Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

Find the right college for you.

Writing an essay for college admission gives you a chance to use your authentic voice and show your personality. It's an excellent opportunity to personalize your application beyond your academic credentials, and a well-written essay can have a positive influence come decision time.

Want to know how to draft an essay for your college application ? Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing.

Tips for Essay Writing

A typical college application essay, also known as a personal statement, is 400-600 words. Although that may seem short, writing about yourself can be challenging. It's not something you want to rush or put off at the last moment. Think of it as a critical piece of the application process. Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor.

1. Start Early.

Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school. That way, you have ample time to think about the prompt and craft the best personal statement possible.

You don't have to work on your essay every day, but you'll want to give yourself time to revise and edit. You may discover that you want to change your topic or think of a better way to frame it. Either way, the sooner you start, the better.

2. Understand the Prompt and Instructions.

Before you begin the writing process, take time to understand what the college wants from you. The worst thing you can do is skim through the instructions and submit a piece that doesn't even fit the bare minimum requirements or address the essay topic. Look at the prompt, consider the required word count, and note any unique details each school wants.

3. Create a Strong Opener.

Students seeking help for their application essays often have trouble getting things started. It's a challenging writing process. Finding the right words to start can be the hardest part.

Spending more time working on your opener is always a good idea. The opening sentence sets the stage for the rest of your piece. The introductory paragraph is what piques the interest of the reader, and it can immediately set your essay apart from the others.

4. Stay on Topic.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep to the essay topic. If you're applying to 10 or more colleges, it's easy to veer off course with so many application essays.

A common mistake many students make is trying to fit previously written essays into the mold of another college's requirements. This seems like a time-saving way to avoid writing new pieces entirely, but it often backfires. The result is usually a final piece that's generic, unfocused, or confusing. Always write a new essay for every application, no matter how long it takes.

5. Think About Your Response.

Don't try to guess what the admissions officials want to read. Your essay will be easier to write─and more exciting to read─if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about your subject. Here’s an example: If all your friends are writing application essays about covid-19, it may be a good idea to avoid that topic, unless during the pandemic you had a vivid, life-changing experience you're burning to share. Whatever topic you choose, avoid canned responses. Be creative.

6. Focus on You.

Essay prompts typically give you plenty of latitude, but panel members expect you to focus on a subject that is personal (although not overly intimate) and particular to you. Admissions counselors say the best essays help them learn something about the candidate that they would never know from reading the rest of the application.

7. Stay True to Your Voice.

Use your usual vocabulary. Avoid fancy language you wouldn't use in real life. Imagine yourself reading this essay aloud to a classroom full of people who have never met you. Keep a confident tone. Be wary of words and phrases that undercut that tone.

8. Be Specific and Factual.

Capitalize on real-life experiences. Your essay may give you the time and space to explain why a particular achievement meant so much to you. But resist the urge to exaggerate and embellish. Admissions counselors read thousands of essays each year. They can easily spot a fake.

9. Edit and Proofread.

When you finish the final draft, run it through the spell checker on your computer. Then don’t read your essay for a few days. You'll be more apt to spot typos and awkward grammar when you reread it. After that, ask a teacher, parent, or college student (preferably an English or communications major) to give it a quick read. While you're at it, double-check your word count.

Writing essays for college admission can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. A well-crafted essay could be the deciding factor─in your favor. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll have no problem creating memorable pieces for every application.

What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

How do you start an essay?

The goal here is to use an attention grabber. Think of it as a way to reel the reader in and interest an admissions officer in what you have to say. There's no trick on how to start a college application essay. The best way you can approach this task is to flex your creative muscles and think outside the box.

You can start with openers such as relevant quotes, exciting anecdotes, or questions. Either way, the first sentence should be unique and intrigue the reader.

What should an essay include?

Every application essay you write should include details about yourself and past experiences. It's another opportunity to make yourself look like a fantastic applicant. Leverage your experiences. Tell a riveting story that fulfills the prompt.

What shouldn’t be included in an essay?

When writing a college application essay, it's usually best to avoid overly personal details and controversial topics. Although these topics might make for an intriguing essay, they can be tricky to express well. If you’re unsure if a topic is appropriate for your essay, check with your school counselor. An essay for college admission shouldn't include a list of achievements or academic accolades either. Your essay isn’t meant to be a rehashing of information the admissions panel can find elsewhere in your application.

How can you make your essay personal and interesting?

The best way to make your essay interesting is to write about something genuinely important to you. That could be an experience that changed your life or a valuable lesson that had an enormous impact on you. Whatever the case, speak from the heart, and be honest.

Is it OK to discuss mental health in an essay?

Mental health struggles can create challenges you must overcome during your education and could be an opportunity for you to show how you’ve handled challenges and overcome obstacles. If you’re considering writing your essay for college admission on this topic, consider talking to your school counselor or with an English teacher on how to frame the essay.

Related Articles

Tips to turn your teenager's work experience into a killer college essay, resume bullet

college essay on first job

Editor's note: This is the one in a series offering expert tips on how teens can use their  summer job experiences to craft a winning college application essay or resume bullet point. 

Summer may be a time of relaxation for many, but for those looking to soon enter the workforce or attend college, it also can be a busy time. 

While some teens score lavish summer trips volunteering abroad, interning in labs or corporate offices, or become more worldly on trips paid by parents, many have more average experiences.

These experiences are still just as beneficial for their future. 

Many teens spend their summers scooping ice cream, working concession stands, taking movie tickets and other jobs that may not gleam in comparison to some of what their peers may be doing. These experiences still make for great college essays and resume builders. The key is being genuine about them. 

Colleges and hiring managers are looking for authenticity, something that can be gained from an ordinary-but-authentic job. How can you turn your real-life work experience into an killer essay or resume point?

We've lined up experts who share their best advice.

Name: Andrew Moore, 17, of Pleasantville 

Describe your job: 

"I come in [to the Jacob Burns Film Center] for around six hours a day, and what I do is I'm an usher, so I open and close theaters, I clean the theaters when the movies come out and when I'm not opening or closing theaters I help with concessions, where I make popcorn and prepare sodas and stuff for people. Other than that, if someone needs help getting to a theater or they're lost I'll show them. Or even when like a big figure comes in I can show them around." 

How did you get it?

I don't drive yet so I wanted a job that was relatively close to my house and I really wanted to branch out, I didn't want a typical job so I was like 'Oh, Jacob Burns, let me work there, let me try to apply for a job there.' And it was really interesting and it was different so that was what I was aiming for: getting a job that was different than what normal people get, like a lifeguard or something." 

What surprised you most about the work?

"Honestly, what surprised me most was the friendly environment. I've made many friends while working here and I really did not expect myself to. I connected with a lot of people through social media; it was really surprising how open and nice and friendly everyone was when I first started working here." 

Do you think this job will help you in the future?

"Oh yes, definitely. This job has really helped me develop a nice work ethic that I transferred over to school because I started working here last summer and going into my junior year I even noticed doing school work and doing homework and studying for tests was a lot easier for me because this was a good baseline for me. It really helped me develop my work ethic." 

Tips for Writing a College Essay

College Essay Expert: Robert Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review: 

Tips for making working at a movie theater into a standout essay: "Working at a movie theater may give you a window into the general public that you could get nowhere else quite the same way. Noticing difference in what films people choose, how different ages, different types of people react to the films." 

"Take this opportunity, reflect on it, reflect on how your point of view about people may have changed over the course of your experience. You will have the basis for a very authentic, very personal essay in your own voice." 

Heighten the experience: Any job a teen may have is not only a great source of income but a source of life experience. It can work well as a base for your college essay, especially if you have thought about what you have learned at the job, about life, yourself, and about other people, Franek said. 

