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How to Approach the 2021-22 Common App Essay

The Common App provides many advantages for high school seniors applying to multiple colleges and universities. However, with convenience comes risk, mainly with the essay section. A poorly written essay goes out to every school, lowering applicants’ chances of college admissions success.

We at myKlovr want to make sure you have the tools you need to impress college admissions counselors. That’s why in this article, we’re breaking down the seven 2021-2022 Common App essay prompts with essential tips that will make your essay the best it can be.

Disclaimer: This advice does not contain every way a college applicant can write a compelling and persuasive Common App essay. Please brainstorm ideas and consult your English teacher for further advice.

1) Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The first four words that stick out are ‘background,’ ‘identity,’ ‘interest,’ and ‘talent,’ giving you some freedom to select a topic. The phrase ‘incomplete without it,’ implies that you possess a passion for your subject and will reflect that in your essay, a narrative ‘story.’

Essential Tips:

  • Your essay should be a chronological narrative detailing how you became interested in a topic, how your passion grew, and what you did with that passion.
  • A narrative does not try to persuade.
    • It’s okay if readers don’t care about your passion. You’re not trying to convince them of anything.
  • Once you select a background/identity/interest/talent to write about, do not go off-topic.
    • Readers will expect to learn about just ONE thing.
  • Wrap up the essay by detailing how you plan to continue developing your background/identity/interest/talent in college.

2) The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Just like before, you have choices: challenge/setback/failure. Each has a different meaning:

  • Challenge: A challenge is a difficult event, but the word itself does not imply success or failure.
  • Setback: A setback implies a problem that stopped you in your tracks. However, it’s something you overcame.
  • Failure: Failure’s the easiest word on the list. You failed in what you set out to do.

The second part of the prompt is the challenge. Readers want to know about the obstacle’s effect on you as a person and how you changed as a result.

Essential Tips:

  • Avoid a negative tone.
    • Yes, your essay deals with an obstacle (not a positive experience), but the tone should remain positive.
  • Don’t assign blame.
    • If someone was the reason for your challenge/setback/failure, it’s best to think of another obstacle or attempt a different Common App prompt. You don’t want to imply that you still hold a grudge or consider yourself a victim.
  • Focus on what you learned.
    • For this essay, it’s not the story of the event that’s important but the way you grew as a person because of it. For this reason, try to limit your discussion of the event to 1-2 introductory paragraphs.

3) Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?

Here’s another two-part essay! And like other options, it asks you to describe an event and reflect on how you grew as a person.

Essential Tips:

  • Don’t be controversial.
    • Although adolescence is a time when people evaluate what they once thought were their foundational beliefs (e.g., religion, sexuality, etc.), these topics are best avoided in an essay. You don’t want to offend your readers.
  • A changed mindset equals changed actions.
    • Your changed mindset should have prompted you to take new actions in your day-to-day life. How did you become a better person?

4) Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

The key phrase for this essay prompt is ‘in a surprising way.’ Readers will want to be entertained and informed.

Essential Tips:

  • Use standard story structure.
    • Readers will want to know about your life before/during/after the surprising event. Consider the event as your story’s climax.
  • It’s okay not to be funny.
    • You’d think that ‘surprising way’ would denote humor. That’s not always the case. Any kind of emotion can prompt a change of heart.

5) Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Like with other prompts, the first thing you do is make a choice:

  • Accomplishment: A positive thing you did.
  • Event: A positive, neutral, or negative thing that you did or experienced.
  • Realization: A change of thinking.

Once you have something in mind, consider whether it led to personal growth AND how you view other people.

Essential Tips:

  • Stay positive.
    • Although your event may be negative in nature, your essay needs a happy ending.
  • Be specific.
    • The prompt’s phrase ‘other people’ can be just one person. In fact, writing about how the accomplishment/event/realization affected your relationship with just one person encourages a stronger bond with your reader.

6) Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Unlike previous prompts, topics, ideas, and concepts are pretty much the same thing. No need to break them down with bullet points.

Essential Tips:

  • Get nerdy.
    • ‘Passion’ is the key word for succeeding with this essay prompt. In your first draft, jot down every reason this topic/idea/concept enthralls you.
  • Be conversational.
    • Like some other essay prompts, it’s okay to think of your essay as a one-sided conversation. No need to be academic or formal.
  • Branch out.
    • The essay’s second part asks you to describe how your passion influenced you to learn more. Possibilities include learning a new language or picking up a new instrument. Maybe you read a ton of books on a subject before trying to write one of your own.

7) Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

‘Any topic of your choice’ is a double-edged sword if there ever was one. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this prompt to someone who doesn’t enjoy writing in their free time. However, let’s explore some…

Essential Tips:

  • Be careful.
    • There’s a lot of freedom here, but think of your audience – busy college admissions advisors who want to know what you can contribute to their school.
  • Consider using a work sample.
    • The phrase ‘already written’ gives you the chance to include an academic paper, one that does not go over any word count limit. Like with any piece of writing, have another person read it and provide feedback.
  • Avoid controversy.
    • Seems obvious, but worth repeating. Avoid any topics that might offend your readers.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot to unpack concerning the 2021-22 Common App essay options. My advice – play around with a few of the prompts. Jot down ideas and see which one allows you to express yourself and make a positive impression. Over the summer, write a few drafts you can hone leading into this fall’s college admissions season.

Good luck!

Admissions Essays Are the New ACT/SAT Scores

Even though a vaccine for COVID-19 is coming sooner rather than later, the virus’ impact will continue to affect high school and college life in the coming year. One effect we at myKlovr noticed last spring was that more colleges and universities were becoming test-optional due to cancelled ACT and SAT test dates and the uncertainty around online testing.

This trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down for the fall 2021 college admissions season. Even if most of the United States receives a vaccine by the fall ACT/SAT test dates, it will be impossible to host 100% safe test sessions by then. As a result, colleges are making a safe bet by remaining test-optional in fall 2021.

Standardized tests were never a perfect way for college admissions counselors to measure applicants’ academic potential. But without them in the picture in fall 2021 – students who want to qualify for institutional scholarships will still need to take these tests – what will take their place in a college application portfolio?

The answer is something nearly all colleges and universities already require from freshman applicants: essays.

Yes, many schools are making admissions essays a more important part of candidates’ college application portfolio. That’s not to say that the essays were not essential in the past. They have always allowed prospective students to introduce themselves and argue why they should receive an offer of admission.

With essays the ‘make or break’ factor for many college applicants in fall 2021, this article will cover some no-nonsense and advanced tips to make your essays the best they can be

The Easy Stuff

Let’s review the easy stuff, three pieces of advice you’ve likely heard more than once regarding admissions essays.

Address the Prompt

Unless the prompt is ‘introduce yourself in any way you see fit,’ you need to address it to the best of your ability. Granted, your first draft will likely go off topic. That’s the point of a first draft. You have the chance to read each sentence and consider two vital questions:

  • Does this sentence address the prompt?
    • If ‘no,’ cut it out.
  • Is this sentence necessary to get across what I want to say?
    • Can I get rid of it?
    • Can I shorten it?

Have Someone Else Proofread it

As an English teacher, it was my job to catch students’ grammar mistakes and provide feedback. Admissions counselors, too, will notice any mistakes you make. As you know, each one isn’t going to do you any favors. The best way to avoid mistakes is to edit to the best of your ability before passing off your essays to a parent or teacher. Select an adult you know well. They will not only catch mistakes but also tell you if the essays are in your voice.

Also, if you ask your teacher, it doesn’t hurt to give them a little $5 gift card when they’re finished. They’re busy folks who didn’t have to critique your essays, after all. 

Don’t Be ‘Clever’

I’d bet that many smart and worthy college applicants didn’t get into their dream college because they tried to be ‘clever’ in their essays. In this case, ‘clever’ refers to trying to sound funnier and smarter than you actually are. Too much self-confidence and a big ego also fall into this category.

Avoiding the ‘clever’ trap involves writing the first draft from the heart. Try not to overthink as you address the prompt. If you can produce a draft that contains who you really are, feedback and editing can help you create an outstanding final product.

The Hard Stuff

Now that we’ve covered some admissions essay fundamentals, let’s look at two advanced tactics that will help your essays stand out from the competition.

Getting Started

As someone who writes for a living, I can attest that getting started with a piece is the hardest part. There will be a million thoughts spinning around your brain when you stare at that blank page for the first time. Those thoughts can lead to indecision and stress. The latter can make you feel that you’ve written 1,000 words even if the page remains blanks.

Here’s my plan for you.

I want you to get some actual paper and pens out. Write the essay prompt at the top and then put away the computer and other electronics. Listening to music is fine, as my experience as a teacher revealed that it helps some students concentrate.

What happens next, that depends on you. Brainstorming can take numerous shapes: word storms, mind mapping, and word banks, just to name a few. No matter which one you select, the point remains the same – getting your initial thoughts down on paper. No one will see them but you, so try your best to let go of excess anxiety.

I want you to fill that page up and then set it aside until the next day. Come back to your ideas ready to hunt for the best ones. Those ‘diamonds in the rough’ are your essay’s core. Use them to start writing the first draft.

