Funny farewells to the college year for students & graduates

As college students celebrate the end of the academic year in many countries worldwide, here are some clever, funny jokes to help get the parties started…

Students & Graduates: your funniest farewells to the college year!

Too much celebrating? You may still get a “B”…

Obeying orders
A college graduate applied for a job at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Together with several other applicants, he was given a sealed envelope and told to take it to the fourth floor.
As soon as the young man was alone, he stepped into an empty hallway and opened the packet.
Inside, a message read: “You’re our kind of person. Report to the fifth floor.” [Read more…]

Writing for students: why plagiarism sucks

HTWB Students logo 3Avoiding plagiarism: it’s a touchy subject. You’re probably sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t need to read this, I’m never going to cheat like that’.

You’re wrong. Well, sort of.

Plagiarising is not as black and white as just choosing to steal someone else’s ideas. You could plagiarise without even knowing it.

You could be plagiarising right now. [Read more…]

How to write a good personal statement for university or college

How to write a good personal statement for university or college

In the UK, now’s the time to get working on personal statements for most university courses …

Today, October 15th, is the deadline in the UK for “the receipt at UCAS of applications for all professional medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and veterinary science courses, and for all courses at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.”

But if you are (or your son or daughter is) not destined to be a medic or a vet, there’s a bit of time left to get those personal statements done as nearly all other courses apart from most art and design varieties, which have until March 24th, have until January 15th.

So here’s some help to get going with!

Before I go any further, I have to point out that there are myriad resources both on the internet and within print books that will indicate exactly what you need to include in your university personal statement – and if in the US your admission essay, which is similar – so for me to detail it all here would be superfluous.

In addition to that, whichever university to which you are applying will undoubtedly offer detailed guidelines on what they expect you to include in your statement. Beyond that, your school or college from which you will be graduating to university will have trained staff who know just what you need to include in your personal statement and/or admission essay, for whichever and however many universities.

In the UK, the key contact forum is UCAS which as you probably know already can be accessed here: Its section on personal statements is very helpful – click here.

So why have I included an article on this at all?

Business writing approaches can be very helpful

Those of you who read my business writing stuff regularly will know that I bang on endlessly about the “you” angle, and particularly the need to infuse your writing with an emphasis on “what’s in it for me, the reader.”

Much as university personal statements and the US-favored admission essays would appear to be all about “me” the applicant, let’s not kid ourselves. What’s going to get you in the door is not “all about me” but “all about how I am a suitable student to work well within your university and probably help bring it some good brownie points into the bargain.” Cynical? Yes. Unrealistic? No.

As I have suggested, there are endless websites and books available that will tell you the structures, approaches and “tones of voice” which work best for any particular university application. I can’t duplicate these here (no space) and in any case, in the main they offer you lots of good advice.

Please use these – and especially use the advice given to you by your school or college – as much as you can.

So what advice can I offer?

What I do know about as I suggested above, has little to do with university requirements and everything to do with basic business writing psychology that helps you, as the “product,” to get your foot in the door.

Take a look at these tips, because they will help you to angle your university application material in a way that can grab readers harder. Try to include the tips as and when you can, and don’t let the academic types in your life deflect you from creating material that appeals to its readership rather than anything else…

  • Write as people speak, but don’t just write down a monologue
  • Write in terms of “me,” but don’t use a pompous “royal we” approach
  • If you want to use your “personal brand voice” (see below) make sure it speaks the reader’s language
  • Make every sentence relevant to the audience – “what’s in it for them?”
  • Wherever possible write to “you” – not to anyone in the 3rd-person
  • Don’t just get to the point – start with it, and phrase it so it will grab the audience’s attention
  • Say what you mean and don’t procrastinate with fuzzy language
  • Be informal but be careful not to be overly familiar
  • Use go words, not slow words – sharper nouns, stronger, shorter verbs
  • Use active rather than passive phrasing (“go to bed now,” not “it’s time you went to bed”)
  • Although simple is usually better, don’t over-simplify – it can seem childish or patronising
  • Especially with online text but with print too, avoid long blocks of text because they’re uninviting to read
  • Visually break up long sections of text by peppering them with cross-headings or emboldened key points
  • Keep online sentences and paragraphs short, and vary the length of offline sentences
  • Don’t go into more than one idea per sentence
  • Write so that one sentence flows logically into the next
  • One-word or verbless sentences are useful for pacing and effect, but only if you use them sparingly
  • Where possible start new paragraphs with links like “Of course,” or “However,” to keep the audience hooked
  • Use a list or bullet points to put across more than two or three items in a sequence
  • Keep jargon to a minimum and be sure your audience will understand what you do use
  • Avoid meaningless or valueless clichés because they make your writing seem unoriginal
  • Learn the difference between poor clichés and your subject’s commonly used terms, and use the latter intelligently
  • Avoid adjectives and superlatives that smell phoney, e.g. “best,” “fastest,” “exciting”
  • Use the most visual adjectives and adverbs you can think of – they’re powerful
  • Use “Plain English” wherever possible – even college professors are unimpressed with a lot of long words where short ones will do
  • Check for small grammatical and punctuation goofs – they make you look amateurish
  • Check for spelling mistakes and don’t rely totally on your spellchecker
  • Proofread your work backwards – it sounds crazy but you don’t miss spelling mistakes that way

Get the grownup help you need to make that statement sparkle:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English

Advice to young people: very real urban legends

More than ten years ago the following 11 “rules” were circulating widely on the internet, attributed to Bill Gates.  Since then, it was found out that Bill Gates never said or wrote them and that the various versions – that he’d said them in a speech, or in an article – were urban legends.

They were intended, apparently, to address “how feel-good, politically correct teaching has created a full generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.”

Sadly, I can see little change in the attitudes of young people graduating from high schools and colleges today, over a decade later. So many thanks to whoever did write or say these rules, as I share them with you now. And apart from a few points that are out of date, like car phones, old-fashioned broadcast TV and “Friends” (Rule 10) … why has so little moved on since then?

Life is not fair – get used to it.

The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both.

If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.

Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it “opportunity.”

If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes; learn from them.

Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

More help – for young business writers:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English