Tips for Creating a Resume 

Resume Expert: Amanda Augustine, career expert for TopResume. 

Tips to turn working at a movie theater into an eye-catching resume:  "Whenever you're in a role where you're interacting with masses of people, you're developing many interpersonal and communication skills from which you'll benefit over the course of your career," Augustine said.

The better you get at actively listening to and communicating with others, the easier it will be to do things like network and interview for future jobs, Augustine said. 

  • Key skills: Working as an usher or at a concession stand in a place like a movie theater allows for the development of customer service skills, communication skills, and conflict resolution skills, Augustine said. 
  • Work experience: Look to highlight instances that prove you were considered a dependable, hard-working employee, Augustine said. "Did you get your choice of shifts or did your manager specifically ask you to work on the more demanding days and shifts? In either case, it means you've developed a reputation at the theater for being a solid worker, which should be mentioned on your resume," Augustine said. 

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Analysis Of Learning: Your First Job By Dr. Robert Leannson

Robert Leamnson’s essay (Your First Job) is one of the most beneficial and interesting essays to read; he gives various suggestions and recommended ways to the student about what to do while learning and how to be successful. I’ve used most of the ways he had mentioned. In addition, Leamnson supported his point by providing science-based arguments and giving examples, which made me more excited to continue reading. 

When I first went to college, I was struggling with the amount of homework, and I didn’t know how to deal with them; I used the old and useless ways to finish my homework because I thought that college would be the same level as high school, so I didn’t prepare myself and didn’t learn new efficient ways. After reading Leamnson Essay, I had flashbacks about the ways that I’ve used to improve myself in learning, and one of these ways is to start Making notes, as Leamnson says that It’s important to make notes and not to take them, it really changed my whole learning process to the better. Taking notes helped me remember what my professor said during the class, but making notes helped me learn and never forget what I’ve learned, which also led to another essential point that Leamnson mentioned: Use it or Lose it. Understanding and remembering helped me overcome my problem with losing the information that I’ve learned. It’s very important to use the ideas or information that we understand enough to remember it. Leamnson added that practicing would help with so many things that the student may feel that they won’t be able to learn or overcome. Students also have to trust the process; it helped me start making notes, know the difference between Information and Knowledge and how to use them, the way I should study, and how to manage my time.

 I had experienced a hard time in my first semester because I didn’t know about all these ways and methods, and I’m still learning new improvements until today because learning is something that the student should enjoy and not feel like they have to do it because it would be useless, As Leamnson said “No one learns unless they want to.” 

Leamnson’s article speaks about what every student has dealt with, that’s why I believe it’s very important that every student should read it and I really appreciate leamnson for posting this article. When Leamnson’s mentioned about understanding and remembering I was very interested to read what he was going to say about it because I am the type of student who focus on certain things without noticing that I’ve missed an important note or idea that has been mentioned so I needed to work on my remembering and understanding, mostly I was understanding the idea or content but I was not remembering which means that this was a good reason why I wasn’t learning In the right way. I solved this problem by asking myself this one question after finish studying which is “What have I learned?” and when I answer it, I can decide what I should do next to help me get better.

Additionally, leamnson add more strength to his article or essay by providing examples based on science such as how to improve learning, and hoe the brain manage information.

In conclusion, Leamnson’s essay is very useful. I would recommend it to anyone struggling with the learning process because his essay explains and analyzes with clear and enough details that would help the students, it is a must read for every student I absolutely took something really useful from reading it and it was an eye opener for me, I want to use some of the ways he mentioned, and I decided to change some things that will help me become more successful, productive and most important happy We should never ignore how incredible the mind is and how it works, and after appreciating how valuable it is, no one would be happy without using it and making themselves the most successful and happy people.

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College Application Essay - The Job I Should Have Quit

An Essay by Drew Written for the Common Application

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  • Ph.D., English, University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A., English, University of Pennsylvania
  • B.S., Materials Science & Engineering and Literature, MIT

Drew wrote the following college admissions personal essay for question #1 on the pre-2013 Common Application : "Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you."  

The essay, however, is not dated, and several of the current Common Application questions would work well. It would be well-suited for Option #3: "Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?" It could also work with option #2 on challenges and failures, or option #7, the open topic.

Note that Drew's essay was written in 2010 before the current 650-word length limit was imposed, so it comes in at a little over 700 words.

The Strengths of Drew's Essay

Drew's essay succeeds because it is refreshingly honest , and he doesn't try to present himself as infallible. It is also free of major errors , introspective , and successful in conveying his passion for mechanical engineering.

The Job I Should Have Quit
You can learn a lot about me from a quick glance in my closet. You’ll find no clothes, but shelves filled with motorized Lego kits, Erector sets, model rockets, remote control race cars, and boxes full of motors, wires, batteries, propellers, soldering irons and hand tools. I’ve always enjoyed building things. No one was surprised when I decided to apply to college for mechanical engineering.
When last May a friend of my father’s asked me if I wanted a summer job working for his machining company, I jumped at the opportunity. I would learn how to use computer-operated lathes and milling machines, and I would gain valuable hands-on experience for my college studies.
Within hours of beginning my new job, I learned that my father’s friend was a subcontractor for the military. The components I’d be making would be used in military vehicles. After that first day of work, I had many conflicting thoughts. I’m firmly against the United States’ overuse of military might in the world theater. I’m a big critic of our mismanaged involvement in the Middle East. I’m appalled by the number of lives that have been lost in military conflicts, many of them young Americans like myself. I want our troops to have the best equipment they can, but I also believe that our possession of the best military equipment makes us more likely to go to war. Military technology continues to grow more lethal, and technological developments create a never-ending cycle of military escalation.
Did I want to be part of this cycle? To this day I still weigh the ethical dilemma of my summer work. Were I to not do the job, the vehicle components would still be produced. Also, the parts I was making were for support vehicles, not assault weaponry. It’s even possible that my work would be saving lives, not endangering them. On the other hand, nuclear bombs and missile guidance systems were all created by scientists and engineers with good intentions. I’m convinced that even the most innocent involvement in the science of war makes one complicit in war itself.
I considered quitting the job. Were I true to my ideals, I really should have walked away and spent the summer mowing lawns or bagging groceries. My parents argued in favor of the machinist job. They made valid points about the value of the experience and the ways that it would lead to bigger opportunities in the future.
In the end I kept the job, partly from my parents’ advice and partly from my own desire to be doing real engineering work. Looking back, I think my decision was one of convenience and cowardice. I didn’t want to insult my father’s friend. I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. I didn’t want to let a professional opportunity slip away. I didn’t want to mow lawns.
But what does my decision say about the future? My summer job made me recognize that the military is a big employer of engineers, whether directly or indirectly. Undoubtedly I’ll be confronting similar yet more serious ethical decisions in the future. What if my first job offer has a stunning salary and interesting engineering challenges, but the employer is a defense contractor like Lockheed or Raytheon? Will I turn down the job, or will I once again compromise my ideals? I may even face such conflicts during college. Many engineering professors work under military grants, so my college research and internships could get entangled in messy ethical dilemmas.
I’m hoping I’ll make a better decision the next time my ideals are challenged. If nothing else, my summer job has made me more aware of the types of information I want to collect before I accept a job and arrive at my first day of work. What I learned about myself during my summer work wasn’t exactly flattering. Indeed, it makes me realize that I need college so that I can develop not just my engineering skills, but also my ethical reasoning and leadership skills. I like to think that in the future I’ll use my engineering skills to better the world and tackle noble causes like climate change and sustainability. My bad decision this past summer has inspired me to look ahead and find ways to make my ideals and my love of engineering work together.

