Posts Tagged ‘College Applications’

Episode #138, Ethan Sawyer, How to Write Compelling Personal Insight Questions

WATCH our interview here:

On episode 138, Alexis Avila talksto Ethan Sawyer, a nationally recognized college essay expert and sought-after speaker. Each year Ethan the Essay Guy helps thousands of students and counselors through his online courses, workshops, articles, products, and books, and works privately with a small number of students.
Raised in Spain, Ecuador, and Colombia, Ethan has studied at seventeen different schools and has worked as a teacher, curriculum writer, voice actor particularly for video games, motivational speaker, community organizer, and truck driver.
A graduate of Northwestern University, Ethan holds an MFA from UC Irvine and two counseling certificates. He lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, Veronica, and their amazing daughter, Zola. On Today’s episode, Ethan gives us tips on how to write more compelling answers to college application personal insight questions.

For another related conversation, check out podcast Episode #130 NivedRavikumar, The College Statement Guru Gives His Best Essay Tips

Buy Ethan’s book on Amazon

Ethan’s college essay tips:

Don’t write a boring, general essay.

Do write an essay that showcases your unique skill and demonstrate how that skill has changed you.

What do college admissions officers really look for?

  1. That you can write
  2. That you can tell them something that is missing on the rest of the application

Ethan’s words of wisdom for teens: Focus on what you have to offer.

Don’t sleep on supplemental essays. They ARE important.



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What was your biggest takeaway from this podcast about how to write compelling personal insight questions? Do you have any questions for Ethan Sawyer and Alexis Avila?

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SAT Prep

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October 14th, 2016
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Posted in
College Admissions Tips, Featured, Podcast, Writing
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Episode 66: Frank Bruni, An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania

On episode 66 of The Prepped & Polished Podcast Alexis talks to American journalist and New York Times Best Selling Author Frank Bruni. Frank is author of “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania”. Frank was chief restaurant critic of the New York Times, from 2004 to 2009. He is the author of two bestselling books, Born Round, a memoir about his family’s love of food and his own struggles with overeating, and Ambling Into History, about George W. Bush. In June 2011, he was named an Op-Ed columnist for the newspaper. Frank received his undergrad from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Masters degree in journalistm from Columbia. On today’s episode, Frank talks about college admissions mania, the anxious parents of college bound students, and why top tier schools are rejecting even straight A students.
Frank’s advice for college-bound teens, “Remember a college education if it’s part of a life plan that you can execute is an extraordinary opportunity and adventure regardless of what that colleges acceptance rate is and there is a bevy of colleges that can give you an extraordinary education”

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ep 66 Frank bruni

What was your biggest takeaway from this podcast? Do you have any questions for Frank Bruni and Alexis Avila?

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SAT Prep

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May 21st, 2015
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College Admissions Tips, College Interview, Featured, Podcast
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Podcast Episode 44 with Elly Swartz, Insider Advice from a College Essay Expert

Essay Writing Tips: Elly Swartz

The Prepped and Polished Podcast is an educational and inspirational show that offers tutoring and test prep tips as well as interviews with celebrities and leaders in education. It is hosted by Alexis Avila, founder of Prepped and Polished LLC, a tutoring and test prep firm for K-college.

On today’s show, Alexis talks to founder of The Essay Adviser, Elly Swartz. The Essay Adviser is a company that helps high school students craft well written essays for their college applications. Elly goes into detail about the application process, how parents can help their teens during this exciting and stressful time and much more.

Enjoy, Thanks for Listening and remember at The Prepped and Polished Podcast, We Empower You to Take Control of Your Education!


Advice From a College Essay Expert


What was your biggest takeaway from this podcast? Do you have any questions for Elly or Alexis ?

Post your tips/comments below.



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January 24th, 2015
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Five Theater Program College Application Essay Tips

Essay Expert for College Theater Programs gives College Application Essay Tips By Rosie Colosi, Essay Expert, Prepped & Polished, LLC

You brush past the curtain as you walk onstage, the floorboards creaking as your nervous feet propel you forward. You feel the heat of the spotlight as it hits your face. Your throat dries and your palms sweat as you prepare to sing. You open your mouth and…and…

If you are applying to a theater program, this scenario probably strikes excitement instead of fear in your heart. You yearn for a life upon the wicked stage and desperately hope to gain admission to a top-notch program that will equip you for a successful career in NY or LA.
But before you see your name in lights, you need to see your name on an acceptance letter.

