Keith Gehres, Director of Outreach and Recruitment at The Ohio State University, agrees:

“You can tell by the tone and language when students are writing trying to guess what we want to hear.”

But in those misdirected attempts, the genuine voice is lost. “I’ve read some essays,” Gehres continues,

“that I personally disagree with but have the authentic student’s voice come through. We want those voices here. We need those voices here. We are a diverse student body.”

5) Don’t beg for mercy

You might have a moving, even sad, story to tell. That’s okay, as long as the end goal of telling that story is showing the admissions department character, personality, and maturity. Telling a sob story, or, worse, coming out and pleading for admission, is off-putting to any college.

So What Kind of Writing is Custom Essay?

“We should be able to pick your essay up off the floor and know it’s yours.”

– Mary Henry, Communications Manager for Enrollment
Management, Purdue University

I know what you’re thinking. Custom Essays. Introductions opening with rhetorical questions and ending in thesis statements.

Three body paragraphs, each supporting a main idea. A conclusion
that sums it all up with a bow on top. Don’t you dare.

First of all, a custom essay like that, even with the fancy bow, is hardly a “gift” most human beings want to unwrap. Second of all, this is not the kind of custom essay which admissions counselors find helpful.

Sure, formulaic five-paragraph essays have their place— when you’re first learning how to structure an argument as a beginning writer, for instance—but they aren’t the only kinds of custom essays people write.

If you’ve had a chance to read the short custom essays you will have discovered the engaging, surprising world of short personal narratives.

With rare exception, colleges are looking for this kind of storytelling arc in your main personal custom essay, not a cookie-cutter formula. Some of the best essays, according to Todd Iler, Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Purdue University, “are written like a movie.”

But, of course, it’s not enough just to tell a story. If you strive to merely entertain your readers, they won’t get a sense of your ability to analyze and reflect upon your experiences, the part of your custom essay that demonstrates your personality, maturity, and fit for the school.

So I do not believe in a college custom essay formula, of course.
But I do believe in some pretty important guidelines. Let’s start with what you should never, ever do.

Feel Yourself as a Writer

Finally, and importantly, schools want to see that you can write an essay.

Surprise: even if you’re dead set on becoming a computer engineer and don’t plan on reading a word of Austen for the rest of your life, you’ll have to write essays in college. A lot.

The admission essay gives colleges a chance to see not only how well you put your sentences together but how cohesively you can organize information and stick to a theme. Not all schools take the SAT and/or request the optional ACT essay, so this personal statement may be your only chance.

Besides, standardized test essays are written under a time crunch. The application essay can be polished to a shine.

“But wait!” Thou protesteth. “You just said this is about being 100 percent me! Shouldn’t I just ‘be myself,’ write out my thoughts, and submit?”

As you’ll discover in later chapters here, being yourself includes working hard on your essay writing. You can and should showcase your individual style, but you should also take the time and care to make it your very best.

Stress? No. Work? Yes. But with planning, strategy, and plenty of time, you’ll find this among the best work you’ve done.

College Essay Writing Advice

Students often see the essay as a persuasive tool to somehow talk a school into taking them. But have you ever thought that you might not want to be taken?

When you write a college essay that is 100 percent you—quirks and all—and a college accepts you, you know you’re headed to the right place.

But when you contort your personality and words into a college essay tailor-made for a school, stripping any semblance of your true self, you might find yourself a stranger in a strange land when September hits.

Imagine you spend days getting ready for a party. You know one of the “cool kids” is going to be there, so you shop for clothes you don’t normally wear, create playlists of bands you don’t normally listen to, and get all the dirt on the people he doesn’t like. You fake your way through the party and get his attention. Great! Now he wants to hang out.

The problem is, he’s not really hanging out with you. Before long, you’ll grow exhausted trying to fit into his world and return to the world you know and love—the world that loves you for who you are.

If you’ve done all you can to let your best self shine on the page, but you don’t make it into that “dream” school, maybe that school wasn’t so dreamy in the first place. For you. It could be perfect for your older sister or lab partner, but these four years are not about them.

