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What is it Like to be a Princeton Student? Hear from a Princeton Undergraduate

Learn what it's like to be a Princeton college student from one of our Essay Mentors!

The Truth About College Admissions Consultants

Learn how an experienced college admissions counselor can help you achieve your goals.

Learning from Experience: Leveraging Current College Students

How to connect with current college students + questions to ask students while visiting a college

Harvard | Student Life | Undergrad

What is it Like to be a Harvard Student? A Harvard Undergrad Shares a Day in Her Life

October 02, 2021

Get a sneak peak of what it's like to be a Harvard undergrad from one of our Essay Mentors.

Harvard | How To | Applications

How to Get Into Harvard: Advice from Admitted Students

December 23, 2020

A successful applicant's advice on what Harvard looks for in applicants.

How to Overcome Writer's Block and Ace Your College Essays

October 06, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Essays, Guide, How To, Brainstorming, Personal Statement


What is the scariest part of writing an essay from scratch?

Take it from the King of Horror himself, Stephen King:

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.

After that, things can only get better.”

Brainstorm

The first draft of your college essay will be unspectacular - and unspectacular is perfect!

If, at first, no particular topic jumps out as the perfect essay topic, don’t worry. Most people don’t get so lucky!

Plus, some of your best potential subjects might be the ones that won’t readily come to mind. In my experience, the best way to unearth some old memories or kickstart your creativity is through a guided brainstorm.

If you're looking for a place to begin, The New York Times has a great list of questions to help you get started on the right path!

Put Words on the Page

After you get a few ideas down, here's the good news: you’ve already done the hardest part of your essay!

When it comes to college application essays, the idea is paramount.

If you enter the writing process with a strong idea, your exact words and phrasing can be sculpted and revised until they accurately reflect the quality of the idea.

Now you just need to get the words down - they don’t need to be pristine, in fact, they don’t even need to necessarily be good.

The idea is that as you get words on paper, as you edit, rework, and rearrange, you will naturally hone in on the “right words.”

Odds are, your first draft will come out better than you anticipate. However, there’s no way of knowing that until you take that leap of faith and start writing. For guidance on how to start specific essays and specific prompts, one-on-one guidance from an experienced mentor can be an incredibly effective form of assistance.

As for a general approach to starting your essays, you need to be able to trust yourself and the writing process .

You’ve formulated the idea, so you know that you have the right words somewhere. Now, you need to commit yourself to trial and error in order to tease the proper verbiage out.

Be Brave

Remember that traditional isn’t better when it comes to your college essays.

Chances are, when you apply to college you'll have little to no previous experience writing college admissions essays. Most of your formal essay writing experience will have come from English class.

This time, though, you’re not trying to decode Fitzgerald’s prose or explore the themes of 1984. The goal of a Personal Statement or supplemental essay is to give admissions officers a sense of what makes you you .

You want your personality to shine through! And it doesn’t hurt if it’s an entertaining read - these officers are reading hundreds of essays every week.

Don’t be afraid to add some humor , experiment with less formal language, or open with a unique introduction .

Don’t be afraid to pick a topic that’s out-of-the-box , or to pick a topic that’s seemingly “boring” and explore it through an engaging or unexpected lens.

If you need proof that ~almost~ anything goes as an essay topic, check out this excellent essay on Costco that got its author into 5 Ivy League schools and Stanford.

Remain Focused

One final note: With every ounce of strength in your body, force yourself to avoid procrastination.

Writing an essay is hard enough on its own. The last thing you need is another excuse not to write.

As novelist Peter De Vries once wrote,

"I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock."

The writing process is long and tedious, and spontaneous bouts of motivation can be few and far between. Sometimes you just need to tell yourself to open up the computer and type!

It’s natural to put pressure on yourself to produce a perfect first draft.

As a result, though, you’ll get caught in the minutiae, constantly self-editing and deleting.

Don’t fall into this trap! It’s okay for your first draft to be too long, too short, too ridiculous. What’s more important is to get your ideas down and give yourself material to work with. It won’t all be usable, but chances are, some of it will stick.