A Critique of Drew's Essay

The significant experience topic on the  Common Application  raises unique issues that are discussed in these  5 writing tips . Like all college admissions essays, however, essays for Common Application option #1 must accomplish a specific task: they must be written clearly and tightly, and they must provide evidence that the writer has the intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness and the strength of character necessary to be a contributing and successful member of the campus community.

The Essay's Title

Writing a good essay title is often a challenge. Drew's title is rather straight-forward, but it is also quite effective. We immediately want to know  why  Drew should have quit this job. We also want to know why he  didn't  quit the job. Also, the title captures a key element of Drew's essay—Drew is not writing about a great success he had, but a personal failure. His approach carries with it a little risk, but it is also a refreshing change from all the essays about how great the writer is.

The Essay Topic

Most applicants think they have to make themselves look super-human or infallible in their essays. The admissions folks read scores of essays on "significant events" in which the writer describes a winning touchdown, a brilliant moment of leadership, a perfectly executed solo, or the happiness brought to the less-fortunate by an act of charity.

Drew does not go down this predictable road. At the heart of Drew's essay is a failure -- he acted in a way that did not live up to his personal ideals. He chose convenience and self-advancement over his values, and he emerges from his ethical dilemma thinking he did the wrong thing.

One could argue that Drew's approach to the essay is foolish. Does a top college really want to admit a student who so easily compromises his values?

But let's think of the issue differently. Does a college want to admit all those students whose essays present them as braggarts and egoists? Drew's essay has a pleasing level of self awareness and self criticism. We all make mistakes, and Drew owns up to his. He is disturbed by his decision, and his essay explores his inner conflicts. Drew is not perfect—none of us are—and he is refreshingly up front about this fact. Drew has room to grow and he knows it.

Also, Drew's essay isn't just about his faulty decision. It also presents his strengths -- he is passionate about mechanical engineering and has been for most of his life. The essay succeeds in showing off his strengths at the very time it examines his weaknesses.

Essay option #1 often leads to a bunch of predictable and conventional essays, but Drew's will stand out from the rest of the pile.

The Essay Tone

Drew is a fairly serious and introspective guy, so we don't find much humor in his essay. At the same time, the writing isn't too heavy. The opening description of Drew's closet and the repeated mention of mowing lawns add a little lightness to the writing.

Most importantly, the essay manages to convey a level of humility that is refreshing. Drew comes across as a decent person, someone who we'd like to get to know better.

The Author's Writing Ability

Drew's essay has been carefully edited and revised. It contains no glaring problems with grammar and style. The language is tight and the details are well chosen. The prose is tight with a good variety of sentence structure. Immediately Drew's essay tells the admissions folks that he is in control of his writing and ready for the challenges of college-level work.

Drew's piece comes in around 730 words. The admissions officers have thousands of essays to process, so we want to keep the essay short. Drew's response gets the job done effectively without rambling on. The admissions folks are unlikely to lose interest. Like  Carrie's essay , Drew's keeps it short and sweet.[ Note: Drew wrote this essay in 2010, before the 650-word length limit; with the current guidelines, he would need to cut out a third of the essay ]

Final Thoughts

As you write your essay, you should think about the impression you leave your reader with. Drew's does an excellent job on this front. Here's a student who already has great mechanical ability and a love for engineering. He is humble and reflective. He is willing to take risks, and even risks critiquing the source of funding for some college professors. We leave the essay understanding Drew's values, his doubts and his passions.

Most importantly, Drew comes across as the type of person who has a lot to gain from college as well as a lot to contribute. The admissions personnel are likely to want him to be part of their community. The college is asking for an essay because they have holistic admissions , they want to get to know the whole applicant, and Drew makes a good impression.

The question Drew responded to about an "ethical dilemma" is not one of the seven essay options in the current Common Application . That said, the Common Application essay prompts are broad and flexible, and Drew's essay could certainly be used for the topic of your choice essay prompt or option #3 on questioning a belief .

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​Your First Job Out of College

​Your First Job Out of College


You are going to enter the professional environment and start your career. Now your whole life is stretching out before you and you will face a new world of challenges.

Remember how big your campus seemed when you arrived as a freshman?

There were a lot of unknown people, everything was unfamiliar and challenging. Be ready to feel like a freshman again, now at work.

What to Expect from Your First Job

  • You need to be ready that your first job after college won’t be your dream career.

Sure, it will teach you some immeasurable skills and you will get that so much – needed real world experience, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to do the things you enjoy most of all.

  • You may not even know what your dream job is.

There is a lot of pressure to get a position after graduation because you have such high expectations and not enough practice. Most likely you’ll have to deal with the routine tasks. Before you get the cool assignments, you need to show your employer that you can handle the simple operations. If you only start searching for a job, this post on how to write a resume with no job experience will be very useful for you.

  • The payment may not also be as you are hoping to get because most entry-level jobs offer entry-level salaries.

That’s why think carefully before accepting a job offer, this will be your income for the next year or at least several months. For this reason, you should get to know effective salary negotiation tactics for college students.

All in all, you have to realize that the point of your first employment is to try out different responsibilities, types of work to understand what you absolutely love.

Linkedin has recently posted the list of the most popular first jobs based on resumes.

First job out of college

How to Make the Most of a New Workplace Experience

Your attitude to a new job will determine whether your experience will be a positive and fruitful one. Here are some practical tips and strategies to take the mostrld of grown-up opportunities:

  • Approach every task with enthusiasm. You need to deal with all the tasks and duties in a confident and efficient manner. Apply the “can do” approach on a regular basis, be attentive to details and don’t forget to smile.
  • Be a team player. Treat other people positively and demonstrate how well you can communicate. You’ll work much better altogether and succeed faster which is essential for every business.
  • Keep learning new things. Always look for the opportunities to improve your knowledge. Learn new things, develop essential skills and you’ll be amazed at how fast you grow.
  • Join professional groups. Attend meetings, training sessions, join national and regional groups to share your experience and develop professionally.
  • Find a mentor. A good mentor will greatly help you after graduation by keeping you motivated and focused all the time. Find someone you admire and ask them to help you at the early stages.
  • Offer to help others. If you have some free time and know how to help your co-workers with some tasks, suggest your assistance. You’ll cast yourself in a positive light. Building relationships at your first job is very important. Check out the ways to build relationships with colleagues at your first job.

Make Sure to Avoid the Common Mistakes

This is going to sound almost impossible, but try to make your first job experience ideal. New graduates always make the mistakes when they are facing a tough job market, so to have a better chance of success, you need to overcome the common problems.

Here are some really useful pieces of advice that will turn your first job into a really effective and memorable “adventure”:

  • Be proactive enough – don’t sit back being casual in your work.
  • Don’t rely solely on the Internet, take advantage of networking and cooperation with colleagues.
  • Never focus on searching a dream job, instead look for your first job.
  • Try not to set expectations too high.
  • Don’t waste time and start making useful connections.
  • Avoid looking unprofessional – delete all “three Bs” photos (beer, bongs, bikinis) from your profile page.

You’ll only have one first job, so make everything possible not to turn it into a nightmare. Remember to have fun, make new friends and you’ll have an exciting and positive professional experience!

Stacey Wonder

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  • Career Planning
  • Finding a Job

How To Land Your First Job After College

Check with your career center, start networking, create a linkedin profile, develop a professional website, join a professional group, arrange a job shadow, have an elevator pitch ready.

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Target Your Resume and Cover Letter

Organize your job search, line up an internship, keep balance in your life.

