Writing an effective college essay

by Carol Sesnowitz
“Within the past seven years, I have moved 369 times.” How can that be? I certainly wanted to read more and find out. That sentence was the first sentence of a college essay that immediately captured my attention. Although the essay was one that was presented by a colleague at a workshop I attended and was not one sent to VCU, I have never forgotten that essay’s first sentence. Capturing the reader’s attention at the start is an essential element of a good essay because your essay is when the admissions staff meets you, albeit on paper. That first sentence certainly made me want to read more and to learn more about the applicant.
What is it that the college admissions committee is looking for in the application essay? The college essay is your opportunity to let us learn something significant about you. It’s an opportunity for you to tell us a true story about yourself. You can talk about your talents, values, leadership skills; or you can describe an experience that has changed or affected you. It is also a time when you can explain anything in your application that might need further information. Your essay will provide us with insight about you that goes beyond your transcript and test scores. In addition, we will learn about your writing skills, organizational skills as well as your ability to convey your thoughts using proper grammar and spelling.
Here are some quick tips for writing a good essay:
• Start early
• Answer the question
• Spend most of the time on the introduction
• Grab the attention of the reader
• Do not summarize in the introduction
• Be interesting
• Be original and be yourself
• Give examples and be concrete
• Don’t ramble
• Do not use a Thesaurus for your essay
• Use clear imagery, avoid a flowery or pretentious style
• Be sure the body of the essay is related to the introduction
• Be sure that the flow is logical
• Be sure to end with closure
• Spell check and proof carefully
So, are you wondering how that essay I mentioned evolved? Are you curious about how the student could have moved 369 times in seven years? Well, the answer’s quite simple: his parents were divorced and lived apart from each other. The student told his story about how he moved between his parents’ homes every other weekend because he couldn’t choose one over the other.
This essay wasn’t about the extraordinary or the unusual, but about an experience unique to the author that engaged the reader. That’s good storytelling. And good storytelling makes for a good essay.

Counselor Spotlight: Neci Hill

by Neci Hill
Hello! My name is Neci Hill and I’m an admissions counselor at VCU. This will be my first travel season and am excited about meeting prospective students! In a few weeks I will be traveling throughout the Shenandoah region visiting high schools and attending college fairs. I will also travel throughout the Central Virginia area. I look forward to meeting you and your families, answering your questions and helping you through the admissions process.
I was born and raised in Richmond so I have a lot of insight on what the “River City” has to offer. I am also a recent graduate of VCU. I received my Bachelor of Science in Mass Communications with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism.
If I’m not working on campus, visiting high schools, or attending a college fair, I am usually around the city eating at one of our many delicious restaurants like Sally Bell’s Kitchen, located right on campus. You may also find me out salsa dancing, at a festival or catching a movie. Richmond and VCU has many things to keep you engaged, entertained and excited!
I encourage all prospective students to spend a day on campus visiting and exploring Richmond. I recommend that you visit while classes are in session and other activities are going on so you can get a realistic “feel” of the VCU experience. I call VCU “little New York” because of its diversity and because there is always something to do!
If you don’t see me this fall on the road please feel free to email me at hillpm@vcu.edu. I would love to hear from you and would be happy to address any questions or concerns about the VCU admissions process.

Time flies by…

by Katherine Beck
It’s time for reading days here at VCU, marking the mid-point in the semester and the beginning of those dreaded mid-term exams. Students on campus can be seen shuffling more quietly than normal, coffee and books in hand.
While everyone here focuses on their studies, we thought we’d reach out to you seniors out there and pose this question:
How are your college applications coming along?
Just as reading days and mid-term exams crept up on our students here, we want to remind all of you that college application deadlines can be just as sneaky!
As a friendly reminder, here are our deadlines for freshman students applying for fall 2011:
• Guaranteed Admission for the School of Medicine: November 15
• Guaranteed Admission for the all other health professional fields: January 15
• Scholarship Consideration: December 1
• Regular Decision: January 15
A few quick pointers:
• If you plan to apply to one of the Guaranteed Admission programs, consult the Honors College website for information and to find the application: www.honors.vcu.edu
• For scholarship consideration, make sure you submit your application and all required documentation by December 1. Also, don’t forget to write the essay on the application. Check back next week for helpful essay writing tips.
• The best way to apply is to use our online application. It’s convenient, costs less than the paper application, and once you’ve submitted it, you’ll be able to go back online periodically to check to see if we’ve received all of your required materials and documentation. For details and the link to the online application, visit www.ugrad.vcu.edu/apply.
• All students who apply and submit all of the required application materials by January 15 are guaranteed a decision, via the U.S. postal mail, by April 1. We review applications on a rolling basis throughout the fall and spring semesters, so you could hear from us sooner.
Good luck as you start, continue and complete your application!

