College Essay Format: The ABCs of Brilliant Structure

The secret to an effective college essay format is as easy as ABC. Or "ABDCE," to be exact. It's a simple but brilliant formula that creative writing instructors refer to all the time but is seldom taught in high school. From ancient Greek drama to each and every episode of Breaking Bad, this classic narrative structure has stood the test of time. At Naked Essay, we find ourselves recommending ABDCE over and over as a college essay format. While there are exceptions, the majority of students ...
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ACT Essay Encouragement: Anyone Can Get a Top Score

Usually the ACT Essay is given only perfunctory attention during test prep. It's a shame, because with the right guidance, this is an area in which all students are capable of a top score—especially math/science types who may not see writing as their strong suit. Because every student has strengths that can be leveraged for the ACT Essay, the best instruction teaches to individual assets. For example, students who excel in math can learn how to use their natural aptitude for sequential reason...
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Money, Working, or Social Class as a College Essay Topic

If you wrote about money, working, or social class as your college essay topic, you can send it to the New York Times for possible publication in the paper.  This is an annual contest, so if you're still thinking of a possible topic for your applications next year, keep this broad category in mind. Does money make a good college essay topic? Discussing money can make for a good college essay topic, though it presents challenges. It's something that most people aren't comfortable talking about ...
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Common App Essay Prompts for 2015-16: How to Choose

Changes to the Common App Essay for 2015-16 were released March 31st. Prompt #4 is brand new; the others have been tweaked slightly. Which Common App essay should you choose? Take a look at the new Common App essay prompts below, then check out our video tutorial on selecting the best essay. Common App Essay Prompts: 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, th...
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College Essay Tips from Great Writers: Kazuo Ishiguro

One of my favorite modern writers is Kazuo Ishiguro, author of extraordinary novels such as The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go, and When We Were Orphans. Aren't his titles wonderful? He recently published his first book in 10 years, The Buried Giant, and Anna and I were lucky enough to hear him speak this week at the University of Chicago about his new book and his writing process. He explained how when he is first starting a new book, he concentrates solely on the ideas. He pays no atte...
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College Essay Topics Video: From Cliché to Captivating

Google "college essay topics" and you'll find laundry lists of college essay topics to avoid, clichés, dos and don'ts (heavy on the don'ts), warnings, and other well-intentioned rules and advice. It's enough to paralyze even the most competent writer with self-doubt and indecision: the precious time you have to devote to your college essays is spent staring down a blinking cursor. Or worse, weeks and months are wasted pressing out 650 words on a college essay topic that follows all the rules but...
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The Waiting Season

While we wish our students the best of luck as they wait for their letters of acceptance to arrive over the next few weeks, this article from the New York Times helps put the whole process in perspective.   "For every person whose contentment comes from faithfully executing a predetermined script, there are at least 10 if not 100 who had to rearrange the pages and play a part they hadn’t expected to, in a theater they hadn’t envisioned. Besides, life is defined by setbacks, and succes...
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A Year of Reading

What's the best way to prepare for your college essays? Besides actually writing them, and rewriting them, and then editing them, and of course, building life experience so that you have something to write about, it's a good idea to read as much as you can in the meantime. Read more than just school-assigned books. Those are often just chosen for their length, or their appropriateness, or the easily palatable lesson they can teach. There's so much more out there! I've always believed that eve...
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