The Balance / Kelly Miller

Securing that first job after college can be a daunting prospect for many seniors and recent graduates. However, you can take charge of the process by following a few simple tips and strategies to land a job that will help get your career off to a positive start. 

Key Takeaways

  • Getting your first job out of college can be daunting for seniors or recent graduates, especially when they have little to no experience.
  • Leaning on resources like your college career center, your network or even the internet can help you start your job search.
  • Making connections through professional or alumni organizations can give you insight into the types of roles you're interested in.
  • Job shadowing and internships could give you a leg up in the hunt for your first job.

Begin by tapping the resources that are available to you as a student or recent graduate from your college. Visit the career office and meet with a career advisor to discuss your options.

You can also pursue career counseling if you're unsure of your goals. Advisors can help you develop resumes and cover letters, prepare for interviews, and formulate a job search plan suited to your interests.  

Colleges also host visits from individual recruiters, hold career fairs on campus, offer recruitment events in key cities, and sponsor alumni networking programs. 

Networking can be one of the most effective ways to land a job. In fact, a joint survey conducted by LinkedIn and The Adler Group revealed that 85% of all jobs are obtained through networking.

The best approach is often an indirect one when it comes to networking. Rather than directly asking people to hire you, reach out to contacts for information and advice.

Contact as many professionals as you can for informational consultations. Get lists of alumni volunteers from your career office or alumni association, attend networking events and ask alumni with whom you develop a rapport if you can follow up with them to gain further insight into their work environment.

Touch base with past employers, coaches, faculty, clergy, and others who have observed you in any productive capacity. Ask if they have any contacts in your fields of interest who you could contact for information and advice.  

You can also do some networking virtually through digital platforms such as LinkedIn.

Not only is LinkedIn a great place to build a network, but it also serves as another way to showcase what you have to offer, build your personal brand, apply for jobs, and connect with recruiters and potential employers. You can also join any LinkedIn groups for your college and reach out to alumni in fields of interest. 

You can create a LinkedIn profile while you're still in school and build it from there. Even without any work experience , you can still highlight your skills, education, extracurricular activities, internships, and volunteer opportunities, and even ask people for recommendations.

Creating your own website can serve many purposes. It's a platform that you own where you can express your personality with your own branding, showcase your skills with a portfolio of work samples, and demonstrate your knowledge through a blog or other content you create.

You can buy a domain name from one of many hosting sites and use a tool such as Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress to develop your site or hire someone to create one for you.

Join an official organization related to your field or industry as a student member if you're still in college or as a professional member after you graduate. Many colleges have chapters of national associations, and if there's not one for the one you want to join, you may be able to start one.

Many professional associations put on conferences where you can rub shoulders with seasoned pros who are often eager to help newcomers to their field. Volunteer to help run the registration table, and you will meet lots of potentially helpful people. You may even find a mentor.

Fortune 500 companies acknowledge the value of having mentors: 71% of them have a mentoring program of some sort, according to Terri A. Scandura, a management professor and dean of the graduate school at the University of Miami.

After you have a positive networking meeting with someone, try to arrange a job shadow day as a follow-up. It will help you get an insider's view of what it would be like to work in that industry while also giving you an idea of whether you'd like to work at that specific company. You're also likely to meet lots of people and have the chance to make some positive connections.

Take stock of your strongest interests and skills and be prepared to tell people who you meet some interesting things about yourself to grab their attention. Think of it as a 30-second commercial for yourself. 

For example, you might say "I am an English major who loves to write. I've organized and promoted a lot of concerts and fundraising events for my campus singing group. I also love to follow fashion trends and helped to coordinate the annual campus fashion show sponsored by my sorority." 

Find Companies You Would Like to Work For

Identify employers of interest and visit the employment section of their website, Some have college student or graduate opportunities.

Check to see if your college has any alumni working at your target organizations and ask for their advice about accessing jobs there. Your career and alumni offices can help you to identify alumni by organization, and you can also use the alumni function on LinkedIn to identify some contacts.

Use job sites like to generate more job leads. Identify specialized or niche job boards for your field to find more listings. 

As your career goals begin to crystallize, develop versions of your resume that are targeted to specific jobs. Showcase the skills, experiences, coursework , and projects mostly related to your emerging job objectives. 

Avoid generic cover letters. Instead, take the time to write a targeted cover letter to make a special case for how each job matches your interests and skills. Get feedback and advice from advisors and mentors, and always carefully proofread your documents.

Treat your job search like an actual job, and get organized. Keep a database of all your applications and contacts.

Schedule 10 hours per week for job searching while you are in school. Increase the time you spend 20 hours a week during breaks and after graduation.

Internship sponsors often hire from their past roster of interns. Considering this, it's wise to try and get at least one internship right out of college. If you find that you're underqualified for your target job at graduation, then explore the possibility of doing an internship for the summer or fall after graduation. 

Internships were the top differentiator for companies looking to hire new graduates, according to research from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE).

Even if your internship doesn't lead to a job offer, it will give you the opportunity to gain valuable skills and contacts. If cash flow is an issue, be sure to apply to paid internships, or pair a part-time internship with a basic paying job. 

Finally, endeavor to retain some balance in your life while you are in job search mode. Exercise, follow a healthy diet, get enough sleep and continue to pursue your outside interests in order to keep your energy level up and maintain a positive state of mind.

Finding that perfect first job may take some time, but making a good match will be worth your preparation and patience.

Want to read more content like this?  Sign up  for The Balance’s newsletter for daily insights, analysis, and financial tips, all delivered straight to your inbox every morning!

University of Washington. " What Can Students Do To Improve Their Chances of Finding Employment After College ?"

LinkedIn. " Survey Reveals 85% of All Jobs are Filled Via Networking ."

Harvard Business Review. " How to Find a Strong First Job After College ."

Knowledge at Wharton. " Workplace Loyalties Change, but the Value of Mentoring Doesn’t ."

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). " Internship Experience the Top Differentiator When Choosing Between Otherwise Equal Candidates ."


Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, getting college essay help: important do's and don’ts.

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College Essays


If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.


Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.


Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.


A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.


What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )


Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.


If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?


Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.


  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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Your Best College Essay

Maybe you love to write, or maybe you don’t. Either way, there’s a chance that the thought of writing your college essay is making you sweat. No need for nerves! We’re here to give you the important details on how to make the process as anxiety-free as possible.

student's hands typing on a laptop in class

What's the College Essay?

When we say “The College Essay” (capitalization for emphasis – say it out loud with the capitals and you’ll know what we mean) we’re talking about the 550-650 word essay required by most colleges and universities. Prompts for this essay can be found on the college’s website, the Common Application, or the Coalition Application. We’re not talking about the many smaller supplemental essays you might need to write in order to apply to college. Not all institutions require the essay, but most colleges and universities that are at least semi-selective do.

How do I get started?

Look for the prompts on whatever application you’re using to apply to schools (almost all of the time – with a few notable exceptions – this is the Common Application). If one of them calls out to you, awesome! You can jump right in and start to brainstorm. If none of them are giving you the right vibes, don’t worry. They’re so broad that almost anything you write can fit into one of the prompts after you’re done. Working backwards like this is totally fine and can be really useful!

What if I have writer's block?

You aren’t alone. Staring at a blank Google Doc and thinking about how this is the one chance to tell an admissions officer your story can make you freeze. Thinking about some of these questions might help you find the right topic:

  • What is something about you that people have pointed out as distinctive?
  • If you had to pick three words to describe yourself, what would they be? What are things you’ve done that demonstrate these qualities?
  • What’s something about you that has changed over your years in high school? How or why did it change?
  • What’s something you like most about yourself?
  • What’s something you love so much that you lose track of the rest of the world while you do it?