They are about (getting the theme here?) you.

Effective Communication Skills Essay

Effective Communication Skills are supposedly techniques you can learn in order to improve your ability to have rewarding conversations in your professional life and in your personal life. But the most effective communication is not a skill or a set of rules that you learn and develop. Here is an explanation of what effective communication skills really are and why you already possess them.  You just need to put them to good use! I often write essays for websites, but sometimes  I have no inspiration. With the help of the unique essay writing service my essays become much better!

Effective Communication Skills Mumbo-Jumbo

If any more psychometric rules and techniques enter our lives I think all of our heads may explode. And the reason is simple. Life is not made up of machines (yet). Life is made up of people with feelings. You cannot expect to have a rewarding experience in communication while someone is speaking to you, if you are thinking about something else instead of giving your full attention to what the person is saying to you.

The key phrases above are: “speaking to you” and “saying to you”. It’s “to you” so what are you doing thinking about something else? Why are you thinking  about what you are going to say next instead of listening to what they are saying “to you”?

The Best Effective Communication Skills Are Non-Verbal
Effective communication begins and ends with first arriving in your present environment and not being stuck in your head rehearsing answers to predetermined questions you think you will be asked in a job interview. The interviewer is real. They are just like you. They have feelings and emotions and desires and goals and problems in their life just like you do and not only “just like you do”, but probably very similar ones to yours. So right off the bat you have a lot in common.

Aren’t you the least bit interested in where they came from, where they went to school, whether or not they have a family, and how they came to be in the position they now hold? These aren’t questions you are going to deliberately ask the interviewer, but if you walk into a job interview as a real person who is interested in other people, it will communicate in a very powerful and non-verbal way.

Are Passion and Profit Mutually Exclusive?

Recently I saw a movie based on the life of Bobby Jones, one of the greatest golfers of all time, who never turned professional to boot. One of the films themes explored amateurs and how theyrerealsportsmen, playing out of passion, with no money in the equation.

Amateurism can limit a sport’s potential. And Bobby Jones was lucky to be born into a welltodo family that gave him the chances and connections to build a decent law practice while winning golfs grand slam. Not to mention that not all of us possess the prodigious ability of Mr. Jones, which helped him find great success in his passion. Yet the movies message is something freelancers should consider.

Thanks to all the opportunities offered online, such as a wider client base and the greater potential to build passive income, a popular buzz phrase ismonetizing your passion.” Or the ability to make a living from what you really like to do, instead of just working for the money. What gets me back on track is the realization that I’m lucky to be able to make money on my terms. Though writing for assignment writing service sometimes becomes something I have to do, putting together words to get the message across is still a very enjoyable experience for me.

Work will always be work. Even if youre following your dreams, requirements are a great morale sapper. Its human nature. NBA players who are becoming rich from a fantasy career feel the pressure of constant practice, the busy schedule, competitiveness and earning the millions they are paid each year. Passion is replaced by a need to get the job done.

There are days when I catch myself simply working just because I have bills to pay, that I have commitments to fulfill. Not because Im genuinely passionate about what Im doing. And I notice that Im tempted to minimally fulfill a projects requirements, so that its out of the way and I can move on to the next one.

In the film, it took a while for Bobby Jones to realize his passion for golf, despite the obvious talent he had for the game. It took me a few months after graduation to discover that writing was for me. But in both cases, once the dream was discovered, all the pieces fell into place.

But we do agree on one thing: its not good when it becomes all about the profit. Thats because when passion becomes secondary, the work suffers. It becomes a hill to get over, and when that happens, it becomes hard to dedicate 100% of your skills and determination.

Why Widescreen Displays are Great for Work

Widescreen monitors are great because they make it easier for you to place things sidebyside. Not necessarily to multitask (which doesnt prove productive for many people), but to make comparisons and consulting a lot easier. The verticallygenerous visual realestate makes it easy to maneuver windows beside each other. So why does this make widescreen displays great?

