‘Tis the season for applications: 10 Essay Tips for Students Applying to College

Although I’m mostly known for my writing, I also do a bit of proofreading and editing. And the most common thing for me to proofread at this time of year is a college application essay.

Now, I’ve been looking at those essays for over twenty years – basically, since I was a high school senior myself. Back in the day, we had to type their final drafts onto our applications, of course.  typewriter

I’ve seen some wonderful college essays, and some terrible ones, in my time. I’m going to offer a few tips based on my experience. These tips apply to college application essays, but also to applications for scholarships, internships, and even many assignments.

I will not cover proofreading – which you can often get assistance with from a teacher, parent, or guidance counselor. If you proofread your own essays – and you should do so first, even if you are going to get help later – just make sure you wait at least a day or two after writing the essay to do the proofreading. Otherwise, you will likely not notice your errors.


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Let’s take a moment to break for poetry

Sorry for the sparse posts in recent weeks. Things have been a little crazy ’round here. I took a trip up to the Bay area to see my sister, came home and got a burn on my dominant hand that was serious enough to send me to the ER in the back of an ambulance (I hope to share a personal essay with my readers about that experience soon). Thank G-d, I’m now on the mend and in the midst of several deadlines.

But just to let y’all know I haven’t forgotten you, I’m going to share a piece of poetry I wrote while waiting for my sister to pick me up at the train station in San Jose. Continue reading

Writing for Children: not for those who want glory, fame, or big bucks

Last week’s Hamodia/Inyan Magazine had an article by one of my favorite columnists, Rabbi Fishel Schachter entitled “Guided by Tale Winds.” While today Rabbi Schachter is well-known in the Torah world for essays and presentations for adults about the weekly Torah portion, parenting, and other subjects, he first gained popularity as a rebbi and storyteller to students in Jewish day schools.

Rabbi Schachter explains in the article that one of the adults in his audience told him many years ago that he had to choose between teaching grown-ups or kids — and he indicated that the natural choice for a man of Rabbi Schachter’s talent and intelligence was to teach adults.

Turning to his own rebbi for guidance, Rabbi Schachter asked if teaching kids was really beneath him? Were all the silly voices and so on undermining his stature?

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My first foray into playwriting: lessons learned about writing and directing plays for kids

As I mentioned last week in passing, I spent a good chunk of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur preparing a play for the kids at my synagogue. The topic: the story of Jonah, which is read during the afternoon of Yom Kippur.

Jonah sheltered by the vine

Yonah waiting to see if Nineveh gets destroyed. He’s kinda hoping it does. How’s that for schadenfreude?

Now, I’ve always thought this story was packed with humor. I mean, G-d singles Jonah out for a little tete-a-tete and he hops on a boat headed in the opposite direction as the mission G-d sent him on? Then he sleeps through the ginormous storm that has everyone else aboard freaking out and get swallowed by a giant fish. Come on!

And when Jonah finally makes it to Nineveh, it gets even wackier. Continue reading

Teachers and Parents–Looking for kids’ books about Chanukah?

Thanks to Barbara Krasner from The Whole Megillah for sharing the following lead in her latest post:

For teachers and parents, finding just the right book selection at holiday times can be challenging. The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) just published a list of great Chanukah reading selections, all of which have been singled out by the Sidney Taylor Award committee for their excellence.

In addition, here are some more of my kids’ old favorites that do not appear on the AJL list:

Latkes and Applesauce

Nine Spoons

Asher and the Capmakers

The Story of Hanukkah

The Power of Light

The Chanukah Guest


Expanding my home business

This summer has been very enjoyable, but hasn’t left me with much opportunity to work. In just a week and a half, I hope to have a little more time on my hands. For the first time in ten years, I will have no children at home with me for half of the day. At least in theory, I will be using this time to write more, edit more, proofread more, and coach more writers.

One of the areas I want to expand into the most is writing coaching, especially for graduate students. In the past, I’ve helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations and Master’s students complete the requirements of their degrees. Some graduate students need help structuring their work so that their arguments are comprehensible. Without assistance, their writing tends to ramble and wander…it contains lots of ideas, but who can follow them if they are all jumbled together?

Do you dump all your research together in no particular order?

Others need help pacing themselves so they can meet deadlines. Some students don’t even know where to start–I help them organize their research and prewrite so that they have a strong scaffold on which to build their writing. I’ve also seen that non-native speakers of English struggle with the editing and proofreading of their own work. They might have mastered the concepts and skills required by their graduate program, but find it difficult to express themselves in a final product that competes with those of native speakers.

There are some people who outright (ghost)write academic papers for graduate (even undergraduate!) students. Such writers make money that way, but who really benefits? Those who I help acquire real writing skills which they will employ in the years to come. They also gain greater mastery of the concepts they are expressing in their dissertation or thesis, because they have to explain them to their audience (including a layman–that would be me). Students who are properly coached can feel pleasure in their accomplishment, because it is real, as opposed to someone whose degree is based on a deception about who actually completed the graduation requirements.

While I love working with graduate students–especially because I learn so much from them about a wide range of topics–I also love coaching people through their first picture book submissions and the like.

Now that I will truly be working part-time every weekday, I will be advertising more widely for clients. If you or anyone you know hopes to graduate with a PhD or Master’s Degree in the spring, now is the time to get a handle on your graduation requirements. Writing coaching might just be the boost you need to help you finish with less mess and less stress. Coaching can be done in person for those in L.A., or over Skype for those elsewhere.  For more information, follow this link: proofreading, editing, and writing coach services.