If you’re still stuck on a topic, ask your family members, friends, or other trusted adults: what’s something they always think about when they think about you? What’s something they think you should be proud of? They might help you find something about yourself that you wouldn’t have surfaced on your own.  

How do I grab my reader's attention?

It’s no secret that admissions officers are reading dozens – and sometimes hundreds – of essays every day. That can feel like a lot of pressure to stand out. But if you try to write the most unique essay in the world, it might end up seeming forced if it’s not genuinely you. So, what’s there to do? Our advice: start your essay with a story. Tell the reader about something you’ve done, complete with sensory details, and maybe even dialogue. Then, in the second paragraph, back up and tell us why this story is important and what it tells them about you and the theme of the essay.


Don’t! Don’t try to tell an admissions officer about everything you’ve loved and done since you were a child. Instead, pick one or two things about yourself that you’re hoping to get across and stick to those. They’ll see the rest on the activities section of your application.


If you can’t think of another way to end the essay, talk about how the qualities you’ve discussed in your essays have prepared you for college. Try to wrap up with a sentence that refers back to the story you told in your first paragraph, if you took that route.


YES, proofread the essay, and have a trusted adult proofread it as well. Know that any suggestions they give you are coming from a good place, but make sure they aren’t writing your essay for you or putting it into their own voice. Admissions officers want to hear the voice of you, the applicant. Before you submit your essay anywhere, our number one advice is to read it out loud to yourself. When you read out loud you’ll catch small errors you may not have noticed before, and hear sentences that aren’t quite right.


Be yourself. If you’re not a naturally serious person, don’t force formality. If you’re the comedian in your friend group, go ahead and be funny. But ultimately, write as your authentic (and grammatically correct) self and trust the process.

And remember, thousands of other students your age are faced with this same essay writing task, right now. You can do it!

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What I’ve Learned From My Students’ College Essays

The genre is often maligned for being formulaic and melodramatic, but it’s more important than you think.

An illustration of a high school student with blue hair, dreaming of what to write in their college essay.

By Nell Freudenberger

Most high school seniors approach the college essay with dread. Either their upbringing hasn’t supplied them with several hundred words of adversity, or worse, they’re afraid that packaging the genuine trauma they’ve experienced is the only way to secure their future. The college counselor at the Brooklyn high school where I’m a writing tutor advises against trauma porn. “Keep it brief , ” she says, “and show how you rose above it.”

I started volunteering in New York City schools in my 20s, before I had kids of my own. At the time, I liked hanging out with teenagers, whom I sometimes had more interesting conversations with than I did my peers. Often I worked with students who spoke English as a second language or who used slang in their writing, and at first I was hung up on grammar. Should I correct any deviation from “standard English” to appeal to some Wizard of Oz behind the curtains of a college admissions office? Or should I encourage students to write the way they speak, in pursuit of an authentic voice, that most elusive of literary qualities?

In fact, I was missing the point. One of many lessons the students have taught me is to let the story dictate the voice of the essay. A few years ago, I worked with a boy who claimed to have nothing to write about. His life had been ordinary, he said; nothing had happened to him. I asked if he wanted to try writing about a family member, his favorite school subject, a summer job? He glanced at his phone, his posture and expression suggesting that he’d rather be anywhere but in front of a computer with me. “Hobbies?” I suggested, without much hope. He gave me a shy glance. “I like to box,” he said.

I’ve had this experience with reluctant writers again and again — when a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously. Of course the primary goal of a college essay is to help its author get an education that leads to a career. Changes in testing policies and financial aid have made applying to college more confusing than ever, but essays have remained basically the same. I would argue that they’re much more than an onerous task or rote exercise, and that unlike standardized tests they are infinitely variable and sometimes beautiful. College essays also provide an opportunity to learn precision, clarity and the process of working toward the truth through multiple revisions.

When a topic clicks with a student, an essay can unfurl spontaneously.

Even if writing doesn’t end up being fundamental to their future professions, students learn to choose language carefully and to be suspicious of the first words that come to mind. Especially now, as college students shoulder so much of the country’s ethical responsibility for war with their protest movement, essay writing teaches prospective students an increasingly urgent lesson: that choosing their own words over ready-made phrases is the only reliable way to ensure they’re thinking for themselves.

Teenagers are ideal writers for several reasons. They’re usually free of preconceptions about writing, and they tend not to use self-consciously ‘‘literary’’ language. They’re allergic to hypocrisy and are generally unfiltered: They overshare, ask personal questions and call you out for microaggressions as well as less egregious (but still mortifying) verbal errors, such as referring to weed as ‘‘pot.’’ Most important, they have yet to put down their best stories in a finished form.

I can imagine an essay taking a risk and distinguishing itself formally — a poem or a one-act play — but most kids use a more straightforward model: a hook followed by a narrative built around “small moments” that lead to a concluding lesson or aspiration for the future. I never get tired of working with students on these essays because each one is different, and the short, rigid form sometimes makes an emotional story even more powerful. Before I read Javier Zamora’s wrenching “Solito,” I worked with a student who had been transported by a coyote into the U.S. and was reunited with his mother in the parking lot of a big-box store. I don’t remember whether this essay focused on specific skills or coping mechanisms that he gained from his ordeal. I remember only the bliss of the parent-and-child reunion in that uninspiring setting. If I were making a case to an admissions officer, I would suggest that simply being able to convey that experience demonstrates the kind of resilience that any college should admire.

The essays that have stayed with me over the years don’t follow a pattern. There are some narratives on very predictable topics — living up to the expectations of immigrant parents, or suffering from depression in 2020 — that are moving because of the attention with which the student describes the experience. One girl determined to become an engineer while watching her father build furniture from scraps after work; a boy, grieving for his mother during lockdown, began taking pictures of the sky.

If, as Lorrie Moore said, “a short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage,” what is a college essay? Every once in a while I sit down next to a student and start reading, and I have to suppress my excitement, because there on the Google Doc in front of me is a real writer’s voice. One of the first students I ever worked with wrote about falling in love with another girl in dance class, the absolute magic of watching her move and the terror in the conflict between her feelings and the instruction of her religious middle school. She made me think that college essays are less like love than limerence: one-sided, obsessive, idiosyncratic but profound, the first draft of the most personal story their writers will ever tell.

Nell Freudenberger’s novel “The Limits” was published by Knopf last month. She volunteers through the PEN America Writers in the Schools program.

EWTN News, Inc. is the world’s largest Catholic news organization, comprised of television, radio, print and digital media outlets, dedicated to reporting the truth in light of the Gospel and the Catholic Church.

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Full Text: Harrison Butker of Kansas City Chiefs Graduation Speech

The Super Bowl champ and kicker spoke about the dignity of life, masculinity, and the most important role of all: motherhood.

Kansas City Chiefs’ placekicker Harrison Butker speaks to college graduates in his commencement address at Benedictine College on May 11.

Editor’s Note: Harrison Butker, 28, the placekicker for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League, delivered the commencement address at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, on Saturday, May 11, 2024. A transcript of his remarks is below.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of 2024:  I would like to start off by congratulating all of you for successfully making it to this achievement today. I'm sure your high school graduation was not what you had imagined, and most likely, neither was your first couple years of college.

By making it to this moment through all the adversity thrown your way from COVID, I hope you learned the important lessons that suffering in this life is only temporary. As a group, you witnessed firsthand how bad leaders who don't stay in their lane can have a negative impact on society. It is through this lens that I want to take stock of how we got to where we are, and where we want to go as citizens and, yes, as Catholics. One last thing before I begin, I want to be sure to thank President Minnis and the board for their invitation to speak.