A great (and somewhat scary!) way to write a first draft quickly and without being able to self-edit is this writing tool . It will prompt you to write for a given amount of time and erase your work if you stop writing.

Summary

To summarize a few of the key takeaways from this post:

  1. Don’t be afraid of a bad first draft

  2. Trust the writing process

  3. Take advantage of an experienced mentor

  4. Make the time to sit down and write

Good luck!

How to Pick Which Colleges to Apply To

August 22, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | Choosing a College,


Picking the right school is like picking the best dance move – you better feel comfortable with what you choose.

Otherwise, it may be uncomfortable for you and everyone else in the room.

When deciding what school might be the place for you, ask yourself the following questions:

Wait, do I even like this city?

This shouldn’t be the only factor. But if you hate the feeling of living in a bustling metropolis like New York City, it’s probably going to make your time at Columbia or NYU a lot more difficult.

You can learn to love a city (I learned to love Boston) – but it should cross your mind that you’re signing on for a 4-year deal (usually), and that comes with the city.

Who the heck even are these people?

Check out the college kids, of course! See if they’re nice, see if they’re friendly, see if they are welcoming to the new class or resentful that you are taking over.

One of the reasons I didn’t choose Duke is that I noticed a lot of people walking around with headphones compared to other places I visited.

Maybe it was just me, on that day. Maybe that’s just normal campus culture. I’m not saying Duke is bad, I just didn’t think I’d want to be part of that crowd.

Decide if you like the vibe those colleges kids are giving off, because you’re likely to act just like them.

Does the library feel like a place you could study for 4 hours a day?

Comfortable libraries are always a plus, since you'll spend way more hours studying there than you expect (or hope).

Is the food good?

Good food is always a plus.

Does it pass the classroom test?

This is the question I asked myself a lot. It’s sort of, like, my “academic” check.

Basically, I found an empty classroom and imagined it to be filled with students on a busy day. Then I examined how I felt – if I was excited to be hearing from some professor at the campus or pulling out my laptop in that space.

It’s not a hard rule, but it can be a really solid gut check.

Going to a live class is a good idea too.

Those are just a couple of questions I would ask myself when deciding what to get out of a college campus.

Hopefully you bring your best dance moves along too.

UCs v. the Ivy League

What Makes UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the UCs Unique

July 30, 2020 by Veritas Essays Team | UC, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Ivy League, Admission, Chances


The University of California schools (UCs) are a collection of public universities and institutions located in California, comprised of 10 campuses, 5 medical centers, and 3 national labs.

The Ivy League, on the other hand, is a collection of 8 private universities in the Northeast . They receive far fewer applicants per year — UC Berkeley and UCLA receive 88,000 and 110,000, respectively, while <40,000 apply to Ivy League colleges on average.

However, the Ivies also have much lower acceptance rates , all at <11% versus 16% and 17% for UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively .


The distinction between the University of California schools and the Ivy League colleges can be most clearly seen by comparing the UC system’s two most famous members UC Berkeley and UCLA — to the Ivy League.

With its close ties to Hollywood and Los Angeles, it’s no wonder that UCLA has a long list of prominent alumni who’ve made strong contributions to music , theatre , and the arts .

The Ivy League has much weaker connections to industry than UCLA, which is why UCLA has the #4 ranked film program and #1 ranked theatre program in the nation.

UC Berkeley is the engineering powerhouse of the group. It is the oldest of the UC schools, having been founded in 1868, and has had a total of 107 Nobel laureates pass through its gates, the 3rd most of any university in the world.

UC Berkeley is mainly known for its strength in engineering and CS , counting Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) and Eric Schmidt (ex-CEO of Google) among its alumni.

If you graphed the performance of students as a bell curve, the “ tail ” of weak performers at Berkeley and UCLA is probably longer than the tail of such students at a school like Harvard or Yale.

However, at the top of that curve, students at both schools will be virtually indistinguishable , and the faculty at UCLA and UC Berkeley is similarly top-notch (if not substantially better in certain fields).

Both are fantastic schools; just because they aren’t “Ivy League” does not mean they aren’t as good, if not significantly better in some fields, than schools like Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, etc.