In the news

Let me guess what's shown up in your inbox recently. Here are the three college admissions stories that people have forwarded to me in the past few days, and there's a good chance you've got them, too.

The Common Application is open. As of August 1, you can now begin applying to college through the Common Application.

While not many people will be sending out applications for the 2018-19 school year as early as August (some schools still take applications for 2017-18 well into August), you should take time now to do the tedious work. Make sure that any information you already had in the Common App rolled over successfully for the new school year. Fill in all the basic information. Make sure you're in the system and signed up for any notifications you want.  

Essay advice in the New York Times. The August 2 Times includes a piece by Rachel Toor called "How to Conquer the Admissions Essay." It's a really good article, and I hope you'll read it. I especially hope you read the list of things not to do at the end. The section about conflict being a good thing in an application essay also merits re-reading.

But there's one sentence in the piece I'm going to insist that you ignore: "Your goal is to write an essay that makes someone fall in love with you." 

I think I understand what Toor means by "an essay that makes someone fall in love with you." You have to make your essay personal, really personal. You have to give a glimpse of who you really are and write it in a way that people can connect with that. She's absolutely right, and as someone who was on the receiving end of college applications she certainly knows what she's talking about. But "fall in love" is strong, so strong that it can really mess you up. If you go into your essay-writing process thinking you have to make a stranger fall in love with you, even figuratively, then it's far too easy to fall into the "Am I Worthy?" mindset.

What's funny is that "make someone fall in love with you" is even bad advice when it comes to literally getting someone to fall in love with you. Most people know that if you're trying too hard to be impressive and worthy of love then you're probably going to fail. When it comes to love, most people would tell you to be yourself and have confidence. If you do that, the right person will come along and fall in love with you eventually. Trying to be something else to get someone to fall in love with you is folly.

So let's say the same thing about essays. The point is to explain to colleges who you are. What are your defining characteristics? How have those characteristics been evident in your past? How do you hope to develop those characteristics and make them useful? These are the questions to think about; let them guide your outlining. 

Your goal isn't to make someone fall in love with you. Your goal is to explain as best you can what's interesting about you. If you're honest about that and take the time to write it well, then the right school is going to be interested, even if you don't have a reader "tearing down the hallway" to show your essay to others. This difference in approach can seem subtle, but it will have an oversized effect once the writing and editing are done.

Or, to put all this another way: about half the really bad essays I've read over the years happened because the student didn't bother to think much about it. The other half were really bad because the student was trying too hard to make the reader fall in love. Try not to make either of those mistakes.

UC Irvine rescinded a lot of admissions offers. Every admissions offer comes with fine print that says they can take away the offer, and every year a small number of incoming students do have their offers rescinded--usually because they slacked off their senior year or got caught cheating. 

Earlier in the summer, Harvard rescinded offers for ten incoming freshmen over hateful memes and comments in a private Facebook group. But last week U.C. Irvine rescinded the offers of almost 500 students. The school swears that the decision to more strictly enforce their requirements has nothing to do with their getting around 800 more incoming freshmen than they had planned on...but nobody really believes them. 290 of the students--the ones who were kicked out because of missing paperwork deadlines--have been reinstated. The ones who were were dismissed because of senior-year grades are appealing on a case-by-case basis, and so far very few of them are getting reinstated. 

This story is still developing, so I'll be keeping up with it.

Is there anything else in your inbox you'd like me to talk about? Let me know! Thanks for reading. Please share this with someone who would like to read it. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and you can hire me to work with individuals or groups