When President Minnis first reached out a couple of months ago, I had originally said No. You see, last year I gave the commencement address at my alma mater, Georgia Tech, and I felt that one graduation speech was more than enough, especially for someone who isn't a professional speaker. But of course, President Minnis used his gift of persuasion. [ Laughter ] It spoke to the many challenges you all faced throughout the COVID fiasco ,and how you missed out on so many milestones the rest of us older people have taken for granted. While COVID might have played a large role throughout your formative years, it is not unique. Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia, as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values in media, all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder.

Our own nation is led by a man who publicly and proudly proclaims his Catholic faith, but at the same time is delusional enough to make the Sign of the Cross during a pro- abortion rally. He has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I'm sure to many people it appears that you can be both Catholic and pro-choice.

He is not alone. From the man behind the COVID lockdowns to the people pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America, they all have a glaring thing in common. They are Catholic. This is an important reminder that being Catholic alone doesn't cut it.

These are the sorts of things we are told in polite society to not bring up. You know, the difficult and unpleasant things. But if we are going to be men and women for this time in history, we need to stop pretending that the "Church of Nice" is a winning proposition. We must always speak and act in charity, but never mistake charity for cowardice.

It is safe to say that over the past few years, I have gained quite the reputation for speaking my mind. I never envisioned myself, nor wanted, to have this sort of a platform, but God has given it to me, so I have no other choice but to embrace it and preach more hard truths about accepting your lane and staying in it.

As members of the Church founded by Jesus Christ, it is our duty and ultimately privilege to be authentically and unapologetically Catholic. Don't be mistaken, even within the Church, people in polite Catholic circles will try to persuade you to remain silent. There even was an award-winning film called Silence , made by a fellow Catholic, wherein one of the main characters, a Jesuit priest, abandoned the Church, and as an apostate when he died is seen grasping a crucifix, quiet and unknown to anyone but God. As a friend of Benedictine College, His Excellency Bishop Robert Barron, said in his review of the film, it was exactly what the cultural elite want to see in Christianity -- private, hidden away, and harmless.

Our Catholic faith has always been countercultural. Our Lord, along with countless followers, were all put to death for their adherence to her teachings. The world around us says that we should keep our beliefs to ourselves whenever they go against the tyranny of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We fear speaking truth, because now, unfortunately, truth is in the minority. Congress just passed a bill where stating something as basic as the biblical teaching of who killed Jesus could land you in jail.

But make no mistake, before we even attempt to fix any of the issues plaguing society, we must first get our own house in order, and it starts with our leaders. The bishops and priests appointed by God as our spiritual fathers must be rightly ordered. There is not enough time today for me to list all the stories of priests and bishops misleading their flocks, but none of us can blame ignorance anymore and just blindly proclaim that “That's what Father said.” Because sadly, many priests we are looking to for leadership are the same ones who prioritize their hobbies or even photos with their dogs and matching outfits for the parish directory.

It's easy for us laymen and women to think that in order for us to be holy, that we must be active in our parish and try to fix it. Yes, we absolutely should be involved in supporting our parishes, but we cannot be the source for our parish priests to lean on to help with their problems. Just as we look at the relationship between a father and his son, so too should we look at the relationship between a priest and his people. It would not be appropriate for me to always be looking to my son for help when it is my job as his father to lead him.

St. Josemaría Escrivá states that priests are ordained to serve, and should not yield to temptation to imitate laypeople, but to be priests through and through. Tragically, so many priests revolve much of their happiness from the adulation they receive from their parishioners, and in searching for this, they let their guard down and become overly familiar. This undue familiarity will prove to be problematic every time, because as my teammate's girlfriend says, familiarity breeds contempt. [ Laughter ]

Saint Josemaría continues that some want to see the priest as just another man. That is not so. They want to find in the priest those virtues proper to every Christian, and indeed every honorable man:  understanding, justice, a life of work — priestly work, in this instance — and good manners. It is not prudent as the laity for us to consume ourselves in becoming amateur theologians so that we can decipher this or that theological teaching — unless, of course, you are a theology major. We must be intentional with our focus on our state in life and our own vocation. And for most of us, that's as married men and women. Still, we have so many great resources at our fingertips that it doesn't take long to find traditional and timeless teachings that haven't been ambiguously reworded for our times. Plus, there are still many good and holy priests, and it's up to us to seek them out.

The chaos of the world is unfortunately reflected in the chaos in our parishes, and sadly, in our cathedrals too. As we saw during the pandemic, too many bishops were not leaders at all. They were motivated by fear, fear of being sued, fear of being removed, fear of being disliked. They showed by their actions, intentional or unintentional, that the sacraments don't actually matter. Because of this, countless people died alone, without access to the sacraments, and it's a tragedy we must never forget. As Catholics, we can look to so many examples of heroic shepherds who gave their lives for their people, and ultimately, the Church. We cannot buy into the lie that the things we experienced during COVID were appropriate. Over the centuries, there have been great wars, great famines, and yes, even great diseases, all that came with a level of lethality and danger. But in each of those examples, Church leaders leaned into their vocations and ensured that their people received the sacraments.

Great saints like St. Damien of Molokai, who knew the dangers of his ministry, stayed for 11 years as a spiritual leader to the leper colonies of Hawaii. His heroism is looked at today as something set apart and unique, when ideally it should not be unique at all. For as a father loves his child, so a shepherd should love his spiritual children, too.

That goes even more so for our bishops, these men who are present-day apostles. Our bishops once had adoring crowds of people kissing their rings and taking in their every word, but now relegate themselves to a position of inconsequential existence. Now, when a bishop of a diocese or the bishop's conference as a whole puts out an important document on this matter or that, nobody even takes a moment to read it, let alone follow it.

No. Today, our shepherds are far more concerned with keeping the doors open to the chancery than they are with saying the difficult stuff out loud. It seems that the only time you hear from your bishops is when it's time for the annual appeal, whereas we need our bishops to be vocal about the teachings of the Church, setting aside their own personal comfort and embracing their cross. Our bishops are not politicians but shepherds, so instead of fitting in the world by going along to get along, they too need to stay in their lane and lead.

I say all of this not from a place of anger, as we get the leaders we deserve. But this does make me reflect on staying in my lane and focusing on my own vocation and how I can be a better father and husband and live in the world but not be of it. Focusing on my vocation while praying and fasting for these men will do more for the Church than me complaining about her leaders.

Because there seems to be so much confusion coming from our leaders, there needs to be concrete examples for people to look to in places like Benedictine, a little Kansas college built high on a bluff above the Missouri River, are showing the world how an ordered, Christ-centered existence is the recipe for success. You need to look no further than the examples all around this campus, where over the past 20 years, enrollment has doubled, construction and revitalization are a constant part of life, and people, the students, the faculty and staff, are thriving. This didn't happen by chance. In a deliberate movement to embrace traditional Catholic values, Benedictine has gone from just another liberal arts school with nothing to set it apart to a thriving beacon of light and a reminder to us all that when you embrace tradition, success — worldly and spiritual — will follow.

I am certain the reporters at the AP could not have imagined that their attempt to rebuke and embarrass places and people like those here at Benedictine wouldn't be met with anger, but instead met with excitement and pride. Not the deadly sin sort of pride that has an entire month dedicated to it, but the true God-centered pride that is cooperating with the Holy Ghost to glorify him. Reading that article now shared all over the world, we see that in the complete surrender of self and a turning towards Christ, you will find happiness. Right here in a little town in Kansas, we find many inspiring laypeople using their talents.

