Common Application Changes Its College Essay Requirements

Common Application is a site that students can use to apply for multiple universities at the same time. You may have used it to apply to a school in the past, or you may have plans of doing so in the near future. Whatever the case may be, you may want to know about the recent changes to Common Application, as they will impact your experiences with the site.

The most significant change is the removal of the “anything goes” essay topic. Students no longer have the opportunity to write an essay about whatever they want. They must write based on a series of pre-selected prompts, which minimizes the amount of creative freedom on the app. On top of that, Common App has a strict 250-500 word limit on the essays now, which they loosely enforced in the past. If a student enters an essay that does not fit in with the minimum or maximum for the site, he or she will receive an error message.

With the new system, you cannot upload a resume to enhance your applications. Schools can choose to add that option if they want to, but it is not a standard now. There are some other changes that have been put in place, all of which were designed to streamline the process a little more. Whether you like it or not is entirely up to you.

Check out the new Common Application before you start making assumptions about it. This will make sure you’re fully prepared for entrance into your school of choice.

Posted: October 10th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

Changing Your Writing for Different Kinds of Essays

It is no secret that different kinds of writing have different kinds of tones associated with them. Persuasive essays are going to sound different than personal stories, just because of their nature. In addition to this though, you need to be able to adjust your writing to suit a certain purpose. By being able to tweak this, your words will be much more effective. Here are some writing scenarios you may encounter so you can convey your thoughts in the right way.

Scholarship Essays

If you are planning to apply for essay scholarships to help you pay for college, you will need to be able to write in an academic, professional manner. The key here is to get your point across quickly, rather than taking your readers on a journey. You want to make a great impression from the first sentence. Hopefully that will be enough for you to win an award.

Class Essays

Writing an essay for class allows room for a big buildup. You don’t have to reveal your big point at the beginning. You can reveal it after you have supported it countless times over. I write so much online that I actually forget how to write like this sometimes. Just make sure that you support everything you say in detail, and you should be just fine.

Blog Posts

If you run your own blog, you can make the writing whatever you want it to be. I run about 250 of these suckers, and they all have a different tone to them. You can be super conversational in your blog, or you can make your work more formal. It’s really up to you. Just remember that people online have short attention spans. You’re probably not even reading this sentence now as a result of it ;)

Job Applications

Any writing you do for job applications needs to be short and to-the-point. Your potential employer doesn’t want to sift through hours of writing just to find out what you bring to the table. You need to make an impression in the first sentence. Bluntly convey your abilities in your writing, and you’ll be way more likely to get the job.

Posted: August 29th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

CapitaliZing yOur tItleS CorRectly

Whenever you write an essay for college, you have to come up with a topic for it. The same applies to articles you may write for the school newspaper or even emails that you need to send to people. Coming up with the words for the titles is one thing, but making sure they’re capitalized correctly is something else. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen crappy titles on paper, and the last thing I would want is for you to write like that. Thus I am making a simple guide to titling documents so you can write well every time. Let’s get started, shall we?

The general rule of thumb is to capitalize all of the words in a title accept prepositions and articles. Prepositions are words like at, for, of, and about. Articles are a, an, and the. Thus instead of writing “How To Title A Document,” you should write “How to Title a Document.” I will sometimes capitalize prepositions if there is only one of them in the title. This is especially true when it is at the end of the phrase because it sometimes looks funny on its own. “Do What You Want to” just looks funky in my opinion, so I may use my creative license to say “Do What You Want To.” It just depends on what I am writing.

A lot of newspapers will actually make their titles look like sentences, only capitalizing the first word and any proper nouns in the rest of the sentence. This article would be titled “Capitalizing your titles correctly” if it wasn’t being used in this context. I actually don’t like this idea because it draws less attention to the title of a document, but I can see how it would work for a conversational news setting. I sometimes use it when I’m writing out FAQ pages with subheadings.

