College Admissions, College Essays, Personal Statements, Supplemental Essays

Essays are likely to be more important as SAT and ACT requirements disappear

Raise your hand if you thought the impact of COVID-19 on the college admissions process would be pretty much over by the time the application season rolled around for the class of 2022 seniors.

The general uncertainty about the pandemic that pushed a substantial number of colleges and universities to make standardized test scores optional for students applying for fall 2021 admission continues to bolster the number the SAT/ACT-optional and SAT/ACT-blind schools into 2022.

This spring, FairTest reported that over 1,400 accredited four-year universities have stated they will not require SAT/ACT scores from students applying to college for the fall of 2022. As FairTest pointed out in the article, “That’s more than 60% of the 2,330 undergraduate institutions in the United States.”

No one knows whether this trend is a temporary blip in admissions procedures or whether it represents a long-term trek away from relying heavily on testing data. Many colleges had begun the shift to test-optional in the interest of equity prior to the emergence of COVID-19, but that number skyrocketed with the virus.

Application elements such as GPA, class rank, and standardized test scores give university officials quantitative metrics for admissions. Activities and honors resumes, teacher recommendations, and personal statements complete the application with qualitative information.

The increase of SAT/ACT-optional schools and the cloud of uncertainty surrounding grades earned during remote learning experiences limit the amount of reliable quantitative information available. As a result, more and more experts speculate that the essays will assume a larger role in the admissions packet.

For students applying to top-tier colleges and universities, submitting spectacular admissions essays has long been essential. With a significant number of applicants having perfect GPAs, elite class ranking, and near-perfect standardized test scores, the tipping point for getting in moves from the quantitative to the qualitative. Qualitative elements breathe life into the application by giving dimension and detail to the human beings behind the data. With quantitative data being virtually the same, qualitative details allow admissions officials to select students who best fit the university’s values and vision.

California-based education media outlet EdSource examined the likely outcome of optional SAT/ACT exams in the state and concluded that the loss of standardized test scores places more weight on the college essays in the admissions process.

This shift humanizes the admissions process at all levels of competitiveness, giving applicants the chance to share their personal stories and, interestingly, proving that students are more than just scores. It also places personal statements and supplemental essays in a higher stakes category for a much larger group of students.

College admissions advisors and essay coaches are encouraging applicants to place a higher priority on the writing process. For the Common App essay, students should be intentional and start their work early to allow maximum time for reflection and revision. For the supplemental essays, students should put in time researching the school’s current focus for its campus community and academic programs. These school-specific essays should show that individuals share the school’s vision for higher learning and post-graduation impact.

The more time students give themselves to write, discover, refine, and revise, the better the chance that their essays will help win a spot in the college or university that will best shape them into the global community members they hope to become.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources

On Wednesdays We Write – Summer Break!

“On Wednesdays We Write” will be on hiatus for the summer. Whew! It’s been a year.

The plan for this series is to write a total of 40 prompt and challenge prompt sets that teachers, students, and writers can use to generate creative ideas and stand-alone works.

Ultimately, these prompts will become a year-long writing unit for teachers to integrate as it fits their curriculum. We will publish this content as a booklet, complete with rubrics for each primary prompt, challenge, and super challenge. In addition, we will make available downloadable slide presentations for ease of using these prompts in the classroom, uploading them to an LMS, or incorporating them into remote instruction.

While we finish writing the next 21 prompts, the content on Always Learning HQ will shift to focus on personal statements and admissions essays. It’s that time of year again, and word on the street is that with a record number of colleges and universities choosing to be SAT/ACT-optional, essays will be even more important.

We also hope to drop some teaching resources that address style and mechanics and maybe even some helpful exercises for emerging literary analysis writers.

We’ll be back on September 1 with new prompts for “On Wednesdays We Write.” Have a restful summer!

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #19

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Prompt #19:

Here are two stacks of blank index cards. Let’s say each one contains ten cards. For the pile on the left, write one thing per card that you are grateful to have done so far this year. For the stack on the right, write one thing per card that you hope to do by the end of the year.

Prompt #19 – Challenge:

Choose one card from each pile to develop more fully. Use both narrative and descriptive elements as you reflect on the past and dream about the future.

Share your reflection or dream in the comments.

