‘Brainstorm Your College Essay’ Workshops Coming Up in March and April

The College Essay Confidante will hold brainstorming workshops on two separate dates to make it convenient for juniors to attend.

The first workshop takes place on Thursday, March 29 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The second workshop takes place on Thursday, April 5 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Register here for either the first or the second workshop (only one).

I’m Joyce Pellino Crane, the College Essay Confidante. My background is journalism. I’ve won awards for editorial writing. I’ll point you in the right direction and encourage you to keep going.

Feel free to contact me with any questions: winningcollegeessay@gmail.com.

Prompting a Persuasive Argument for the College Essay; High School Students Across the Country are Taking a Stand on Gun Violence

As high school students across the country take a stand against gun violence, juniors are starting to think about their college essay topics.

The fourth essay prompt listed by the Common Application gives juniors and rising seniors the option of writing a persuasive argument. Here is the wording:

“4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.”

This is an opportunity to take a political stand on firearms and the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It’s a chance to delve deeply into how state laws vary around gun ownership and the legal purchase of guns.

Whether you’re for or against gun control or feel passionately about another issue, your college essay can be a platform.

Two Upcoming Workshops

If you need help, the College Essay Confidante is offering two workshops to help you “Brainstorm Your College Essay.” Register for either Thursday, March 29 or Thursday, April 5 (one or the other). Both will take place from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in a Westford, Massachusetts location. Students will leave with a solid topic and the opening paragraph for their essays. The workshop is limited to no more than six  high school juniors. The fee is $160 per student.

National Walk Out on March 14

#Enough! National School Walkout, organized by the same group which planned the Women’s March in January 2017, is a planned demonstration by students, parents, teachers and administrators. The school communities are being encouraged to walk out of the classroom for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. on March 14. Each minute represents one of the 17 students and teachers shot down at the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School on Feb. 14 allegedly by a man carrying an AR-15 automatic firearm.

Another walkout being promoted on social media is scheduled for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine School massacre in 1999.

Do Your Homework

Do your homework. Before you begin the essay, read everything on the topic that you can get your hands on. Engage friends and family members in discussions. Think deeply and jot down notes, thoughts, ideas, and philosophies.

Be clear on your position and then start writing your argument.

Use subheads

Try to organize your essay by using subheads.

Allow your passion to guide you, but keep your essay fair and balanced. You must explain the arguments for  the other side. Treat the arguments of those on the other side with dignity and respect.

Dare to Take a Stand

Dare to take a stand and try your hand at persuasive writing. If you have a passion on the topic, share it, because your passion will shine through and your essay will be compelling. But if you take this path, do so in a professional and just manner.

Need Help?

I’m here if you need someone to guide you as you conduct your research and begin writing. I’m Joyce Pellino Crane, the College Essay Confidante. My background is journalism. I’ve won awards for editorial writing. I’ll point you in the right direction and encourage you to keep going.

Feel free to contact me with any questions: winningcollegeessay@gmail.com.


The Jan. 1 deadline is here; Are your applications all in?

Good luck to all high schools seniors applying for college.

The Jan. 1 deadline is looming. If you’re still completing applications, try to narrow your choices to key schools and make sure you’ve answered the supplemental essay questions to the best of your abilities.

Carefully proofread everything you’ve written and ask a family member to take a look, too.

The outcome of this process can shape your future, so don’t be cavalier about it.


Brainstorm your college essay workshop, Oct. 12

“Brainstorm your college essay,” takes place on Thursday, Oct. 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Acton-Boxborough High School, 36 Charter Road, Acton.

The workshop offers an idea-sharing session followed by writing exercises and feedback. Students will leave with a solid topic and an opening paragraph for the essay. Fee: $179 per student. Limited to 8. This three-hour workshop is for seniors only. Questions? Email mailto:winningcollegeessay@gmail.com


About the tutor

Joyce Pellino Crane is an award-winning journalist, recognized for editorial writing by two major newspaper organizations. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, Newsday, and GateHouse Media publications. She has taught college essay workshops to high school students for five years. Joyce is the former editor of the Westford Eagle and Littleton Independent and is an approved Westford Academy tutor. She is currently the multimedia news director at Westford Community Access Television.

Ace Your Essay by Reading my Guide; Download it Now!

