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admissions essays college admissions College essays essay hell essay writing janine robinson write writing by The Prospect Staff | on March 11, 2014 | 1 comment | in The Toolbox | Like it

Janine Robinson, Founder of Essay Hell.

By Oriana Halvorsen, Spring 2014 Community Outreach Intern for The Prospect

Name: Janine Robinson
Website: Essay Hell (She also has two e-books on sale on her website to check out, with a third on the way this spring!)

To start off with a more career-oriented question, how did you get into the business of helping students write their college essays?

When my daughter was a junior in high school in 2008, I helped her brainstorm topics for her college essays—both for the University of California and The Common App.

When I saw that these essays were best when written in a narrative (story-telling) style, I realized that my background as a journalist, writer/editor and English teacher almost perfectly prepared me to help her.
Warning!!! All free online essays, sample essays and essay examples on Acne topics are plagiarized and cannot be completely used in your school, college or university education.

So I started helping other students in my hometown of Laguna Beach, California. And it kind of took off from there. I also started my blog, Essay Hell, and published essay-writing guide books.

In journalism, especially magazine feature writing, we often use anecdotes (mini-stories) to start off articles, which grab the reader and also illustrate the larger points or themes with colorful, engaging writing.

From the age of ten to the age of fifteen my obstacle was acne. It may sound a bit vain but this was more than a cosmetic issue. Everyday I struggled to get out of bed and face the harsh stares that would come my way. I felt crippled by it, and in a sense, I was. It determined my actions and the way I felt on a particular day. As a result, I became withdrawn and avoided activities with my friends. When I entered high school, it only got worse. The stress of more people staring at me was causing my acne to flair up even more than usual. My friends already loved me and looked past my acne, but I constantly worried about what others thought of me which caused me to withdraw even more. All I wanted to do after school was go home and do my homework and this was my daily routine for about two months.

These also work like a dream in college app essays! In my professional writing, I also use other fiction-writing techniques, such as dialogue, sensory details, metaphors and descriptive language to bring the articles to life.
Very good essay! However it is a little repetitive in the beginning about how you have acne. Just try to sum that up a bit more. Also I like how at the end you show how having acne has changed you, but I think you should use more descriptive or colorful words to really bring your essay out. Other than that great job! :)

When I saw how most college application essays were too formal and academic in style and tone—and often plain boring-I helped my students use these same techniques to make their essays lively and compelling.
The conclusion nicely sums up the key lessons found in this essay. Besides the obvious beneft of healthy skin, the author also gained "self-confdence, and newfound mental strength." The reference to the classic expression about inner and outer beauty helps introduce and conclude the essay. This creates a nice wrapped-up effect. The author's changing attitudes towards the belief that "inner beauty matters more than outer beauty" shows her transformation. At frst, she doubted both her outer and inner beauty; but after her two years of determined lifestyle modifcation, she found her inner life enriched by her improved outer appearance.

What are the most common and flat-out myths you’ve heard regarding college essays?

The worst one is that you need to impress the reader with some “wow” type of achievement or accomplishment. It’s actually the opposite: Often the most everyday topics make the best essays-riding the public bus, having freckles, loving karaoke, making crepes, learning to drive a stick shift, getting stuck in a tree, etc.

Stress is also a cause of acne. Stress cause hormonal fluctration. Now a days you can not avoid the stress. Stress is every where in the modern world that's why skin diseases are so common now a days.

It’s counter intuitive, but mundane topics work almost every time. Seriously, do you want to read about someone’s Eagle Scout award or the time they won the league championship? Not me.

Many students believe their essays need to sound serious and include lots of big words and have that formal style that they think makes them sound smart.

Essay on Acne

Acne is a skin condition or disease which can be mild or sever. Mostly acne is in the form of pimple or skin break out. Sometime it looks only redness of skin. There is no age of acne. We think only teenager can have acne but some time a middle age person also can have acne.

Instead, you want your unique “voice” to shine through. The trick is to write more like you talk.

What tips would you most recommend for students?
I always advise students to identify a handful (3-5) of the qualities that “define” them.

Almost everyone has acne at one time or another in life. Acne is a skin condition that can cause pimples such as, white heads and black heads to appear on the face, chest, back, neck, and shoulders. Most teenagers have acne for about five years, but for others it clears up much faster. Not only teenagers go through acne, but women that did not experience acne during puberty, can also get acne in there twenties and thirties. Women can also get minor acne before there menstrual period. All of us are affected by acne at one point in time or another, and some less than others, but all of us experience it and just have to deal with it because the best remedy for getting rid of acne is time.