First Fall Open House

by Toulaphone Chittavoravong, Social Media Intern
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to witness my first college open house ever! I had never even been to one as a high school student, so I was pretty excited to make it to the first one at VCU this semester, hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. When they arrived, students and their families and guests gathered in the Siegel Center where they walked around and checked out different information tables. Student Parking, Student Activities, Student Health and other departments and offices were there to share information about what they provide for VCU students. Cheers of VCU school spirit helped direct everyone’s attention to the basketball court, as the VCU cheerleaders helped introduce the opening ceremony. Carol Sesnowitz, who works in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, walked high school students and their parents through the program and explained how their day would be structured and what to expect from the open house.
High school students were able to learn more about the various programs offered at VCU through academic overviews, including the School of Business, School of Engineering and School of Education, to name a few. I decided to check out the information sessions for VCU’s School of the Arts and also the School of Mass Communications. I listened in on what’s expected of students who were interested in each field and took classroom tours for fashion design majors and journalism majors. Tours lasted almost all day and families were invited to have lunch at Shafer Court Dining Center, visit the Anderson Art Gallery on campus and the local Barnes and Noble at VCU!
Even though I’m now a senior at VCU, I still found Open House to be really fun and informative. I’d recommend any student who is thinking about VCU to attend our next fall Open House on November 6.

Richmond Folk Festival

by Toulaphone Chittavoravong, Social Media Intern
What do you think of when you hear ‘folk festival’? Well, don’t let the name fool you! This past weekend, I decided to check out the Richmond Folk Festival with some friends. Every year, the Richmond Folk Festival draws thousands of visitors from across the country to celebrate different cultures with live music, dancing, crafts and storytelling, so I wanted to check it out for myself and also share my experience with you!
My friends and I decided to attend the 3-day event Saturday afternoon. We sipped on fresh smoothies and ate snow cones as we wandered around the family area and crafts marketplace. There were five different stages all playing various types of music, from salsa, brass and jazz, and even an organ gospel player! Food vendors served up delicious ethnic foods, as well as some traditional favorites like funnel cake.
I spoke to many different people who’d come from all over to attend, travelling by bus, car and bike. This year, the Richmond Folk Festival attracted more than 190,000 people – 30,000 more than last year! Since it’s a fun, diverse and free event, I expect that they will have even more next year!
Check out information about the Richmond Folk Festival and pictures from this year’s event at the following website: http://www.richmondfolkfestival.org/.

Why Come to an Open House?

by Katherine Beck
This Saturday, October 16, VCU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions will be hosting our first Open House of the fall. While out on the road, I’ve had the chance to talk to many of you about why Open House is such a great event for any VCU prospective student, so I thought I’d relay that information again in this blog.
Open House is possibly the best chance you have to get a comprehensive look at VCU. The day will start off in the Siegel Center with a Student Information Resource Fair. You and your guests will have a chance to mosey around the Siegel Center and gather information about the student resources we have available at VCU. Various offices from around campus — including Global Education, Dining Services, Residential Life and Housing, Financial Aid and the University Career Center, just to name a few — will have representatives available to share information with you. Our office will be there too, answering questions about admissions.
You’ll then have a chance to learn more about the academic program of interest to you during the academic overviews. That’s when you’ll have the chance to meet with faculty, staff and students from the many programs we offer here at VCU. Interested in more than one major? No problem! You can attend more than one academic overview.
Thinking about living on campus? VCU’s Open House is one of the only times when our resident halls are open for tours. Our dining center will also be open and serving lunch. We encourage you to try it out, since most students who live on campus will have a meal plan.
More specialty tours will be taking place through the day as well, so if you’re interested in the School of the Arts, the School of Business or Engineering, or Life Sciences, you’ll have a chance to access those facilities. In addition, we will have information sessions on several topics including admissions, military science and leadership, and the Honors College, to name a few.
There’s so much to do during open house, you probably won’t be able to do it all. How you schedule your day and what you decide to attend is entirely up to you. We’ll give you a program at check-in that will let you know the sessions, tours and academic overviews available, and from there, you make the call!
The information available to you about VCU at Open House is endless. Perhaps the best part of Open House, however, is that our prospective students (you!) have a chance to really get a feel for VCU. Our hopes are that you will be able to experience the diversity, hear about the opportunities available and ultimately decide if VCU may be the right school for you!
One last thing – if you can’t attend this Saturday, October 16, not to worry! We will be hosting another fall Open House on November 6.
More information about Open House can be found at the following website: http://www.ugrad.vcu.edu/openhouse/.