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources, Uncategorized

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #18

Prompt #18:

You’ve got 90 days to make it happen. What new thing do you want to see come into your life in the next three months? Is it a skill? Knowledge? Possession? Relationship? Experience?

Make a list of all the new things you’d like to explore in the next quarter. How many can you identify?

Choose one of the items on your list and explore in writing what it is, how you imagine it will impact your life, and what your action steps will be for making it happen.

Again, you have only 90 days, so get going with the groundwork, and make your life sparkle.

Prompt #18 Challenge:

Write a poetic tribute to the new thing you will pursue in the coming months. It can be as lofty as an ode, as basic as a limerick, or as unfettered as free verse.

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources, Uncategorized

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #17

Prompt #17:

What in your sphere is old? Think about the people, places, possessions, events, experiences, emotions, and attitudes that characterize your slice of the pie we call life.

Which of these has been around for a while? Are they still here because they are classics? Are they around because you don’t like change? Anything outdated? Unneeded? Unwanted? What does old look like in your life?

Identify something from each category above, and write a short paragraph about the history of each in your world.

Prompt #17 Challenge:

Title a document with the name of one of the elements you selected for the main prompt.

Divide your writing space into two columns.

In the left column, write why you should keep this old thing. In the right column, make a case for letting it go.

Prompt #17 Super Challenge:

Choose one of the following titles: “Growth: A Case for Moving On” or “Growth: A Case for Holding On.”

Write a fully developed work on one old thing in your life that reflects the title you have chosen. In this piece, explain the history, the case for moving on or holding on, and how you anticipate personal growth will manifest as a result.

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #16

Prompt #16:

Describe this photo. Include elements of color, size, shape, and pattern. What visual “textures” are present? What is happening with light? How does the light enable and enhance all the visual elements? Capture with your words a description so vivid that an artist could paint the scene.

Prompt #16 Challenge:

Journal about the associations you have with the image in this photograph. They might be psychological or emotional, real-life or imagined. What does it make you think? How does it make you feel?

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #15

A
B
C
D
E

Prompt #15:

Select one of the pairs of images above and describe how someone would perceive each photo subject using the sense of touch. Texture, movement, and temperature work together to give dimension to physical sensations. Try to include all three in your descriptions.

Prompt #15 Challenge:

Write a brief narrative that brings together both elements in the pair you chose. Incorporate the tactile descriptions you wrote in the first part of this exercise.

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #14

Prompt #14:

Think of smoke. What is the source of that smoke? Describe how it smells in 100 or so words. Reach for olfactory-friendly words, and don’t be afraid to use comparisons to help you get the most vivid description.

Prompt #14 Challenge:

Write a poem about smoke. Include a description of the source and striking olfactory images. Give the smoke a deeper meaning. Make observations about life or the world.

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #13

Prompt #13:

Pretend these gummy flavors come in a package together. On the back is a list of the flavor names and a 25ish-word description of each. Write the names and descriptions of each flavor. Get creative.

Prompt #13 Challenge:

Choose one: superpowers or dreams. Go back to your flavor names and descriptions and add which specific superpower or dream type is associated with each gummy color.

Prompt #13 Super Challenge:

Write a journal entry from someone who ate gummies containing different superpowers or dreams. Work in the flavor names and descriptions. Detail the experience that followed.

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.

English/ELA, On Wednesdays We Write, Teacher Resources

On Wednesdays We Write – Prompt #12

Prompt #12:

Listen. What do you hear? Describe that sound.

Listen again. What else do you hear? Describe that sound too.

Listen one more time. What new things do you hear that you didn’t notice the first two times you started paying attention to the sounds around you? Describe those things.

You should have a paragraph for each of the sounds you discovered in each round of listening. Some sounds you heard because they were loudest. Others may have come to you when you listened to your surroundings at a deeper level.

The sounds may be constant, or they may be–quickly or slowly–passing through your environment.

Look back at your descriptions. Pull the sounds together into one paragraph, situating them in your surroundings.

Prompt #12 Challenge:

Take the next step and write what comes out of the auditory setting you have described. Is it a mental landscape? Is it physical? What activity is happening? Set up the scene for what will happen next.

Not sure what’s going on with these “On Wednesdays We Write” prompts? Click here to find out.