Speaking of subheadings, you can use these tips for those as well. The same would apply for pictures or videos that you want to use somewhere. As long as there is a need for a title of some sort, you can use these capitalization rules. Just don’t be surprised if someone corrects you on them over time. Everyone has a different idea of how this process is supposed to work, so you will simply have to make adjustments to whatever someone else wants out of you. Use this as a baseline though, and you are sure to find success in your writing.

Posted: July 19th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

How to Organize a College Essay

If I had to identify the most important step in writing an essay, I would probably say it was the organization. Coming up with a thesis is a big part of essay writing, but it doesn’t mean anything if you do not have the proper support for it. That is where organization comes into play. If you can put your thoughts in the right order, you can get people to feel a certain way as they read your work. It’s like taking them on a journey through your mind.

Here are some tips to help you effectively organize your essays in the future.

The Pyramid Method
This is my favorite way to write essays, and I feel it is the most effective. You start by barely introducing what you are going to talk about, and then you build a pyramid of support from there. In the conclusion, you make your big, powerful assertion that makes people go “Wait, what just happened? I just got bitch slapped by brilliance!” This method is great for persuasive essays, but I use it for everything. It just makes sense.

The Inverted Pyramid Method
This is the exact opposite of the method above, where you start with a big idea and then support it afterward. I don’t like this because it lacks progression. It doesn’t keep people hooked. It may work well for a web article or a news story, but not a college essay. Nevertheless, some professors love this method, so you just have to test it out and see what they think.

The Sandwich Method
In this method, you start with something big, provide support, and end with something equally big. Basically you have a thesis at the beginning that poses a question or a problem, and then you have a conclusion that answers it. I have used this method a few times, and it has worked well. I would recommend using it at least once or two.

General Tips for Essay Organization
In the case of a compare and contrast essay, don’t do one paragraph for one story and then another paragraph for the other story. Try to mix the two together and compare them point by point. Each point would be an article all its own.

Try to talk about events in chronological order so your readers can follow them. If you jump all through a book or resource, you may lose track of your focus and fluidity.

Don’t be afraid to use small paragraphs if you have different topics in each of them. It is better to do that than to have a long paragraph that no one wants to read through.

If you follow my tips above for your next essay in college, you should be able to wow the professor and get your point across at the same time. Good luck!

Posted: June 7th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

Getting a Degree in Creative Writing

Do you love to write on a regular basis? Do ideas and word combinations flow from your fingertips? Do you have a natural way of telling interesting stories? Do you want to learn how to become a journalist? If so, you may do well with a degree in creative writing. This can lead to an assortment of careers, and it will give you a chance to explore something you love for a living. You cannot get a better setup than that. If you are thinking about going through a creative writing degree program, you need to get an idea of the work this degree may involve. That way, you can fully determine if this is a degree for you. Here is a look at life with a creative writing degree so you can make a decision about your future.

Typical Courses in Creative Writing Degree Programs
The courses that you take for your creative writing degree may be different than the courses that someone else takes. The list below reflects the curriculum at Sante Fe University of Art and Design, and it should give you a general idea of the lessons involved with this kind of degree. Here are some of the most common courses associated with a degree in creative writing:

  • 19th-Century American Literature
  • Adaptation for the Screen
  • Advanced Creative Nonfiction Workshop
  • Advanced Fiction
  • Advanced Poetry
  • American Literature
  • British Literature I
  • British Literature II
  • Contemporary Poetry
  • Experimental Writers: Cross-Genre Writing
  • Fundamentals of Screenwriting
  • Intermediate Creative Nonfiction
  • Intermediate Fiction
  • Intermediate Poetry
  • Intermediate Screenwriting
  • Living Writers: Foundations
  • Living Writers: Revisions
  • Modern American Literature: 1900–1945
  • Modern British Literature: 1900–1945
  • Modern British Literature: 1945–Present
  • Senior Reading
  • Senior Reading Lab
  • Shakespeare
  • Techniques of Creative Writing: Creative Nonfiction
  • Techniques of Creative Writing: Fiction
  • Techniques of Creative Writing: Poetry
  • The Contemporary Novel
  • The Writer in the World