The Final Edits

Imagine that it’s January-March 2022. At colleges and universities throughout the country, admissions counselors are reviewing applications. They must take extra care in reading essays, meaning that each decision takes longer than in years past. However, they must ensure that all prospective students receive a reply by early April. It’ll be a stressful time for them, to say the least.

Why bring this up? Knowing that essays are more important in fall 2021 means that you need to take a new look at the editing process, specifically when your essays are about 95% ready to submit.

At the 95% percent mark, you’ve accomplished the following:

  • Brainstormed
  • Wrote a rough first draft
  • Edited the rough first draft yourself
  • Asked an adult to provide feedback
  • Incorporated feedback into your essays
  • Made additional minor tweaks you think are necessary

In previous years, completing all of these steps meant your essays were ready to submit. But it’s 95% in fall 2021 because admissions counselors feel the time squeeze. That means your essays need to lose a little weight, even if they already come in below the maximum word count.

You should shave approximately 5% of the word count from your nearly completed essays. Shortening your work without losing any meaning makes admissions counselors’ job easier. They’ll also be impressed that you can write concisely.

When completing this stage, consider the following question when examining EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. Does this help get my point across? Maybe you don’t need that introductory clause, transition word, or brief aside.

When you take something out, reread the paragraph out loud. If it sounds fine, then you made the right choice. If it sounds off, err on the side of caution and put back the word or phrase.

Final Thoughts

College admissions essays are more essential than ever in fall 2021. But if you follow my advice, the writing/editing process can start and finish on a high note. Your essays will act as your loyal and eloquent ambassadors in the college admissions office.

Between now and next fall, practice writing any chance you get. Also, read a few good books. They’ll help you hone your writing and communication skills in more ways than you know.

AP Exams in May 2021: What You Need to Know

AP test-takers in May 2020 experienced difficulty navigating online testing. Many encountered IT issues affecting their testing experience and final score. These problems frustrated high school students and their families, as a good AP score equates to a stronger college application and the ability to earn a degree sooner than other undergraduates.

In this article, we’ll look at how the College Board is preparing for May 2021 by breaking down what they’ve changed in the last 12 months. We’ll also explore how myKlovr subscribers can use the service to earn the best score possible.

What Happened in 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic made companies around the world reevaluate how they do business. The College Board was no exception, as the company had only weeks to figure out how to administer AP exams safely.

Their solution was online, at-home testing. Unfortunately, approximately 1% of test-takers experienced IT issues, including the inability to upload work or submit answers. Students worried if their submission would count or if the College Board would allow them to retest.  Other questions concerned whether the newly developed online exams put students with disabilities or those with slower internet speeds at a disadvantage.

The College Board has had a year to fix the bugs that plagued some students and frustrated parents in 2020. Let’s see what changed!

A Look at May 2021

The first big change involves exam dates. The College Board created three testing windows. Let’s break them down:

  • Window #1: May 3-17
    • At-school testing
  • Window #2: May 18-28
    • At-home and at-school testing
  • Window #3: June 1-11
    • At home and at-school testing

At-school testing will resemble what high school students experienced before COVID-19 (There will be masks and perhaps a few plastic dividers this time). Also, multiple opportunities to give the same exam will allow schools to reduce the number of test-takers in the room, promoting social distancing.

What will online testing look like this year? The College Board’s detailed guide breaks down the technology requirements that students must satisfy before exam days, such as a fully charged computer and stable internet access.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Students cannot return to unanswered questions.
  • There are now accommodations for students with disabilities.
  • The digital testing app allows students to continue working on an exam if their computer momentarily loses its internet connection.

Other benefits in 2021 include digital practice tests launching in April.

The testing experience in 2021 also solves a problem that many students experienced in 2020 – uploading work. In 2021, no AP exam requires test-takers to upload images or other files. That information should come as a relief to high school students.

Getting Ready for Exam Day with myKlovr

In the weeks leading up to your AP exams, use myKlovr to set goals for exam-day success. Your goals may include:

  • Studying for a certain number of hours each week.
    • Always a good idea.
  • Receiving one-on-one assistance from your AP teacher.
    • Ask them to review one of your free-response answers.
  • Downloading the AP exam app and taking a digital practice test.
    • Remember, a lot of exam-day stress comes from the unknown. You need to feel comfortable with online testing if you want to do your best.
  • Checking the latest updates from the College Board.
    • Although it’s unlikely anything will change before exams begin in May, please stay on top of the latest news.

Also, don’t forget that a myKlovr subscription includes tons of Young woman studying with laptop in college libraryresources at no additional cost.

Final Thoughts

Spring 2021 is a time of hope for many reasons, including the changes to online and in-person AP exams. Please reach out to us if you have additional questions regarding how myKlovr can help you prepare for exam day and college admissions.