You must go through the regular college application process, score well on your tests, and complete a performance audition. And of course, you must write an essay convincing the admissions committee that you are the next Kristin Chenoweth or Norbert Leo Butz.

Hate writing? No problem! Here’s the pot of gold at the end of Finian’s rainbow: The audition skills you have acquired on your theatrical journey will help you in your essay writing process. Read on…

1. Pick the right song
If you’re an alto, you wouldn’t sing “My White Knight” from Music Man for an audition. If you’re a tall leading man, you wouldn’t sing “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singin’ in the Rain. You would choose a song that suits your voice, personality, and appearance. Do the same thing with your essay. Pick a topic that is important to you, that means something, that tells the reader who you are. You know how voice coaches are always telling you to “sing what you love”? Well, write what you love. It’s that simple.

2. Practice, practice, practice
You would never audition for a lead in the play after listening to your audition song once, right? You’d listen to the song, find the sheet music, sing it in your room, and maybe even rehearse in front of a coach or friend. Incorporate those good habits into your writing process. Don’t submit an essay you typed in a hurry one afternoon. Allow ample time to write, revise, edit, adjust…then share with a writing coach, a trusted friend, or a supportive teacher. Outside perspectives will help perfect your ideas.

3. Hit all the right notes
It’s every performer’s worst nightmare: prepping to sing a glorious, operatic high note…but a clunker comes out of your mouth instead. To prevent that, we aim to sing right in the center of the note, we set specific breathing patterns, count note values—and all of that’s even before we add emotion. Similarly, the mechanics of grammar, spelling, and sentence structure must be on point in your essay. Misspelling a word in your first sentence can be as detrimental as singing that clunker, so do your homework on your writing mechanics—don’t just rely on spell check.

4. Be confident
You might shout to the rooftops that you’re best singer that ever lived. Or you might downplay your talent to strangers. Find some middle ground between these two extremes. Your essay should tell your dream college that you’re pretty awesome, but bragging will rub the panel the wrong way. It’s a fine, fine line between Kate Monster and Lucy T. Slut (I’m not being crude; it’s an Avenue Q reference!), so balance confidence with humility.

5. Keep breathing
You can’t sing unless you breathe. And you certainly can’t write unless you breathe. The college application process can get hugely stressful and overwhelming, but hyperventilating never helped anyone. A little dose of butterflies in your stomach can be a good thing for performers, and you may get similarly excited and scared about college, but channel that energy into your work. Do a few breathing exercises from your voice lessons before you sit down to write. Seriously. Some extra lip trills never hurt anyone…and they might even help you write your way into Carnegie Mellon.

Rosie Colosi, college essay expert and creator of Write With Rosie, earned an M.A. in English Lit from Boston College and a B.A. in English Lit from SUNY Geneseo. She has written 12 nonfiction books for Scholastic Inc., and she has performed on stages from Alaska to Athens. Most recently, she played Mrs. Claus in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes in New York City.

Are you applying to theater schools? How is your theater program essay coming along?

Post your tips/comments below.

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September 10th, 2013
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Posted in
College Admissions Tips, Featured, Writing
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Well-rounded, or Lop-sided: What do Colleges Really Want?

Writing Tutor By Meagan Phelan, Writing Tutoring Instructor, Prepped & Polished, LLC

When applying to college, you’re likely to hear about “the importance of being well-rounded.” It seems to be common knowledge that colleges look for students who’ve shown interest not only in school work, but in other pursuits, like sports, theater, music, or volunteering. Y

The reasoning is clear. These endeavors challenge you in different ways than classwork does and help you develop sensibilities separate from those you can hone as a student. For my part, I know that four years on the high school cross-country, swim and track teams taught me that even the hardest workouts—the ones that exhausted me physically and taunted me, “you can’t finish!”—were doable; I felt more confident at critical moments, like job interviews, as a result. Hours of practicing the violin, meanwhile, slowly grew in me a reserve of patience developed nowhere else; that came in handy when big school research projects required my long commitment. And I remember my theater classmates, whose work on the stage translated to confidence in public speaking, which I greatly admired.