These can be anything from creative, determined, leader, disciplined, laid-back, etc. Then start by picking one of those qualities and try to think of real-life examples from their recent past that show how or why they are this way.
Oh, and this essay ends on a pretty depressing note. I wouldn't conclude by saying how ashamed you were of yourself.
You have to focus on writing it in a way that would not offend anyone. Some people are from the ghetto and are proud of it. And I didn't get what changed your opinion about acne. I thought it was sudden, no "story" that changed how you saw it, no successful person u met that had worse problems in their appearances that didn't affect their social life, no conversations with your friends who had more acne and thought you were lucky, no campaigns with the title: "I have acne and I'm proud", or a book you read about judging people based on their inside. We want a real story. Gaining confidence isn't usually an easy process. You should show that and show how you gained it again. Give an example or a scene that would show contrast between your attitude before and after..

What you are looking for are moments or experiences you had that shaped who you are, how you think and what you care about. When you recount these “mini stories” or anecdotes in your essays, you reveal yourself in a natural way.

Even the people on the street as you walked/were dropped off to/at school? Given the context, your schoolmates would seem the most plausible. However, I had to reason here due to the lack of clarity in this sentence alone.

The best stories contain some type of “problem” that you had to handle. The problem can be anything from terrible acne to making some type of mistake. They can also be a phobia, a life change, an obstacle, challenge or idiosyncrasy.

The essay prompt is asking for an obstacle. Therefore, any writer should discuss the obstacle and why and how it was an obstacle that affected them. To gloss the obstacle over, half way through the essay, with a 'sudden new positive perspective' is, in my opinion, completely wrong in this case, considering what the essay prompt is asking for.

The beauty of a problem is that you can tell the story of what happened, and then go on to describe how you dealt with it and what you learned. Before you know it, you have a terrific essay.

What are the big essay mishaps that should be avoided?

Many students work themselves into a panic over these essays.

Acne is a modern age skin problem. In the ancient time there was no exisitence of acne. Pollution and food are the main reason of acne. Now a days we are eating foods which have lots of chemicals inside which effect the skin. In eastern countries e.g. India ,China,Egypt and Pakistan if anyone suffers from acne they mostly do the treatment of his stomach and blood, they think that if a person can digest his food well and eat fresh and organic he can not have chance to have acne and if blood can be clean it can cure acne. Acne also can be hereditary and hormonal .If any one of your parent is suffering from acne it is most chance you can suffer from acne too.

It just doesn’t help. And they also tell me they have nothing to write about, nothing makes them special. But I know this isn’t true. In fact, I have yet to find a student who put some energy into brainstorming and came up blank.
That said, I don't see in this essay an explanation of how your acne humbled you. You weren't elitist in the first place. Maybe you're trying to say that your acne ended up making you realize that people weren't "evil white racists" after all, and that you shouldn't have prejudged them on that fact. If so, that needs to be made clearer. You shouldn't end saying you feel ashamed that you were ignorant. I don't think that acne and racism can really be bundled together like this.

Not one. Everyone has stories to tell.

Also, even though the structure of a narrative essay is looser than a formal, academic essay, you still need a plan. It can be enough to just number the main points you want to cover in each paragraph to make sure your essay flows and makes sense.

Here I was an acne clad young black girl in a school full of white people. I had never seen that many white people in one place and I assumed they would think I was just another black girl from the ghetto. After I got over the whole acne issue, my number one concern was to prove them wrong of any negative assumptions they made about me.

Whatever works for you.

Don’t try to make it perfect in the first draft. Just pick a topic, find a story, jot down a rough outline or writing plan, and pound out a draft. Tell yourself you are just getting out your thoughts and ideas, and do not worry about grammar, spelling, those types of things.

Then, a friend's idea changed the course of my high school career. In late September tryouts for the girl's basketball team had started. I was not into trying out at first but after persuasion from my friends, I decided to give it a try. The week of tryouts was tough, but I was having fun with my friends, and my coach saw potential in me. In the weeks that followed, my confidence grew, and so did the amount of friends I had. I was not given perfect skin, but I was given great friends who truly cared about me. Now I realize that my acne was a gift. It humbled me and made me a better person. Later in my freshman year I found out that I was in the top ten of my class. I was very proud of myself and felt like I had shown them I am not some dumb kid from the ghetto.

Then you can go back, read it out loud, take out the redundant or dull parts, move things around to make it flow better, and fix all the small stuff later.

