How to Write the Colorado College Essays 2016-2017
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Nearly 150 years ago, General William Jackson Palmer laid out the city of Colorado Springs along the Denver railroad line he had created. With the vision of building up a model city, General Palmer set aside enough land and funds needed to establish a new college — Colorado College.
Among this college’s first presidents was President William F. Slocum, who helped the college climb toward its academic peak. Under Slocum’s presidency, the library of Colorado College expanded significantly, and the school even managed to attract leading academics in multiple fields.
Today, Colorado College ranks one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation, even holding the nation’s 25th spot according to U.S. News Rankings. On top of that, the school is famously known for its innovation in its academic arenas; the school is often cited as the number one most innovative liberal arts school in the nation.
For example, you can see the college’s innovative ideas in its unique take on scheduling and learning: the Block Plan. The Block Plan is an intensive academic schedule that organizes four blocks of classes for students each semester. What does that mean? Through this academic schedule, students take one course at a time over a period of approximately 3.5 weeks as opposed to concentrating on several courses during a semester. This adds up to a total of four courses that students will take each semester, though none concurrently. Innovative, huh?
Colorado College boasts a top-notch education and the innovation you need to launch your own ideas. It’s no wonder then that the school boasts a low acceptance rate of just 17%. With such small numbers in any applicant’s favor, it becomes ever more important for an applicant to take advantage of any opportunity he or she can get to be presented in the best light. But how? Hint: Think Colorado College’s essay prompts.
Fear not, for CollegeVine is here to guide you through the essentials and tricky parts of each prompt. We present below the two essay questions that Colorado College is asking its 2016-2017 cycle applicants.
Colorado College Application Essay Prompts
How did you learn about Colorado College, and why do you wish to attend? (no more than 500 words)
The Block Plan at Colorado College has a tradition of innovation and flexibility. Please design your own three-and-a-half week course and describe what you would do. (no more than 500 words)
Below, we’ll discuss both prompts and successful strategies for answering each.
Overview of First Essay Prompt
It is important to note that the word limit here is 500 words. This is the length of your average essay, so keep this in mind as you begin to brainstorm and move on to follow the next steps.
STEP 1: The question has two parts — how you learned about Colorado College and why you hope to attend. We will begin with the first part, how you learned about the school. So… how did you? Did you hear about the college through email, through a friend, or through an accidental visit? Did you learn about the college from a teacher who constantly discusses his favorite memories there, or maybe you simply stumbled upon the college online?
Regardless of how you came across the college, write it down. (Yes, even if the reason is something that the college probably doesn’t want to hear, write it down for now.) Maybe you discovered the college through a combination of ways. In this case, jot down all the moments that helped you to discover and learn about Colorado College. We will discuss how to weave these answers together and “spice up” your response during a later step.
STEP 2: Now, it’s time to dive into some brainstorming for the second part of the question: why you hope to attend Colorado College. Be honest and make a note of all the contributing reasons for your interest in the school. Maybe it’s Colorado’s interesting Block Plan that compels you to submit your application; maybe it’s a certain extracurricular activity that you’d like to participate in; or maybe it’s a few specific classes that really catch your interest.
Regardless of your reason(s), be as thorough and honest as you can. Yes, your honest reason may be something that the college may not want to hear (e.g., “I don’t want to attend this college, but my parents are making me apply”), but still scribble this honest reason down for now. We will discuss how to weave your brainstorming here into your essay later on.
STEP 3: Take a look at both lists you’ve created. Now, we ask that you wait before you narrow down your list (this will take place in the next step). Consider every point you jotted down on each list, even the brutally honest answers that you believe Colorado College would not want to hear. Take a moment to imagine the possibilities for this essay with each point you wrote down; think about the direction you’d like this essay to take. We’ll call these “essay pathways” or essay approaches.
So, for starters, consider this: Did you initially have no interest in the school and then develop an immense appreciation for it later? In this case, it may be a good idea to take a creative and honest approach in which you anecdotally describe how the school came to appeal to you.
Did you always know that you wanted to attend this school? In this case, it may be a good idea to take the heartfelt approach and write a story about something in the past that made you simply drawn to spend your college years at Colorado College. There are countless approaches you could take; it varies for each individual. Don’t be afraid to be a little imaginative. With so many paths to take in this essay, write all the approaches down that are applicable to you.
