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The 4 Most Common Admissions Essay Topics (and How to Approach Them)

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Are you getting your college applications ready? In most cases, you’ll need a copy of your transcript, letters of recommendation, and the often-dreaded admissions essay. To make the process a little easier, read on as Ann Arbor, MI teacher Elaina R. shares some of the most common admissions essay topics you might run into…

 

College admissions essays act as the human element in the otherwise statistic-driven admissions process. Where test scores and GPAs could easily be evaluated by an algorithm, someone has to actually sit down and read your essay. The goal of the college admissions essay is simple: getting to know the person behind the statistics. If you do a good job, the admissions officer gets a little glimpse of your personality that tips the scales in your favor.

Colleges tend to use the same types of essay topics and prompts each year. Knowing what to expect, and remembering to focus on yourself – not your nervous college applicant self, but your real, quirky, interesting self – gives you a good shot at writing an essay worth remembering.

1. A Defining Experience

“Describe an experience that changed your life.” “Tell us about an experience that defines who you are.” This is probably the most common essay topic. While some students have a truly life-changing experience that they want to write about, many others are left wondering whether they should write about winning softball regionals or going to Disney World.

If you are one of the many students without a crazy story to tell, spend some time brainstorming about who you are and what it is you want the admissions committee to know. Small-scale stories can be just as effective as large-scale ones. My own college admissions essay was about a haircut, but I used it to show how I had grown as a person and overcome adversity. It got me into a great school.

2. A Hobby or Interest

When faced with the “Write about your favorite hobby” prompt, many students’ first inclination is to write about an extracurricular already displayed prominently on their application. The admissions officer already know that you are captain of the football team if it says so on your extracurriculars list. That doesn’t mean that you can’t write about the football team (or debate team or drama club), but it does mean you should take a second look first.

Make a list of all of the hobbies and activities you enjoy. Remember, the admissions officer is going to read hundreds of essays about sports, but how many essays will be about baking artisan bread or collecting preserved beetles? Those are the essays admissions officers are more likely to remember.

3. The Role Model Essay

Don’t write about how Albert Einstein is your role model just to impress the admissions officer. Since the goal is getting to know you better, picking a famous historical figure for the wrong reasons could backfire. If Albert Einstein is genuinely your role model and you’ve read dozens of books on him, it will show. If he isn’t, that will show as well.

Make a list of people who have inspired you or made a difference in your life. Your role model could turn out to be your grandmother, a grocery store clerk, or even a fictional character.

4. Why Our University?

Even this question is about you. Admissions officers do not want you to rattle off statistics about their university. They work in the admissions office and probably know all of the statistics already. They know that the school is great; what they want to know is what you would do if you got in.

Do some research on your specific areas of interest within the school. That includes academic departments, professors who have worked in your field, and classes that sound interesting. Look into activities as well – a cappella groups, intramural sports, charitable organizations, and so on. Tell the admissions officer exactly what your life at their school would look like.

No matter what the essay topic is, when writing a college admissions essay, always focus on you. The college admissions committee wants to know who you are and what you have to say. Be honest, be creative, and above all, be yourself.

ElainaElaina R. is a writer, editor, singer, and voice teacher based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her book Slaying Your Admissions Essay Dragon shows how to write application essays that are actually fun to read. Elaina has served as an editor for several notable books as well, including NFL great Adrian Peterson’s autobiography Don’t Dis My Abilities. Learn more about Elaina here!

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Piano Care | How to Clean a Piano

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Not sure how to clean your piano? Check out these tips from Olympia, WA teacher Tali H

 

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “A clean room gives way to a clear mind.” Although I’m not so sure this logic follows for the piano (“a clean piano gives ways to clear playing”), it’s still important to keep your playing area relatively clutter-free and your piano tidy. While caring for the piano is simple, there are a few things to watch out for and some easy steps you can take to make the maintenance minimal. Here are the do’s and don’ts of how to clean a piano:

1. The Do’s

There are two extremely easy ways to keep your piano clean. One, wash your hands before playing every time (just a good 30-second rub down with soap). Most of the dirt that gets on your piano comes from the fingers and hands of people who play it, so taking this preventative step is very important. Then, when you’re done playing, pull the piano lid down over the keys so they’re not exposed to dust, sunlight, or the occasional mishap with spilled drinks, food, etc.

Even with careful preventative care, it’s likely that grease, dirt, and dust will still build up on your piano from time to time. Remove the dust often (a quick once-over before you start playing) with a feather duster or a soft, slightly damp cloth (such as flannel or cheesecloth). I recommend white to avoid discoloration of the keys and using filtered water on the cloth. However, don’t get carried away with cleaning. Only wipe the outside of the piano – leave the inside (which can be more fragile) to the professionals.

2. The Don’ts

When dusting your piano, don’t use a rough or dry cloth (you want to avoid scratching the keys). No paper towels! Also, avoid using mineral water or any type of spray, perfume, polish or aerosol. These have the potential to alter the coloration of the piano or create unfavorable marks.

Avoid getting water in between the keys by wiping up and down one key at a time, rather than across the keys where water can seep into the cracks. Also, have a dry cloth on hand to quickly pat down the wet keys.