Life with a Creative Writing Degree
If you choose to pursue a creative writing degree, you will be able to work in an array of career fields. These will all vary in terms of earnings and job duties, so you will have to determine what you want to do with your career. Here is a list of possible jobs to come with this education:

  • Novelist
  • Journalist
  • Copywriter
  • Senior Copywriter
  • Adjunct Professor
  • Executive Director for a Non-Profit Organization
  • Content Manager
  • Marketing Communications Specialist

The amount of money you make with a degree in creative writing will depend on several factors. One of those factors may be the size of company you work in. Possible earnings include:

  • 1-9 people in the company: $42,000 a year
  • 10-49 people in the company: $34,412 a year
  • 50-199 people in the company: $57,500 a year
  • 200-599 people in the company: $57,000 a year
  • 600-1999 people in the company: $51,500 a year
  • 5000-19999 people in the company: $67,000 a year

Look over the creative writing degree mentioned above and determine if it is right for you. If so, you could be putting your literary skills to the test in a matter of a few years. Good luck!

Posted: May 10th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

Writing an Essay in Reverse

Some students have trouble writing essays in the traditional sense, moving from top to bottom. They struggle to get words on the pages this way, which causes them to take significantly longer to write whatever they need to write. If you’re going to school at one of the top online universities, you need to know how to write well and efficiently at the same time. This is crucial in a fast-paced degree program like the ones available on the web.

When I was in college, I actually wrote all of my essays in reverse, starting from the conclusion and working my way to the introduction. This may be unconventional, but it worked for me. Here are a few reasons why you may want to use reverse writing the next time you have to write an essay for college.

Making Sure the Conclusion Is Big

When I write for the web, I can’t spend a lot of time leading up to the point. I have to let people know what I’m talking about so they don’t move on to another website. In the case of college writing though, you actually want to do the opposite. You want to take people on a journey that eventually leads to a big conclusion. This is known as pyramid construction, and it is one of the most effective writing methods you could employ in college.

If you want to ensure that your conclusion is more powerful than anything else that you say, you may want to consider writing it first. That way you don’t have to worry about saying something powerful early on and then having nothing left to conclude your essay. Practice this a few times and you’ll see what I mean. It’s just easier to create the big bang from the start and then worry about the little details that precede it.

Creating Support for the Conclusion

When you have the conclusion in place, you already know where you are going with what you are saying. If you write from intro to conclusion, you may struggle at the end to wrap everything together. I think my essays flow together a lot better when I write them from bottom to top, but that may just be me. The only way you will know if you can have the same experience is to test this idea and see what happens.

Creating an Intro with a Hint..ro

I just had to put hintro in there. It was too punny to leave out :-P Your introduction should be a statement that clearly defines your thesis and suggests where you may be going with it. It shouldn’t give away the conclusion because that defeats the purpose of the article. By writing in reverse, you will know what your big point is going to be so you can avoid revealing it too soon. You can just throw it out there casually and then reveal everything in the end. You may not be able to do this by writing the normal way.

Conclusion…Even This Article Has One

At the end of the day, I just think that reverse writing is more effective for getting a point across. You may have to work a little harder to get everything to flow this way, but you will at least have a solid foundation to work with. Try writing your conclusion, then your body, then your intro and see what happens for you. If everything works out well, you will end up with a killer essay that blows people’s minds.

Posted: April 19th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

Sounding Smart without Overcompensating

For some reason, most people think that an essay in college has to sound stiff and boring, but that is not necessarily the case. While there is nothing wrong with sounding intelligent in a college essay, you also need to keep in mind the need to make your writing interesting to read. If you’re purely focused on sounding smart, you may actually come across as someone who is overcompensating for a lack of confidence or intelligence.