STEP 4: Now that you have various “essay pathways” to take, begin to narrow down your ideas to just one approach. Consider your abilities as a writer, the personal events you naturally gravitate toward, or the emotions you feel comfortable with expressing when writing. Maybe you find yourself to be brutally honest — take the brutally honest approach. Maybe you consider yourself a comedian — add a humorous twist to your essay! You may have a particularly significant life event that draws you to Colorado College; use that.
You may also realize at this point that some ideas you brainstormed won’t work in your planned approach. Cut these ideas out. Also, some ideas may be hard to weave in no matter what, due to how common or unspecific they are to Colorado College. For example, thousands of students applying to the school may say that they are interested in the school for its unique Block Plan. Unless you have an interesting way to present this interest of yours (based on an “essay pathway” you created earlier), you should try to choose a more personal and less commonly used reason.
STEP 5: Finalize your idea and begin to write! Remember to apply your creativity and ensure that your tone, diction, and content coalesce into a clear voice. Start with an interesting hook to reel readers in. There are many ways to accomplish this, including but not limited to the following: begin with a relevant quote, set the scene for an experience that’ll help define the rest of your essay, or begin with a rhetorical question related to your interest in the school. Then fill in the body of your essay with the essay approach that you decided upon earlier.
Wrap up your essay in a satisfyingly memorable and decidedly final way. Examples of strong endings could include the following: reflect on your essay through a larger scope, reiterate something you discussed in your first paragraph (your hook would be great for this), or write a thought-provoking statement that “fastens” your essay together.
As you can see, there are many ways you can approach the beginning and the end of your essay! Once you are done, read through the essay multiple times yourself for edits. Have teachers, parents, mentors, and other helpful adults aid you in your essay editing as well.
Overview of Second Essay Prompt
Again, it is important to note that the word limit here is 500 words. Another thing to keep in mind is that this essay pertains to Colorado College’s unique Block Plan. You may want to conduct some extra research on the plan if you would like; otherwise, you can reread the introduction of this guide to get a sense of the essay’s context.
STEP 1: Focus on the first sentence: “The Block Plan at Colorado College has a tradition of innovation and flexibility.” The key words here are “innovation” and “flexibility.” Whatever you’re going to write about, make sure that you reflect these two qualities. After all, they’re described as a tradition of the school.
STEP 2: Now, focus on the second sentence here: “Please design your own three-and-a-half week course and describe what you would do.” This essay is truly your chance to shine and showcase your truest, deepest interests. Take full advantage of that!
For now, focus on the first part of the sentence — “design your own three-and-a-half week course” — and brainstorm different interests of yours that you are very passionate about, have never had the chance to explore, or are a little quirky or imaginative and would make an interesting topic to write about. Write down anything and everything that comes to mind.
STEP 3: Now that you have your list of interests, start parsing through your list to eliminate the unsuitable topics. Here are just a few reasons you may cut something out:
- The topic is so shallow that it would be hard to complete the second part of the sentence — “describe what you would do” — effectively.
- Content-wise, the topic is inappropriate to submit in an application.
- The topic at hand is too broad. In this case, you may either eliminate the topic or specify your topic so that it’s easier to write about.
STEP 4: Pick your final topic; you may have to follow your gut a little bit or ask for the opinions of others if you’re stuck between two topics. Remember that you can always change your essay topic if you decide that you have not chosen the best one for the essay.
STEP 5: Now, handle the second part of the second sentence: “describe what you would do.” First, write down the different activities and learning styles you would prefer to implement for a class on your given topic. Don’t be afraid to be imaginative and to think outside of the box!
Remember Step 1: Colorado College’s Block Plan has a “tradition of innovation and flexibility.” How do you present your activities and learning styles in the essay?
You can approach this in a number of ways, but since the question is asking that you describe your course over three-and-a-half weeks, you may consider a chronological approach to be the most foundational and effective. Note: If you have another more-creative plan in mind, you can surely follow that layout instead! Just make sure that how you answer the prompt is clear.
STEP 6: All your ideas are gathered, and now you may begin to write! (Due to the complexity of this second essay, you may choose to start off with a short outline of the ideas you will present and in what order.) See the tips above (in question 1, step 5) for ways to properly begin and close an essay.
Now that you have a general idea of how to respond to Colorado College’s prompts, it’s time to conduct some research (if needed) and write.
It’s recommended that you do not procrastinate! Every word and idea counts when you’re committing yourself to applying to a college, and we hope that our Colorado College guide will help you write an essay that you’re truly confident in submitting to admissions readers.
In the meantime, you may consider visiting Colorado College’s campus to check out the campus and get some inspiration. We wish you luck in your writing endeavors!
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