3. Whitening the Keys

After your piano is free of dust and dirt, there may still be discoloration. In this case, you’ll want to whiten the keys. The first step is determining what the piano keys are made of (generally plastic, ebony, or ivory). Ivory keys will have a fine split on each key, as they are molded together. Ebony keys have a matte texture and tend to feel more solid. For ivory keys, use milk and gently rub each key, taking caution that the milk doesn’t get inside the piano. This process can be time-consuming. For ebony keys, take a gentle toothpaste, and lightly polish the keys. Next, take a cloth dampened with milk and wash away the toothpaste residue. Pat dry immediately.

Remember the best action for a clean piano is preventative action. So wash your hands before you play and keep the keys hidden under the cover! Also, it helps to have your piano in a cool, dark place. Sun exposure leads to discoloration on the keys. These are some of the best strategies for how to clean a piano and will ensure years of quality music-making!

TaliHTali H. tutors and teaches piano in Olympia, WA, as well as through online lessons. Since 2010, she has worked with numerous students in elementary, middle, high school, and college in both group settings and one-on-one. Learn more about Tali here! 

 

 

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How to Find the Right Voice Teacher for the Long Run

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Want to learn how to sing? Selecting a great voice teacher to take lessons with is your first step! Read on as Chicago and online teacher Ian H. shares his advice for finding the perfect teacher for you…

Finding a teacher whose philosophy fits your learning style is a huge challenge for both student and teacher. It can translate to a great deal of success or stagnancy for young artists developing their voices. Your pace of learning, entering ability, and choice of musical repertoire should all play into how you choose a teacher, though at the forefront of the criteria should be a healthy approach.

With this kind of healthy foundation, your teacher is better able to:

  • Challenge you appropriately for your age, ability, and development
  • Offer support tailored to your specific needs
  • Structure a plan for you and your voice
  • Instill correct technique within each lesson

Keep in mind: healthy singing lends itself to all styles, whereas style does not necessarilyalways lend itself to healthy singing. A singer of any genre is capable of hurting their instrument, though with a healthy approach, artistic and stylistic choices can be made more effectively and bolster your stamina.

So, how can you use this information to make sure you’re working with the right instructor? Always keep in mind that your teacher should:

  • Challenge you without hurting you 

Arts education and musical training have been a huge part of my life ever since I was a very young student. Right as I began to mature vocally, at the age of 18 years old, I grew an inconveniently placed abscess in my tonsil and throat due to a strep infection. This left me tender, scarred, and with a whole new mechanism to learn and sing with. In the very early days of my college years this caused quite a bit of grief in my vocal production, but what absolutely saved me were my private teachers who kept me in a healthy and productive place.

  • Continually focus on your vocal health 

It has taken me years to understand vocal technique, because it takes years to study, learn, and master it. My injury aside, what kept me healthy and capable as a young singer were my teachers and professors devoted to offering me good solid technical foundations to avoid injuries, such as vocal nodules and hemorrhaging. Considering my injury it was extra important that I focus on healthy singing, so as not to burn myself out with bad habits and injury.

  • Structure a plan for you to follow

I felt stifled in my repertoire choices because of what happened with my injury; I wanted to be challenged with operatic arias, interesting song cycles, music far too large for my vocal ability. But had I been given what I wanted, my poor little vocal folds and over-taxed soft palette would have been fried to nothing. Instead, my teachers focused on music with a limited range to help me build stamina, explore the breaks of my voice, and find my breath. We worked to reestablish my understanding of my instrument. I was not the most receptive student to this ‘slow’ and reparative approach, thus slowing my progress down tremendously. Being a brash young man and wanting challenge clouded my judgment, and I failed to see the challenge of building my own instrument. This applies to any style of singing the artist performs; there needs to be an approach from a healthy place.

  • Show you how to get the most out of your voice lessons 

Finding singing teachers and coaches that truly support your progress and vocal ability is vitally important. Those who go into the field of teaching are people who desire to educate people in their chosen craft, they want to do well for their students. Though, not every teacher is a fit for a you. Listening to your body’s defense signals and finding a teacher whose language corresponds with that body language provides and safe and productive environment to learn and grow. Educating yourself is important, practice is important, but more important is you and your teacher knowing your limits and how to push them.

In the early stages of vocal study, looking at technique and health will only inform the art to come. Don’t allow the stars in your eyes to blind you from your future. If you want to sing Jazz but your teacher is giving you simple folk songs, ask him or her what the lesson is. Learning line, breath, and control. Finding color, phrasing, and stamina. Work on yourself so that as you find your style and voice you can continue singing for years to follow.

IanHIan H. teaches singing, acting, piano, and more in Chicago, IL, as well as through online lessons. He has a comprehensive knowledge of classical repertoire, as well as experience in Jazz Standards and Golden Age Broadway tunes. Learn more about Ian here! 

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TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 4/21/14

belusheyEach week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here’s this week’s shout out!