Assuming you don’t want to get a bad grade for trying too hard, you may want to learn how to write in a formal, smart, and still interesting way. Here are some tips to help you get into one of the top careers in your field with proper essay writing.

Remember: Smart Words Aren’t Necessarily Big Words

Most people assume that they have to use large words to sound intelligent. “Stupidification” is a large word, but that does not mean it is intelligent or even real. You can’t always assume that you have to use 18 syllable words just to make a point. One or two syllables may suffice. See? The word “suffice” sounds intelligent, but it isn’t very long. You can use simple words that make a big impact, and that will make your writing much more successful in the end.

Don’t Use a Word You Can’t Define

One of the easiest ways to make yourself look stupid in an essay is to use a word incorrectly. That will have the opposite affect on your writing. (Yes, I used “affect” on purpose). If you don’t know what a word means, don’t use it. If you can’t think of any other word to replace it with, research the definition to make sure you are applying it correctly. Then you will at least know that you’re not going to sound like a total idiot in an essay.

Write in a Readable Way

Formal writing doesn’t have to be confusing. If you avoid slang and contractions, you will be able to come across in a formal way without sounding like you are trying too hard. Your essays still need to be readable, no matter how formal they may be. If your writing flows well, you should be able to sound intelligent without making your work confusing. I like to think that’s what I do around here, even though I make my writing a little more informal than a college essay would be. You get the point though (I hope).

Correct Your Grammar Mistakes

Grammar mistakes can turn intelligent points into distractions, which is something you never want to go through in an essay. You need to focus on making your grammar picture perfect if you are going to make an intelligent argument. Check all of the silly typos that make your essay sound stupid, and make sure that you have punctuation in all the right places. Wait a day before you edit so you can approach the work with a fresh mind. Then you will be able to look at it just like anyone else would.

Fine-al Thoughtz

Now that you know how to sound smarterer when you types up an essay onda computer, alls you gotta do is apply the principals to you’re next essay edventure. You may half to practice a lil’ bit; but eventually you should be abel to find a way to sound smart without overcompens8ing. Looks like Im off to works on my writting becuz it a-peers to be slippin’. Wish me luck!

Posted: April 5th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

Making Money as a Technical Writer

Technical writers are professionals that write about technical information, like science, technology, medicine, and architecture. These individuals have to write at a higher level than other writers because they are usually hired to construct manuals or rule books. If you have a knack for writing formal papers in college, you may also have a knack for this line of work. Here is an overview of how this process may work so you can make a plan for your future.

Where to Find Work

Most technical writing jobs are available on the internet through sites like oDesk and Elance. I find most of my technical writing work through oDesk, but I have even found work through Craigslist on occasion. You may have some companies in your area that need writers to help them out, so call around and see what sort of opportunities are available for you. Then you will know whether or not you need to have a degree to work for the company or not.

How Much Can You Make?

The amount of money that you can earn as a technical writer will depend on the kind of work you do. I used to have a technical writing job that paid $.07/word for every article that I wrote, meaning that a 500 word article was worth $35. I stopped working for the company because I found other ways to make more money for the same time I spent on that project, but from what I remember, the income was pretty nice in this profession. Listed below are some of the salary statistics from across the country to prove this point even further.

Earnings Based on Years of Experience

  • Less than 1 year: $27,353 – $54,763 per year
  • 1-4 years: $31,340 – $62,602 per year
  • 5-9 years: $38,354 – $76,586 per year
  • 10-19 years: $45,505 – $92,122 per year
  • 20 years or more: $48,626 – $98,434 per year

Earnings Based on Specialization

  • Biotechnology: $31,147 – $90,633 per year
  • Computer Hardware/Software: $33,433 – $96,578 per year
  • Engineering Services: $33,759 – $69,569 per year
  • Government Contractor: $39,184 – $85,184 per year
  • Manufacturing and Distribution: $29,288 – $75,571 per year
  • Software Applications: $34,258 – $83,467 per year
  • Software Development: $33,947 – $85,929 per year

As you can see, this would provide you with a great income to supplement your college education, and it may even turn into a full time career for you. That all depends on the kinds of work you find and the amount of experience you have in certain fields. If you land a good job early on, you could make more than a lot of certified nurse assistants make. It’s all a matter of finding someone that will pay well for the writing services you have to offer.

