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The Dos and Dont’s of Writing the Best University Admissions Essays

Monday, December 5th, 2016

By Bryan Ide, Education Directory KEY Admissions Strategy & Learning Enrichment

Before you submit your US university applications, ask yourself if you are truly happy with your essays. Do they capture the reader’s attention? Do they articulate your compelling and interesting story? And most importantly, do they make you stand out? To help you answer these questions, here are some important dos and don’ts to writing outstanding university admissions essays.

Do be genuine and passionate
The number one rule to writing a great personal statement is to be yourself. Think of the essay as a fun exercise where you get to write about what you are passionate and to show your real self. When you focus on something that is genuinely you, you’re much more likely to write a unique personal essay.

Don’t be opportunistic
Be careful if you write about the sick relative in the hospital or all the hardships you have faced in life in order to gain the sympathy of the reader. That doesn’t work. Also, if you talk about saving the environment you but your application doesn’t show that you even are involved with your school’s environmental club, you will look opportunistic. In other words, don’t write what you think will appeal to the reader. Rather, stay true to yourself.

Do connect with your reader quickly
As I’ve mentioned in one of my previous articles, one exercise that I do with my students I call the two-sentence rule where I read the first two sentences of their essays. If my students haven’t caught my attention, they need to rewrite their essays. Remember that admissions officers are going through your application so quickly that you need to be able to catch their attention as soon as possible. Also, the more effective essays use humour, wit, and self-deprecation to connect with the reader.

Don’t be clichéd
I noted in a previous article that one of the common themes I saw as an interviewer for Cornell University went something like this: the applicant moved to Canada from China a few years ago not knowing any English and not having any friends. Through perseverance and determination he overcame the language barrier and fully integrated himself into Canadian society. If your essays sound very similar, then I can guarantee you that many other applicants will have written the exact same essay. So, it’s important not to be clichéd and write something that many others will also have written.

Do show how you think differently
One effective way to stand out among the crowd is to show how you think differently. Take for example my own essay that I wrote when I applied to Cornell University. My topic was McDonald’s, yes McDonald’s fast food restaurant! For one week I went to McDonald’s every day and sat there watching people. I noticed certain things and particular patterns. For example, the average time it took for someone to enter, eat, and leave was about seven minutes. Also, do you know why the seats at McDonald’s are so hard and uncomfortable? It’s so that McDonald’s can cycle more customers through at a faster rate thereby increasing profits. Writing about my observations at McDonald’s showed how I think differently about something which most people wouldn’t even think or notice.

Don’t write fiction
A couple of years ago, I reviewed the essays from a couple of students from one of Vancouver’s top private schools. To my shock, the students had written fictional stories! I guess they thought that writing fiction was their way of being creative. However, admissions officers aren’t interested in reading about things that never happened. Rather, they want to get to know the real you, so how are they supposed to do that by reading a fictional story?

As you strive to write the best essay you can, remember these helpful hints. And always stay true to yourself. You’ll find that it’ll make writing your essay so much easier and so much more pleasant.

Southlands Country Fair

Friday, September 9th, 2011

This year’s Southlands Country Fair is on Sunday, September 11th from 10:00-4:00.  There will be pony rides, a petting farm, horse entertainment, farmers market, vendor booths, horse information booths, live music, food fairs, a book sale, midway games, the hay pile, bouncy horses, colouring contests, face painting and much more!

The Bake Sale is back!! All bake sale items will be entered in the Baking Competition which will be judged by a celebrity judge and awards will be presented during the welcome ceremony.

They are now accepting books and DVD’s for the book sale. Just drop them off in the riding club’s foyer. They are NOT running a thrift sale this year so please no thrift items.

If you would like any more information please contact Pippa Emrick at or 604-351-5522. Cristina Barbata at or 604-351-5222


The University Women’s Club of Vancouver

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

New members welcome!  The University Women’s Club of Vancouver promotes education and opportunities for women; sharing ideas, interests and fun at the Clubhouse Hycroft.

Members are women who have sought and achieved a university education and women who value education; they are graduates of more than 100 universities worldwide.