President Minnis, Dr. [Andrew] Swafford, and Dr. [Jared] Zimmerer are a few great examples right here on this very campus that will keep the light of Christ burning bright for generations to come. Being locked in with your vocation and staying in your lane is going to be the surest way for you to find true happiness and peace in this life.

It is essential that we focus on our own state in life, whether that be as a layperson, a priest, or religious. Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2024, you are sitting at the edge of the rest of your lives. Each of you has the potential to leave a legacy that transcends yourselves and this era of human existence. In the small ways, by living out your vocation, you will ensure that God's Church continues and the world is enlightened by your example.

For the ladies present today, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. You should be proud of all that you have achieved to this point in your young lives. I want to speak directly to you briefly because I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.

I can tell you that my beautiful wife, Isabelle, would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother. I'm on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I'm beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife, and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.

[ Applause lasting 18 seconds ]

She is a primary educator to our children. She is the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from that of a husband and father. She is the person that knows me best at my core, and it is through our marriage that, Lord willing, we will both attain salvation.

I say all of this to you because I have seen it firsthand how much happier someone can be when they disregard the outside noise and move closer and closer to God's will in their life. Isabelle's dream of having a career might not have come true, but if you asked her today if she has any regrets on her decision, she would laugh out loud, without hesitation, and say, “Heck, No.”

As a man who gets a lot of praise and has been given a platform to speak to audiences like this one today, I pray that I always use my voice for God and not for myself. Everything I am saying to you is not from a place of wisdom, but rather a place of experience. I am hopeful that these words will be seen as those from a man, not much older than you, who feels it is imperative that this class, this generation, and this time in our society must stop pretending that the things we see around us are normal.

Heterodox ideas abound even within Catholic circles. But let's be honest, there is nothing good about playing God with having children — whether that be your ideal number or the perfect time to conceive. No matter how you spin it, there is nothing natural about Catholic birth control.

It is only in the past few years that I have grown encouraged to speak more boldly and directly because, as I mentioned earlier, I have leaned into my vocation as a husband and father, and as a man.

To the gentlemen here today: Part of what plagues our society is this lie that has been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities. As men, we set the tone of the culture, and when that is absent, disorder, dysfunction, and chaos set in. This absence of men in the home is what plays a large role in the violence we see all around the nation. Other countries do not have nearly the same absentee father rates as we find here in the U.S., and a correlation could be made in their drastically lower violence rates, as well.

Be unapologetic in your masculinity, fighting against the cultural emasculation of men. Do hard things. Never settle for what is easy. You might have a talent that you don't necessarily enjoy, but if it glorifies God, maybe you should lean into that over something that you might think suits you better. I speak from experience as an introvert who now finds myself as an amateur public speaker and an entrepreneur, something I never thought I'd be when I received my industrial engineering degree.

The road ahead is bright. Things are changing. Society is shifting. And people, young and old, are embracing tradition. Not only has it been my vocation that has helped me and those closest to me, but not surprising to many of you, should be my outspoken embrace of the traditional Latin Mass. I've been very vocal in my love and devotion to the TLM and its necessity for our lives. But what I think gets misunderstood is that people who attend the TLM do so out of pride or preference. I can speak to my own experience, but for most people I have come across within these communities this simply is not true. I do not attend the TLM because I think I am better than others, or for the smells and bells, or even for the love of Latin. I attend the TLM because I believe, just as the God of the Old Testament was pretty particular in how he wanted to be worshipped, the same holds true for us today. It is through the TLM that I encountered order, and began to pursue it in my own life. Aside from the TLM itself, too many of our sacred traditions have been relegated to things of the past, when in my parish, things such as ember days, days when we fast and pray for vocations and for our priests, are still adhered to. The TLM is so essential that I would challenge each of you to pick a place to move where it is readily available.

A lot of people have complaints about the parish or the community, but we should not sacrifice the Mass for community. I prioritize the TLM even if the parish isn't beautiful, the priest isn't great, or the community isn't amazing. I still go to the TLM because I believe the holy sacrifice of the Mass is more important than anything else. I say this knowing full well that when each of you rekindle your knowledge and adherence to many of the church's greatest traditions, you will see how much more colorful and alive your life can and should be.

As you move on from this place and enter into the world, know that you will face many challenges. Sadly, I'm sure many of you know of the countless stories of good and active members of this community who, after graduation and moving away from the Benedictine bubble, have ended up moving in with their boyfriend or girlfriend prior to marriage. Some even leave the Church and abandon God. It is always heartbreaking to hear these stories, and there is a desire to know what happened and what went wrong.

What you must remember is that life is about doing the small things well, setting yourself up for success, and surrounding yourself with people who continually push you to be the best version of you. I say this all the time, that iron sharpens iron. It's a great reminder that those closest to us should be making us better. If you are dating someone who doesn't even share your faith, how do you expect that person to help you become a saint? If your friend group is filled with people who only think about what you're doing next weekend and are not willing to have those difficult conversations, how can they help sharpen you?

As you prepare to enter into the workforce, it is extremely important that you actually think about the places you are moving to. Who is the bishop? What kind of parishes are there? Do they offer the TLM and have priests who embrace their priestly vocation? Cost of living must not be the only arbiter of your choices, for a life without God is not a life at all, and the cost of salvation is worth more than any career.

I'm excited for the future, and I pray that something I have said will resonate as you move on to the next chapter of your life.

Never be afraid to profess the one holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church, for this is the Church that Jesus Christ established, through which we receive sanctifying grace.

I know that my message today had a little less fluff than is expected for these speeches, but I believe that this audience and this venue is the best place to speak openly and honestly about who we are and where we all want to go, which is Heaven.

I thank God for Benedictine College and for the example it provides the world. I thank God for men like President Minnis, who are doing their part for the Kingdom. Come to find out you can have an authentically Catholic college and a thriving football program. [ Laughter and applause ]

Make no mistake: You are entering into mission territory in a post-God world, but you were made for this. And with God by your side and a constant striving for virtue within your vocation, you too can be a saint.

Christ is King.

To the Heights.

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New college grads face a cooling job market. Here's where the jobs are.

By Aimee Picchi

Edited By Alain Sherter

May 21, 2024 / 5:10 PM EDT / CBS News

After earning their college degrees this month, new graduates are understandably eager to land their first job and start making their education pay off. But that could pose more of a challenge this year than in 2023.

Hiring for freshly minted college grads is forecast to decline 6% from a year earlier, according to a recent survey of more than 200 employers from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a group representing college career services employees.

Data from payroll services provider Gusto also shows that the new grad hiring rate — the share of recent graduates who are hired in a given month — is now about 6%, down from a recent peak of 10% in 2021. Still, the hiring rate is about level from a year earlier, with Gusto principal economist Liz Wilke telling CBS MoneyWatch that the job market for new grads is relatively stable. 

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Securing that first job out of college may be a rite of passage, but it can also be nerve-racking for young adults who need to pay for groceries and make the rent. And about 4 in 10 recent college grads are currently "underemployed," meaning they're working in a job that doesn't require a college degree, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

"We know that the first job out of college is incredibly important when setting the course for the rest of a person's career," Wilke said. "However, not every college graduate is going to enter a booming job market, and some are not afforded the option of being picky."

According to Gusto, the top five industries currently hiring new college grads are legal, nonprofits, arts and entertainment, health care, and social assistance and construction.

"New grads with skills that are applicable to these industries are likely to see increased interest in their resumes," Wilke noted.

Some industries are planning to cut back on the number of new hires from the class of 2024, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found in its survey. Among them are computer and electronics manufacturers, with those businesses projecting a decline of about 12% in hires of new grads, while financial firms expect an almost 15% drop, the group found. 