What Does All of This Mean?

It means that learning good writing habits now could lead you to a well-paying job in the future. I never thought much about this until I started making money as a freelance writer, and then I really saw my grammar stills being put to good use. If I had more patience, I would probably take on technical writing jobs all the time because of the great pay. If you have the ability to write effectively, use it to generate an income for yourself. You may be surprised by how much of a difference that could make in your life.

Posted: March 22nd, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

Writing with Passion When You Have None

I write every single day of the week for anywhere from six to twelve hours a day. That is a lot of time to devote to the keyboard, so you’d think that I would at least enjoy what I do. Sadly, you couldn’t be further from the truth. I may act like I love to write, but my true passion is math and design. I have never enjoyed the writing process, but I’ve always been good at it. That’s why I chose to pursue it as a career.

If you hate writing like I do, you probably have trouble conveying your ideas in college essays because the hate comes across as a lack of care. I have been down this road many times in my day, so I thought it may be nice to provide some quick writing tips for people who hate writing. Whether you’re applying for minority scholarships or you’re writing an essay for class, you will need to learn how to fake it with the best of them. Here are some tips that should help you fool the school and anyone else that comes across your writing in the future.

Write Everything at Once

When you hate to write, you will inevitably stop in the middle of what you are doing to “come back to it later.” This may work in some situations, but it is not ideal in most cases. Instead of doing that, you should write down all of your thoughts in one sitting so that they flow together consistently. I started writing this article at 12:24, and I plan to finish it before 12:36. Seeing that it is 12:26 now, I’d say I’m making pretty good time. I always write from beginning to end, without any pauses in between. That is what keeps my thoughts moving on the page, and it is ultimately what makes me efficient at my job.

Don’t Procrastinate

I am the princess of procrastination, and I have been that way since I can remember. I always assume that there is way more time in the day to do things than there actually is. Of course, I always pull off a project in the end, even if I push it off to the last minute. Nevertheless, I have learned that this is a vicious cycle to get into. If you hate to write, you need to just get it over with. Rip it off like a Band-Aid and push through it early on. Then you will have time to review your work and relax in the wonder of your writing freedom.

Use Elevated Language

As much as you may want to half-ass your work when you hate doing it, you need to maintain the quality standards for your writing. I’m not saying that you have to write like Charles Dickens or Emily Dickenson, but you do need to write like the college student you are. None of this three words per sentence crap or paragraphs that have a statement without a supporting sentence. Your professors will know when you just bullshit to get through something. You can’t let them see the frustration in your writing.

I am well aware of how hard it is to write when you don’t have a passion for it, but it is something that you will have to do throughout your life. You might as well learn how to grin and bear it now so you can fake your way to success. I do it every damn day, and I feel pretty proud to say that. You just need a little practice to do the same.

PS: It’s 12:37 now. I’m a minute late, but I don’t think I did that terribly for 630 words ;)

Posted: March 8th, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

How Web Writing Differs from Printed Writing

My husband is taking a writing for the web class right now online, and they have been talking a lot about the differences between internet writing and printed writing. The information you read in a book or magazine is a lot different than the information you read on the web, both in format and in actual content. This is something that you may not notice at first, but you will if you ever decide to write for the internet. Whether you write for a blog or for a legit website, you will need to change your structure to match the way the internet works. The overview below explains how web writing differs from printed writing so you can adjust your compositions accordingly.

Audience Differences

One of the biggest differences in web writing and printed writing is in the audiences that read the pieces. On the internet, people are looking for quick answers and entertainment. They want to be able to scan through a piece of writing and pull all of the information they want within seconds. In print, people are more willing to actually read long paragraphs to find out information and answer their own questions. This impacts the way that writers communicate their ides because they have to address the needs of their audience. The only way to do that is to understand how they think and change their styling accordingly.