If you’re struggling to find a topic for your college essay, please feel free to download my college essay guide entitled “Writing your college essay.”

It offers an explanation of each Common Application prompt, sample topics, and writing exercises.

The eBook encourages you to get to know yourself so that you can write honestly and with conviction.

Here’s a line from the book that might help you: “Story ideas happen when you think deeply and start to connect the dots inside your head. The best way to do this is by writing about the things that define you. Jotting notes about your passions, habits, and daily routine can help you to think about the things that are important in your life. It could trigger ideas that wouldn’t otherwise occur to you.

If you need help coming up with an essay topic or fine-tuning the essay you’ve written, just contact me: WinningCollegeEssay@gmail.com

Don’t Tell Me What Not to Write!

I’m annoyed.

I came across an article on Pinterest this morning entitled “5 College Essay Topics to Avoid.”

This seems to be the latest trend in College Essay advice. But I can’t think of anything worse to tell a student. Why don’t we force him to wear blinders, blast music so he can’t think, and criticize every idea he offers until he becomes so confused he produces nothing?

The author presented his list with the arrogance of someone who can’t step outside his own shoes and into someone else’s.

So he told high school seniors who have lived all of 17 years to avoid writing about the following:

  1. “You love to help people” —  His reasoning: too many student have traveled overseas to help underprivileged people, so you don’t have a unique story.
  2. “Beating an injury sustained in sports” — His reasoning: the common topic proves you can’t think of something substantial in life that’s happened to you.
  3. “How you feel about hot topics” — His reasoning:  Admissions officers are not interested in your political views.
  4. “Discussing your role model” — His reasoning: Admissions officers have read a lot of these so they’re not interested.
  5. “Your favorite celebrity’s issues” — His reasoning: This type of essay suggests you’re more interested in a celebrity’s point of view than your accomplishments and skills.

Here’s the thing. An essay on any topic can be compelling and memorable. It’s not really about the topic. It’s about how you present the story.

A topic about helping people

Writing a story about how you helped a group of people in an impoverished country can be fascinating, especially if you delve deeply into the hearts of the people who live there. That’s what foreign correspondents do every day in war torn countries and places where genocide occurs. Stories like these can change the world by raising awareness and giving hope. Don’t underestimate the power of such a story.

Your experience with a sports injury

If you’re a high school senior, a sports injury is substantial to your life. You’ve only been alive for 17 or 18 years and much of that period has been spent in childhood when you’re most sheltered by your parents. Not a lot of life happens by age 18. If this is an experience that is important to you, go for it!

Discussing a role model

One day while teaching a workshop on “Brainstorm your college essay,” I was struggling to interest my students in some writing exercises until I suggested they produce a brief profile of someone important to their lives. Suddenly their eyes brightened and they each took turns telling me exactly who they would profile and why. The people in our lives matter. When someone influences us in a meaningful way, he or she looms large and we’re happy to share why. Consider starting your essay with a characteristic of the person, such as “Nigel Bennington puffs cigars until the smoky front is an inch from the grin that welcomes every new arrival at his lumber yard. The 78 year-old carpenter can build anything with his hands and will happily teach you what he knows…”

A persuasive essay

Discussing hot topics and sharing a celebrity’s point of view are probably not the best choices for a personal statement, but I would never tell my student not to give the topic a try. Writing is a creative process that benefits from experimentation and a few wrong turns. Every draft you write will lead to something better, so don’t let anyone tell you what not to do. Go with what feels right and see what comes out.

If you need guidance, I’m here to help. Writing is what I do and telling stories is my passion.

I’ve won journalism awards and mentored several successful journalists. I’m happy to help:  winningcollegeessay@gmail.com.



Get Inspired! Essays from the New York Times and a Challenge from the College Essay Confidante

CHALLENGE TO 2016 HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES: Send me the essays you wrote for your college application and I’ll publish the best ones here!!! You can inspire the next group of graduates.

Every year, the New York Times editors publish their favorite college essays submitted by the college-bound seniors who wrote them.

Click here for the 2016 batch.

Read them and get inspired!

Your essay can be just as compelling.

If you have an essay idea, but don’t know how to get started,  I can help.

I’m the College Essay Confidante at winningcollegeessay@gmail.com.