The Importance of Social Media in College Sports Recruiting

Social media has very quickly become a huge part of the recruiting process for student-athletes. If you’re a high school student, you most likely have a Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest account, if not all of them. Because of this college coaches have become more and more active on these platforms as a way to research and get in touch with high school athletes. It is very important to realize that coaches use these accounts as their first impression. Trust me when I say, coaches have done their research on potential athletes’ way before they make the initial phone call or email.
Now more than ever, it is so important to make sure you are posting the right content on social media, because once it is out there all it takes is one screenshot and it is saved forever. You do not want a coach seeing something that is not deemed appropriate i.e., swearing, drinking, smoking, bragging, or anything that can be considered provocative. You want to use social media to your benefit, not to your detriment.
So, what do you post? When do you post the things that need to be posted? That is where we (A4A) come in. A4A teaches athletes what content to post after big games, tournaments, showcases, meets, matches, showings, or wins. We teach our athletes that it is alright to be confident, just don’t be cocky when posting. An athlete talking about how their hard work has paid off when they hit their goal is awesome. Thank your coaches for calling the plays or your number to enable you to have scored what you did that day is even better! A great approach for high school athletes is the J.J. Watt approach: “Read each tweet about 95 times before you send it. Look at every Instagram post about 95 times before you send it. A reputation takes years and years and years to build and it takes one press of a button to ruin it.”

Just remember to be smart and be careful!

Steve Britschgi

Why Your Company Should Offer College Admissions Counseling as a Voluntary Benefit

By Thomas Broderick

Voluntary benefits provide employers an excellent, low-cost method to attract and retain the best talent. With so many options, however, human resources departments may find it challenging to determine which benefits best match their employees’ needs. Also, a benefit that employees value in 2019 may lose its luster in 2020.

When employees lose interest in a voluntary benefit, that fact does not automatically mean that the benefit in question has lost value. Every time you hire an employee, your employees’ demographics shift ever so slightly. If your company experiences moderate to heavy turnover, expect that your employees’ voluntary benefits preferences to change. For this reason, companies should curate a broad selection of voluntary benefits that they can either offer all at once or rotate as their employees’ needs evolve.

We at myKlovr created our virtual college counseling service for the large percentage of American families who cannot afford the high prices that professional counselors charge. In this article, we’ll discuss our voluntary benefit and how it can help your mid-career professionals become more effective and loyal workers.

Your Target Audience

Before discussing myKlovr’s college counseling service, let’s determine whether your company’s employees might be interested. Our service benefits high school students and their families. As a result, if Millennials make up a majority of your workforce, it may be too soon to make myKlovr a pillar of your company’s voluntary benefits package. Millennials have young families whose children range from infants to late elementary school students. However, it’s never too early to start surveying these employees on whether they would want myKlovr as a future voluntary benefit.

How myKlovr Brings College Admissions Counseling to the Masses

Over the last few decades, college admissions have become more competitive than ever. Parents with means turn to private college admissions counselors to help their children explore colleges, improve their grades and extracurricular activities, and write excellent application essays. The best counselors charge over $100 per hour, putting their fees on par with some lawyers.

We at myKlovr created the world’s first virtual college counseling service to help high school students from all socioeconomic backgrounds increase their chances of college admissions success. The service works in much the same way as hiring a private counselor. After setting up an account, students take a lengthy survey that allows our software to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and college preferences.

Students receive a list of custom-tailored academic and extracurricular goals, as well as a college match – a list of colleges where they have the best chances of gaining admission. Parents and other trusted adults (e.g., teachers, high school counselors) that students invite to view their profiles receive updates on students’ progress.

Students’ profiles also provide a dedicated space where students can curate their best academic work. They can then reference these accomplishments in their college admission essays. At the same time, teachers can review this work when writing college recommendation letters.

Finally, we are so confident in our program’s ability to help students succeed that we offer a College Match Guarantee. If a student follows the academic and extracurricular recommendation we suggest and does not gain admission to any schools on their college match, we will refund their entire subscription cost.

What You Can Expect

The college application process takes an emotional toll on students and families. Also, most parents feel great anxiety at the prospect of their children moving away. These combined stresses can negatively affect employees’ work performance. Although myKlovr cannot eliminate stress from parents’ lives, it can assure them that their children are receiving excellent college admissions advice. This peace of mind can help your employees focus on their work better.

Final Thoughts

If your company employs primarily mid-career professionals, consider surveying them on whether myKlovr matches their families’ voluntary benefits needs. myKlovr offers a competitive rate for subscribers who purchase our service through a company-wide voluntary benefits package.

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