“How do I write my college application essay? What is Harvard looking for?”
That, according to Carol Barash, founder and CEO of Story2.com, is the wrong question to ask. Rather, students need to ask themselves, “What is it about me that makes me a good fit for this college?”
But finding the answer to that deep and open-ended question is the eternal quandary for busy, stressed high school seniors. This year, more choices compound the challenge, as the Common App has come out with new and revised questions, offering greater incentive for students to express their creativity and individuality. Also new this year, the Common App is allowing colleges to make the essay optional, offering a tempting choice for the overwhelmed. How can students take advantage of the freedoms they are being offered while best serving their applications?
Story2 offers a unique, free tool to help students get started telling their own story to college, approaching the college application essay from a new angle, one that inspires exciting, personal writing that engages and connects. It’s a great mechanism for the college application essay, but also a terrific lesson in writing that will serve students beyond their applications.
Students register for a free account on the Story2.com website and then follow the prompts to start their creative process, guided by text and informal mini-video lessons, as well as real students’ examples. The backbone of the system is the concept of story: Students literally tell their stories, recording a video or audio right on their own page – which they then play back and review, alert to key moments that express a trait central to their character. Once students have their story, they transcribe it and find the pivotal points around which they wrap their details. The entire process consists of 30 steps, each one a useful lesson in generating ideas, introspection, personal discovery, and writing skill.
The system is free for the first essay, allowing students to explore different ideas before choosing one to polish to completion. Additional options ranging from unlimited use to writing coach advice are offered at very low prices.
Dr. Barash says that one of the goals of Story2 has been to provide meaningful, cost-effective essay coaching. Over the past few years, she and her team have worked to develop a consistent, outcome-based method of writing. She notes that it is really a different model from others in that they don’t edit the essays for students. Rather, their model helps remove obstacles so students can do the work themselves, telling their own stories outloud in a community of story tellers – like themselves, yet each with a unique story to share.
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About the author: Karen Berlin Ishii, a graduate of Brown University, has 25+ years of experience as a teacher and test prep tutor. Karen teaches students in New York and internationally via Skype for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, ISEE, SSAT, SHSAT, IELTS, TOEFL and GRE, and also offers tutoring in reading, writing and math. Learn more about Karen at karenberlinishii.com.