Formatting Differences

Everything on the internet is broken down into chunks. Chunks are then broken up with headings, pictures, bullets, and more. You can see that in this article alone. I have headings that break up all of this text so you can read about what you want, not search for what you need. Printed works are often broken up into chapters and small paragraph sets, but only if they are really long. An essay for a class is not going to have headings like this because people are most likely to read it from front to back. They know they have a lot ot read, and they are willing to put time in to do so.

Content Differences

Web-based content has to respond to readers and search engines at the same time. Thus it has to contain keywords that a search engine can pick up on so that other people can find the work. With printed writing, you do not have to think about search engines in the slightest. All you have to do is write the information that you want to write and print it off for someone to read. That makes printed writing a lot easier as a whole, but it also make it less interesting in some ways. You have to keep that in mind as you write in the future.

Language Differences

Writing for the web tends to be more colloquial than writing for printed documents. Most web readers prefer slightly informal language because that is easier for them to comprehend. They do not want to have a thesaurus nearby just to read a paragraph or two. If you ever write for the internet, you need to make sure you “dumb down” your work a little bit to reach a larger audience.

Web writing is not for everyone, but it is interesting to learn about. I have made it my career, and I have actually gotten to the point where I struggle with essay writing for the real world. You just have to get used to the formatting you are using at any given time, as that will make a big difference in the success of your work. With the right adjustments, you can reach large audiences with ease.

Posted: March 1st, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.

Typing Tips for Beginners

When I first started my career as a freelance writer, I was far from the fastest typist in the world. I was one of those people that would peck at the keyboard just hoping my fingers would form words for me. Over the past few years though, I have gotten significantly better at this unique art form, to the point that I can now consider myself a pretty decent typist overall. I still have a lot of room for improvement, but I don’t think what I do is half bad. Seeing that I’m the kindest person to ever walk the face of the earth (wink), I figured I would share some of my typing tips with other beginners like I used to be. Here are some of the tricks I have learned while typing for a living.

Type Continuously

One of the worst things you can do when you are a slow typist is stop to correct your typos. I used to do this all time, and I would take hours on end to write a simple paragraph or two because I misspelled everything along the way. Just get all of your thoughts down in a document at once, and then you will be able to go back at the end and fix it. It takes a lot less time to reread a document and make simple corrections than it does to go through it while you type. Let it all come out first, and then you can spend time editing whatever you need to edit.

Use AutoCorrect

AutoCorrect is a unique feature in Microsoft Word that will automatically correct typos when you type them in so you don’t have to later on. This may not teach you to type well, but it will help you get through your typing quicker. I use this religiously, and it saves me a ton of time when I type. If you continuously make the same mistakes over and over and over again on the computer, you can use AutoCorrect to fix them for you. Then you will be able to get done with whatever you need to do as quickly as possible.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The more you type, the more familiar you get with the keyboard. Three years ago, I couldn’t have told you where any of the letters were on the keyboard at all. Now I can type without even looking down most of the time. I don’t always end up with the words that I meant to write, but I usually end up with something pretty close. Try playing typing games online if you have a hard time using the computer, or volunteer to type up some University of Phoenix reviews for your friends. Just do whatever you have to do to get familiar with the keyboard. You’ll be much better off that way in the end.

Find Your Rhythm

There is supposedly a right and wrong way to type, but that doesn’t make a lot of difference when it comes to your results. If you find a method that works for you, use it. It doesn’t matter how stupid it may look to other people. I had a friend of mine that used to type with one or two fingers, and he was fast as hell on the computer. You just have to figure out what your rhythm is and fall into it every time. With the right amount of practice, you can type like a pro with little effort at all. Take my advice and see if it does anything for you in the future.

Posted: February 23rd, 2012 under Uncategorized - No Comments.