I’m sure you know that it’s a lot easier comparing two things when their side-by-side rather than up-and-down. Whether you read from right to left or left to right. The need to compare things is important for many kinds of freelancers. Photographers need to see how their enhanced photos compare to the original. Writers need to consult a source as they write their articles. Web designers want to see how their code looks on a browser.

Being able to see everything at a glance doesnt necessarily overwhelm a user with too much information. Especially if only relevant data is displayed. A widescreen monitor provides more space for you to do this.

The widescreen monitor is also an affordable alternative to the dualscreen setup, where two displays work together to show a really wide image to the user. While a widescreen monitor doesnt provide that much space, its still a lot cheaper to buy one display than two.

And you don’t have to wait that long to get an affordable widescreen display; theyre slowly becoming the standard. Most new laptops feature one, and the latest LCD monitors are widescreen.

In short, if you work in front of a computer all day, cant afford a twomonitor setup, and dont have a widescreen monitor, I suggest you buy one as soon as possible. A widescreen monitor is a cheap way to show much more information sidebyside, making it easy to take in. This, more often than not, provides a freelancer or contract worker an easy way to keep all the data he needs within easy reachright in front of his eyesand makes work a bit easier.

The Difference Between Duty and Love

Man, I wish I found this quote back when we were having our theme day, which covered love. That’s because this quote:

Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.

Would’ve been perfect!

Ah well, you can’t have everything. But we can always learn. As another installment of Monday Madness opens yet another work week, ask yourself: Are you doing things because you’re required to do them, or because you really love doing them? The quote is true; the end product will always be much more beautiful when brought about by love. And you’ll find that a labor of love is definitely a lot easier to accomplish.

Of course, this isn’t a call to disregard duty. We all have the duty to make a living to support ourselves and our dependents. And we have a duty to hold up our end of the deal. Can you imagine someone who mixes duty and passion? He would be unstoppable. Duty will help him organize every aspect of his life and career, while the love will provide the inspiration, dedication, and happiness for the job.

But if duty is the only driving force for our freelancing careers, perhaps it’s time to get off and try a new path.

Have a great work week dear readers!

Freelance Myth Revealed

I this post I would like to share with you one idea.

I was once watched a totally Bmovie about a group of students in film school. Someone was picking them off one by one, the heroine got if off with a mysteriously rakish guy, yada yada yada.

And, when the killer was finally outed, who happened to be the student’steacher, the heroine furiously saidthose who cant do, teach!” before sending him to tell.

Too bad she was totally wrong.

Thats because freelancers who can teach can definitely do too. Some of the more successful freelancers Ive met are actually great teachers. They help their fellow contract workerscareers develop, and enjoy the profile associated with being an authority:

Helping Others Out

As a teacher, these freelancers freely (or not) share advice with others. They probably know the ins and outs of marketing, negotiation, and maximizing productivity. Aside from sharing unique ideas, perspectives, and insights, they also others avoid the mistakes by drawing on years of experience.

The fact that theyve worked at the job for a long time usually means theyre truly passionate about what they do, a very contagious emotion for willing recipients.

These freelancers also encourage the exchange of ideas crucial to the growth of any field, pushing it to improve. And anybody who can literally and figuratively afford to do that is successful in my book.

The Perks of Authority

An authoritative profile is very attractive to clients, publicists, other freelancers, and so many. Thats because people like to listen to what an authority has to say, approaching him rather than the other way around.

Its also human nature to want the best. Authority figures are usually experts in their fields, but this obsession with the best can also take a less practical form. A tremendously successful local photographer is a status symbol of sorts; society figures need to have pictures taken by him in order to be considered elite.

Those can can capture the ears of an audience means that he knows what hes talking about, or at least leaves the impression of his proficiency. Anyone who can pull this off is no doubt successful.

So if you find yourself fielding inquiries from people who want to learn from you, dont hesitate to take them. At the very least, youre helping someone else out, which is always a great thing. You also get to build a profile as an authority on the subject.