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Writing the Perfect College Entrance Essay

With the application pool for entrance into a top-rated school becoming more and more competitive, it is important to make your application stand out above all others. After you narrow down your list of colleges that you wish to attend, it is time to think deeply about both the colleges themselves and yourself. Your personal essay is the part of the application where you get to put your own personal stamp on it. Obviously, grades, extracurricular activities, and test scores are vital in the admissions process, but colleges weigh your essay and recommendations with equal importance, especially when comparing candidates whose other qualifications are very similar.

The prospect of writing such an important essay on an often vague topic (e.g. Tell us why you should be accepted into our university) can initially seem incredibly intimidating. However, with a little bit of thought and a basic formula, you will easily be able to write a top-notch essay that will be instrumental towards getting you into your top schools.

The most important aspect of the college entrance essay is making sure that, if the question includes several different parts, you ensure each and every one. Though some parts of the question might be harder to right about or seem less relevant to your life than others, admissions officers are looking to see if you can follow simple directions.

Additionally, a question with multiple parts will make your life that much easier as you will already have a basic outline for your essay. If the question is vague, and simply asks you to talk about yourself, it is important to create you own outline before writing. A good college entrance essay will include aspects about your past (like your background and any particular experiences that have shaped you), your present (what you are focusing on in school now, your extracurricular or volunteer activities, etc), and your future (why do want to attend the school you are applying to, what programs available are you particularly interested in, and where do you see yourself in the future).

Always keep a positive attitude about yourself and your experiences in your essay. If something negative in your life happened that you deem noteworthy, do not focus on how bad the event was, but instead try to elaborate on how the experience made you a better person and prepared you for the rest of your life.

Though the college entrance essay can seem intimidating at first, a little bit of thought and preparation will help you write a perfect essay and get you into the school of your choice.

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About CLEP

Have you ever felt like you could pass a final exam without even showing up for any of the classes? If so, you might want to look into CLEP. The College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP) is an excellent way to receive college credit without investing the time and expense involved in taking a college course. CLEP allows students to take knowledge gleaned from life experiences, independent study or professional development and apply that knowledge toward a college degree.

What is a CLEP Test?

The 34 available CLEP exams cover subjects that are required courses in many colleges. A college usually gives the same number of credits for a satisfactory CLEP score as it gives to students who pass the corresponding course. CLEP exams are generally 90 minutes long. Nearly all CLEP exams are presented in a multiple-choice format except for English Composition with Essay which, as the name suggests, requires an essay. The tests are computer-based and you will know your score instantly upon completion – again, with the exception of the English Composition and Essay exam.

Who Takes CLEP Tests?

Many people can benefit from taking CLEP exams. A college student could use CLEP to speed up the process of earning a diploma. CLEP tests can shave a year or more off a bachelor degree program. People who work full time or are busy raising a family can use CLEP to chip away at their college degree without investing time and money in classes. Career-switchers looking to establish themselves in a new field can use CLEP to earn quick education credentials. CLEP is a valuable resource for newcomers to this country who were educated abroad but whose degree is not accepted here. Students who are fluent in French, German or Spanish can earn easy credit with one of CLEP’s foreign language exams.

Do All Colleges Accept CLEP?

Not all colleges give credit for CLEP tests, but most do. Each of the 2,900 colleges and universities that grant credit for CLEP has its own rules stating which of the CLEP exams it accepts, how well a student must score on the exam in order to receive credit and how much credit will be given for an acceptable score. In addition, some colleges limit the number of CLEP credits they will grant. Check your school’s catalogue for their CLEP policy. It might be found under one of the following headings: Credit-by-Examination, Advanced Standing, Advanced Placement, or External Degree Program.

Where to Take a Clep Test

CLEP test centers are located on college campuses across the country. To register for a CLEP exam, contact a test center near you. (See link below.) Contact that test center directly to learn about its registration procedure, fees and schedule. Next, complete a registration form and mail it to the test center with your payment. Each CLEP test costs $70. Most test centers also charge a nonrefundable administration fee which varies by location.

Preparing for a CLEP Test

Begin preparing for your CLEP by carefully reading the description of the exam you plan to take. (See link below.) These descriptions give very specific information about the subject matter to be covered and the percentage of the exam devoted to each area. This will help you determine what and how much you need to study. The College Board, the body which offers the exams, suggests that students use a text book from their college’s corresponding course to study for a CLEP exam. The Board also sells an official comprehensive study guide as well as an individual study guide for each CLEP exam. The individual guides are downloadable from its website at a cost of $10 each.

Students may order custom essays for College-Level Examination Program online. Read more here about custom essay writing.

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How To Master the ACT Writing Section

If you’re in high school, and are a junior or a senior, there’s a good chance that you’re already turning your attention ahead to college. More specifically, you are probably researching schools and trying to determine where you want to go. Do you want a traditional four-year university? A community college? An online school? A school, such as Argosy University, that combines elements of online and traditional teaching? Do you prefer an institution that is public or private? There are certainly many questions to ask yourself at this point.

But before you start spending all your free time browsing or, it is important that you take the necessary steps to improve your candidacy at whatever school you ultimately choose. This means working to maintain (or boost) your grades, adding extracurricular and volunteer work to diversify your application, and taking the SAT or the ACT so that you can be considered for admission in the first place.

Originally used primarily by Midwestern schools, the ACT has grown considerably in usage and popularity in recent decades, and it now surpasses the SAT in many regards. In 2005, the ACT added a 30-minute writing section at the end of its administration. The writing section, scored on a scale from 6 to 12, has become increasingly useful in recent years to colleges that seek to assess the expository skills of their applicants.

There’s a good chance, then, that the ACT and the ACT writing section will fall somewhere on your path from high school to your dream college. Here are a few tips for easily boosting your scaled score and mastering the writing section:

Have an introduction and a conclusion. Even if your introduction seems weak and your conclusion is only a couple sentences long, breaking up your essay into the standard expository format can translate into an automatic 2 point boost on your scaled score.

Pick a side and stick to it. The ACT graders don’t care which side of an argument you support. They do care, however, that you support one side and present an explicit opinion to that effect. A student that vacillates between the two viewpoints will not be viewed favorably when grading occurs.

In the introduction, start general and end with a thesis. No matter what the essay topic, starting the introduction with a broad observation and ending it with a prescriptive thesis is sure to immediately put your essay in the top half of scorers. If the essay question is: “Should high school seniors get parking privileges over underclassmen?,” you may want to start your essay with this generic statement: “People have long debated whether seniority should entail special privileges at school.” You can then provide a couple filler sentences and then transition to your thesis statement: “Seniors should (or should not) get parking privileges for reasons X, Y, and Z.” This is a standard thesis format that can be used for any essay.

Think outside the box. Picking a side of the argument and then giving obvious supporting reasons can leave you with an essay that receives solid scores. But if you want to fall in the 10 to 12 range, you can get an added point or two by thinking outside the box. Using our previous example, a standard argument for senior parking privileges may be that there needs to be some sort of method to determine spots, it’s fair because everyone will eventually become a senior, and seniors are usually more responsible by virtue of their age. An out-of-the-box reason, however, may be that seniors might need to often leave school during the day for college interviews or internships.

Acknowledge the opposing view. Acknowledging that the other side of the argument has some validity will get you 1 to 2 easy points on the writing section. Don’t go on and on about the strengths of the opposition, simply provide one sentence where you point out an argument on the other side.

These are the main ways you can boost your score on the ACT writing section. While it may be difficult to improve the quality of your writing and of your grammar, any student should be able to learn these tips and then apply them when the time comes.

By Jennifer Smith

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