Arlys A. in Minneapolis, MN wrote in to tell us about her student Belushey’s awesome accomplishments! She wrote, “Belushey has had an exciting week: Her first TV commercial “Baby Stuffies” aired on Sunday 4/13/14, during the MTV music awards, and she reads for a Disney television role on Friday. She’s done excellent preparation work and is set to perform at her best. Knock ‘em dead!” Way to go Belushey!! We’re so proud of you and excited to see what you do next!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 4/14/14

piano 4-14Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are all of this week’s shout outs!

Vanessa P. in Lynnwood, WA wrote, “Congratulations to Sophia on the wonderful reviews for her performance as Laurey in her school’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway classic, “Oklahoma!” You did us all proud!!!” Bravo Sophia!

Kelvin L. in Bolingbrook, IL wrote, “My student Ava just passed her Certificate of Merit – Level Three…Woohoo! Congratulations Ava!” Keep up the good work, Ava!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 4/7/14

bring it inEach week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are all of this week’s shout outs!

Courtney P. in Winter Springs, FL wrote, “A great big congratulations goes out to my student Peter for booking a role on ABC’s The Middle! Hard work and dedication pay off! I am so proud of you Peter! Congrats!” Well done Peter! We can’t wait to see you on the screen!

Sandra H. in Philadelphia, PA wrote, “My student Alice V. after studying voice for over a year, was accepted at the Art’s Academy at Benjamin Rush High School. Congratulations Alice!” Way to go Alice! We’re all proud of you!

Richard C. in Phoenix, AZ wrote, “I would like to congratulate my banjo student Adam S. and his wonderful wife on the birth of their first child Olivia. 9 lb 10 oz born 4/4/14 at 11:19 am. Congrats you two! and get that kid a banjo stat!” Congratulations! And for the record, Olivia is a great name for a future banjo virtuoso!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 3/31/14

good news 3-31Each week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are all of this week’s shout outs!

Kelvin L. in Bolingbrook, IL wrote, “My piano student Ty M. has made his first international audition at the Dulwich International Music Academy (DIMA) in Dulwich College Beijing! Congratulations Ty! We are so proud of you!” Great work, Ty!

Patricia D. in Washington, D.C. wrote, “I am giving a shout out to three of my students who have done an excellent job in mastering their piano skills. Hurray for Milena, Yaphet, and Delena.” Keep it up!

Deborah C. in Las Vegas, NV wrote, “Congratulations to Ace and Jordan on getting parts in Les Miz! You were selected from a large pool of talent and should be very proud. Have fun in the show and keep those voices in good shape.” Break a leg, guys!

Cheryl M. in Detroit, MI wrote, “I’d like to give my shout out for Colleen S., my voice student, for having competed in a music competition this past Friday, March 21st in Midland, Michigan. She received scores of 17′s and 18′s out of a possible 20 in the categories for breath control, musicianship, interpretation, intonation, diction and such. Her overall scores for her two selections were 88 and 85 respectively, out of a possible 100 for each. Colleen has been a REAL trooper and has perservered over these five weeks of instruction despite her challenging health issues and ongoing setbacks because of having had leukemia. Even now, she needs to have another hip replacement. She is a brave young woman that I pray will continue to study voice in the future! Way to go, girl!” Go Colleen! You’re amazing and we’d love to hear you sing!

Mike S. in Lehighton, PA wrote in with some good news about his own career! He said, “The Greater Lehigh Valley Music Association held its 15th Annual Lehigh Valley Music Awards presentation on Sunday, March 9th at the Musikfest Café in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Among the special Honoree recipients is veteran guitarist and bandleader Mike Stanley of Mike Stanley & Friends, who was recognized for over 25 years of entertaining in the region.” Congratulations Mike! We’re proud to have you on the team!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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TakeLessons Community Shout Outs – Week of 3/24/14

adam cEach week, TakeLessons students and teachers send us their shout outs. We’re thankful to be a part of this positive and thriving community, so we’d like to share these messages with you. Here are all of this week’s shout outs!

Adam C. in Lilburn, GA wrote, “One of my star students, Angia C. just won the Concerto Competition to perform Hadyn Violin Concerto in G Major, with the Gwinnett County Youth Orchestra. Two of my professionally bound students, Kynan C. and Kathryn C., both passed their UGA college auditions with flying colors and received scholarships too! 14 of my violin and viola students won their All-State Orchestra Auditions.” Way to go!

Angel M. in San Diego, CA wrote, “Hi guys! I, along with fellow TakeLessons teacher Kayla G. have started a new choral ensemble called Folklore! It pairs professional singers with standout high school/ junior college vocalists to prepare and encourage them to pursue a career in the arts after they graduate. We perform music from the high renaissance, negro-spirituals, folksongs, arrangements of songs by indie bands, and music from video games. We even wear monk robes! We’ll premier this summer at the San Diego Choral Festival at St. Paul’s cathedral. Should be a great time! If any local San Diego teachers have some recommended students to audition at the end of May, we encourage them to check out our website for more information. www.folkloreguild.org” Sounds like an awesome project. We can’t wait to see the debut!

Share your good news with the TakeLessons community by sending an email with your shout out to GoodNews@TakeLessons.com. Don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram to keep the conversation going!

 

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