Another mistake is to write about a topic that the admissions folks will already learn about you from other parts of your application.

What a beautiful morning! The sun peaks through the curtains, and there’s a perfect chill frosting on the windows. Wait a second; what’s that sticking out on my face? Oh no, it can’t be! The red, angry zit throbs on my forehead, sitting just above the left eyebrow. Just perfect, how am I going to hide this? How am I going to be able to look people in the eye? What if they stare at the alien bump instead of focusing on what I’m trying to say? I couldn’t possibly go into public looking like this now. I’ll just stay in bed today. Hopefully, it’ll go down by tomorrow. Unless you’re born with freakishly flawless genes, we can all relate to this feeling of insecurity masked in unreasonable anger when we find any form of visible acne on our bodies.

If possible, tell them something they don’t know or wouldn’t discover about you elsewhere.

Are there any essay topics that are more favorable than others?

I think topics that allow students to “show their grit” are often the best.

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And these can be anything from major life crises to simple everyday challenges. The idea is that you share an experience where things didn’t go the way you wanted or expected, and how you handled it and thought about and felt and learned in the process.
The fact that she specifies "Now I realize that my acne was a gift" indicates she had once thought of her acne as a curse, but now accept it as a gift. An obstacle... that became a platform off which she claims she learned humility.

It’s not so much what you write about as what you have to say about the process. Pick a “small” subject and say something “big” about it. Works every time!

What services or programs would you recommend for students who want to improve their essays?

I think one of the best ways for students to find ideas for topics and also learn how to write in a narrative style is to read sample essays.

Bravo for writing about what must have been years filled with shame.

You can see for yourself the range of topics that make great essays, and also study how the writers structured their essays.

When you read other essays, see which ones you liked best—and try to emulate the techniques they used in your own.

I have no awards or medals to show for my particular achievement. But no academic distinction in the world can match what I gained from my experience with changing my diet: healthier skin, self-confdence, and newfound mental strength. Above all, I realized that by improving my outer appearance, I had enriched my inner appearance.

Learn to trust what moves you—stories, humor, emotion, humility, insights, etc.-and chances are, you can learn to move others the same way.

If you feel totally stuck or think you can’t write, you could always hire a private tutor or find an essay-writing class. But I believe you can find plenty of help from online sources and books on essay writing.

Author: Faisal, Contributor 2
Firstly, your introduction is attention-grabbing, but only because it suggests an air of racial insensitivity on your part, which is NOT a good thing. Your writing in many parts is not clear.

I do think those Web sites that offer to write essays for students are a total rip-off.

For what it’s worth, some of the worst essays I’ve read were from students who had a lot of “help,” from counselors, parents and/or teachers.

Heat and sun exposure also can make acne worst. People working in restaurants near the heat get acne so easily.

Although they meant well, these helpers often took all the life and color out the essays. The best essays were almost always from students who found a story and shared it in their own words.

What was the best essay you’ve ever read?

I can’t say there was one that I would call the “best” essay. They are so subjective. Off the top of my head, I loved one about a girl’s big hips, and another about a girl who took care of her dying dad, and one about collecting trash and another about driving between her divorced parent’s home each week. The topics are all over the place. But again, it’s more what the student had to say about his or her topic.

The “best” essays are those that make me want to keep reading, and when I’m done, I have formed an opinion about the writer. If I feel like I know that person a little better, and respect how they feel and think about things (even if I don’t totally agree), then I believe they have done a good job with their essay.

People say that inner beauty matters more than outer beauty. But when I looked into the mirror and saw my face covered with unsightly blemishes, it was hard to tell myself that and believe it. By the time I entered high school, my acne had gotten worse, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. So in the summer of ninth grade, I embarked on an unexpectedly diffcult and emotionally trying quest for clear skin, an experience that culminated in one of my proudest achievements.

And if I feel like I like them and would want to know them better, then I would say they did a great job. And chances are, the college admissions officials who read that essay will feel the same way.

The goal of these essays is to reveal a core part of who you are so that the colleges can get a sense of what makes you tick. I believe the main things they want to see are that you are engaged in the world, care deeply about whatever you do, have the maturity to be honest, open and introspective, love learning and can’t wait to learn more. Isn’t that the type of person you would want at your college?

Oriana Halverson is a junior at a fairly large public school in western New York. She spends her days creating lists of things to do and competing in oratorical competitions such as the wonderful Model UN. In her very spare time, she takes naps and dances on vertical apparatuses.

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