Technology companies have slashed thousands of jobs in recent months as they shift toward artificial intelligence. Yet new grads who know how to work with artificial intelligence may have an edge, Wilke said.

"AI skills are something [businesses] are seeking from this younger cohort of workers," she added. "Business owners believe that since this younger generation has 'come of age' with this technology, that they are better equipped to figure out how to best put it into practice."

Employers say the modest pullback in hiring comes after an extremely tight labor market in the years after the pandemic, when workers were harder to come by and they weren't seeing as many resumes. 

"It's easier now than it was last year," Chris Jones, the founder of tutoring company Planting Seeds Academic Solutions, which is now in the process of hiring about 40 workers, many of them recent college grads, for its summer camps. "We're getting 50 to 100 applicants per opening," compared with 20 to 30 applicants in 2021 to 2022, a time when he said many applicants didn't want to work in person.

Samuel Clark, the CEO of Broadway Crew, which provides staffing and support for Broadway shows, said he thinks hiring has returned to a more "normal" pace.

"A year ago it was really, really difficult, I was pulling my hair out and paying them an absurd amount of money to make sure they'd be there on time," Clark told CBS MoneyWatch. "Now the power dynamic is coming back in the middle."

For new college grads who are looking for work, Clark said his advice is to hustle, but he noted that landing that first job can be difficult. "Sometimes it's really hard and you have to take the slings and arrows," he added. 

What new grads want in a job

As for what new grads want in their first jobs, they're looking for hybrid roles with some in-person and some remote days, Vicki Salemi, a career expert at job site Monster, told CBS New York. And they're very interested in learning about a job's salary, with particular fears of ending up underemployed, she added.

"They want to talk about salary on the job interview," Salemi said. "They might not even pursue the job if salary isn't discussed in the interview."

That's especially important in high-cost cities like New York, which Gusto found is the top metro area for hiring the class of 2024, representing 10% of all new grad hires. The average new grad's starting salary in New York is $64,134, which equates to only $28,500 in other cities when adjusted for the cost of living, Gusto found. 

"Our report shows New York as being the most popular city for new grads, but last on the list in terms of affordability," Wilke said. "People this age should consider what cities they see themselves ending up in and jobs those cities have to offer."

Aimee Picchi is the associate managing editor for CBS MoneyWatch, where she covers business and personal finance. She previously worked at Bloomberg News and has written for national news outlets including USA Today and Consumer Reports.

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Pennsylvania college of technology’s baja sae team excels at first ‘home’ competition.

college essay on first job

Pennsylvania College of Technology students reaped the benefits of their hands-on education and tireless dedication by finishing fourth out of 89 cars in the Baja SAE Williamsport endurance race, the international competition’s premier event.

The 13-member Penn College Baja team devoted several months and countless hours to designing, manufacturing and building a single-seat, all-terrain vehicle to survive various challenges, including the four-hour endurance event, a race featuring rugged terrain, obstacles, sharp turns, hills and lots of mud.

The fourth-place showing is the college’s 15th top-10 finish in the endurance race since 2011.

“I am very proud of the team and their performance,” said John G. Upcraft, instructor of manufacturing and machining and faculty adviser to Penn College’s Baja SAE club since its inception 19 years ago. “It’s difficult to put into words how hard they’ve worked to produce a car that proved to be one of the best in the competition. I truly believe the hands-on nature of our educational approach at Penn College allows our students to meet the high standard to be successful at Baja competitions.”

The students made about 95% of the car’s parts and components using the industry-standard resources of the Larry A. Ward Machining Technologies Center and the Gene Haas Center for Innovative Manufacturing.

“They devoted nights, weekends and school breaks to work on the car,” Upcraft said. “They sacrificed a great deal of personal time to make their car a reality. Their effort is very commendable.”

Penn College’s effort at Baja SAE Williamsport included two other top-10 finishes: fourth in suspension and traction and eighth in maneuverability. Overall, the team placed 10th out of the 102 teams competing. Those teams consisted of about 1,800 students representing colleges and universities from throughout the United States, Canada and Brazil.

“The team pulled it off. It’s not just one person. It takes an entire team to put this car together,” said Penn College captain Marshall W. Fowler, of Sellersville. “I’m super proud of how everybody worked to get us to this point, and I think it paid off.”

Despite starting 22nd in the endurance event, Penn College methodically maneuvered to be among the leaders about 90 minutes into the race. The driving duties were split between Fowler and Isaac H. Thollot, of Milford. Both Fowler (engineering design technology) and Thollot (manufacturing engineering technology) graduated earlier in May. Students are eligible to participate in Baja SAE for several months post-graduation.

“The design team knocked it out of the park with the endurance course. The obstacles were awesome. They were challenging,” Fowler said. “The mud pits in the lower section were causing everybody to get stuck. It was also a fast track, so everybody got to really test the full capability of their vehicles.”

Despite the track being built at Penn College’s Heavy Construction Equipment Operations Site in Brady Township, the “home” team couldn’t see the track until all participants converged at the location for Baja SAE Williamsport.

“Our students were dying to see the layout,” remarked Bradley M. Webb, dean of engineering technologies and one of the chief organizers of the competition. “I think it drove them crazy that it was only about 20 minutes from campus, yet they weren’t permitted at the site. Once they got on the track, we obviously were quite proud of their effort. The team’s performance is a testament to the quality of students we have at this college.”

Penn College’s performance in the endurance event reflected the car’s craftsmanship and durability. Fowler and Thollot combined to complete 51 laps in the race won by Virginia Tech. For perspective, 46 teams recorded fewer than 20 laps, and 24 teams didn’t manage 10 times around the treacherous track.

Penn College had its best lap time (3:44.813) on lap 48. Only one other team recorded its fastest lap that late in the race.

The fourth-place finish by Penn College bested the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Iowa, Maryland, UCLA, UNLV, Oklahoma, RIT, Cornell, Alabama, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Clemson and Georgia Tech.

“The team learned from last fall when they finished ninth in endurance at Baja SAE Ohio,” Upcraft said. “They knew the car needed adjustments. They made the necessary changes, and now they can enjoy the rewards from that effort.”

Changes included a larger chassis to accommodate the car’s four-wheel-drive system, as well as a new front suspension and continuously variable transmission. The team also dropped the weight of the car from 394 pounds to 375 pounds and shifted the weight distribution from 51% bias in the front to 49%.

“We transferred the weight back to the rear and lightened up the front so the car wouldn’t nosedive when going off jumps,” Fowler explained.

About 30 minutes after the endurance race and with the car still caked in mud, the Penn College team had already turned its attention to the next competition, Baja SAE Michigan, scheduled for Sept. 11-14.

“We have a working car now,” Fowler said. “Hopefully over the summer, we can test a bunch of things and tune everything we want and come back strong for Michigan!”

“I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to see the team do even better at Michigan,” Webb added. “They are a talented and determined bunch.”

In addition to Fowler and Thollot, other Penn College team members for Baja SAE Williamsport were manufacturing engineering technology students Nick J. Benninger, of Bloomsburg; Trevor J. Lindsay, of Mechanicsburg; Alec D. Rees, of Centerport, New York; and Brian P. Rogers, of Kunkletown. Engineering design technology majors were T.J. J. Bodei Jr., of Toms River, New Jersey; Casey B. Campbell, of Kennerdell; and Johnmichael S. Weaver, of Greenville. The team also included Leo W. Cooke, of Easton (automated manufacturing technology); Matthew J. Rotundo, of Abingdon, Maryland (applied management); Davis I. Rowell, of Boalsburg (heavy construction equipment technology: technician emphasis); and Jack J. Stump, of York, who graduated earlier this month with an associate degree in machine tool technology.

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