Colleges want bodies of students who reflect these qualities: determination, confidence, patience. So as you work hard in the classroom (which is indeed critical), remember that the work you are doing elsewhere—as a Scout, volunteer, or lacrosse player—is shaping you, too. Take a moment to reflect on the way in which these activities are impacting how you approach the world; could you sum it up in a sentence?

Deviating slightly, I heard an interesting discussion recently, with respect to what colleges seek as they evaluate student candidates. Though colleges want “well-rounded” classrooms, they do not want well-rounded applicants; that is, students who are “jacks-of-all trades” and masters of none. The advice stemming from this discussion was to focus on a specific extracurricular about which you are passionate in order to reflect your investment in it. (We often do this naturally anyway.)

But focusing on one area—putting all eggs in one basket—is still not the goal; rather, the remaining advice was to layer your passion in diverse ways that guide you toward a greater understanding of it. (For example, if your passion were water color, find a way to explore that interest in your local community, perhaps by leading a class at a local retirement home. Do you like to teach? If your passion were Spanish, get involved in translating websites for local businesses who require Spanish webpages. Do you enjoy applying your skills in the business world?)

Simply put, these kinds of effort in an area you love separate you from the next student.
As you work hard now, in high school, you are likely already taking steps to stand out. This is just another to consider; what’s great, too, is that it involves more deeply pursuing that which you enjoy.

And don’t worry; if you haven’t found your “passion” yet, pursue what you appreciate, whatever that may be. Your motivation for investing time in such activities will fall out naturally when it comes time to articulate who you are in a college admissions essays (or in the world beyond). And all the while, you’ll be cultivating aspects of your character that you will call on for the rest of your life!

Meagan Phelan holds an M.A. in Science Writing from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and a B.A. in Biology from Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. She has freelanced as a science writer and is a Fulbright Scholar. She currently works as a Senior Writer and Editor at AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe risk modeling firm based in Boston.

Is it more important for students to be well-rounded or to be a master of one craft? Do colleges look at both?

Post your tips/comments below.

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May 18th, 2012
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College Admissions Tips
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Three College Application Insider Tips

[leadplayer_vid id=”525EE4234A13B”]

Alexis Avila Founder/President of Prepped & Polished discusses his three college application insider tips.

Tip 1: Make the most out of your high school experience.
Tip 2: Don’t take the SAT more than three times.
Tip 3: If there is anything on your college application that may confuse admission officers, clarify this confusion in a separate note.

Tutoring and Test Preparation

Transcript (PDF)

Full Word-for-Word Transcription

Hi everyone. Alexis here; Founder of Prepped & Polished. Having a good
college application will help your chances getting into a college. Recently
spoke to several admission directors at some top colleges in the area and
came away with some really interesting info. Here are 3 college application
insider tips. Let’s get started.

Tip Number 1 is take full advantage of high school by taking lots of
extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, and work experiences,
especially if you come from privilege. You want to show that you took full
advantage of the support you were given; otherwise, you’ll come across as
lazy and complacent. Colleges don’t like lazy and complacent students. Take
advantage of your opportunities.

Tip Number 2 is don’t take the SAT more than 3 times; colleges don’t like
that. In fact, they say that you should have spent your time more wisely in
other areas. Don’t take the SAT 6 times; volunteer somewhere.

Tip Number 3 is if there’s anything on your college application that may
cause confusion to admission officers, clarify that confusion in a separate
note on your application. For example, if you’re a straight-A student and
you got a D freshman year, explain the D.

Overall, you want college admission officers who are reading your college
application to come away with the impression that you’re a good human
being, that you’re going to contribute to society, and you’re going to take
full advantage of your college experience. I wish you good luck on your
college applications. I’ll talk to you soon.

Which of these three tips do you find most helpful? What are some other ways to strengthen a college application?

Post your tips/comments below.

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October 12th, 2010
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College Admissions Tips
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