PROMOTE EDUCATION by providing educational opportunities such as speakers and workshops, a library, and the company of stimulating women to facilitate lifelong learning, and also provide educational opportunities for others with the many scholarships and bursaries.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN to share their education with the community by ongoing advocacy furthering the status of women and human rights, mentoring and networking, and providing educational events.

SHARING IDEAS, INTERESTS, AND FUN in the comfort of the members’ lounge, in interest groups and committees, and social and cultural events.

CLUBHOUSE HYCROFT, the stately building in the heart of Shaughnessy for which they are stewards, provides an amazing setting to meet, to learn, and to socialize.


An Active Member is a woman who holds a degree or the equivalent from a university with Canadian or international accreditation anywhere in the world.  An Associate Member is a woman who does not have a degree but supports the values and goals of the Club.  Other categories of membership include: Non-resident, Student, Consular, Honorary, Temporary and Dual. Please enquire at the office for more details.

There is a One Time Entrance Fee of $400 (+$48 tax) for new members and Annual Dues, paid by all members, that may be paid annually, semi-annually, quarterly or monthly, with pro-rating for new members joining part way through the year. Members under 30 years of age enjoy 50% annual dues.

If you are interested in joining the University Women’s Club of Vancouver and require more information, please contact the office at 604-733-7531 or email to be put in touch with a Membership Representative.

Applications for membership can be downloaded, completed and submitted with a proof of qualifications, and full payment of the entrance fee and annual dues.


Interested women are invited to attend an interactive reception and presentation to learn more about membersip in University Women’s Club of Vancouver and how Club members support and advocate  education for women and girls, act as stewards of one of BC’s finest heritage buildings, and enjoy activities, programs and events. These Open Houses are a welcoming and informative introduction to our Club and Hycroft. Presented at no charge by Club members, they include a short presentation, a tour of the House, and refreshments. Your friends and partners are welcome also.

You are invited to register in the office for Open House scheduled on Sunday 2 October, 2011 from 1:30 – 3:30 pm


Enrichment & Lifelong Learning
•Meet interesting women of all ages and backgrounds from around the world
•Workshops, conferences, lectures and guest speaker engagements are held regularly at the Club, covering an array of topics of interest to members.

Fellowship & Friendship
•Relax in the comfort of Hycroft between appointments.
•Social activities are held throughout the year, giving members a chance to meet and mingle with one another, and host guests.
•In-house catering can provide meals and snacks, by arrangement, for members and guests.

Mentoring & Networking
•Members come from varied backgrounds, ages and stages.  We are entrepreneurs, business owners, artists, public servants, professionals in other fields, and volunteers. No matter what stage your career or life is at, you are bound to meet someone who will inspire and support your endeavours.

•Members carry out our mandate through the advocacy work they do in the community – at home and nationally.  You may find others who inspire you to get involved or you may feel good about belonging to an organization that stands for something.

Committee Activities & Interest Groups
•A wide range of Committees and Interest Groups to engage our members.  See full list of Committees and Interest Groups.

Newsletter and Updates
•Members are kept up to date with what’s happening at Hycroft through our Club newsletter Hycroft Happenings.
•Weekly updates are sent by email.

•Small library of current fiction, history, and works on women’s issues exclusively for the use of members.

•Members with a parking decal may park at no charge.

Hycroft Amenities

Members have access to Hycroft during all open hours, food services, and special rates on house and room rentals.
•Members’ Lounge: The wood paneled Oak Room is the designated Members’ Lounge and is available for members to read the daily newspapers, newsletters from other CFUW clubs, or simply to chat and make friends with other members. If you prefer, find a quiet spot in one of the other rooms or on the terrace or in the gardens.  Hycroft is your home away from home in the city.
•Food and Beverage Service: Coffee and Tea are always available to members at no charge in the Oak Room and in the upper hallway.  An honour bar is in the Oak Room for beverages and snacks signed to accounts.  Meals are regularly scheduled and advertised in Hycroft Happenings and posted on the daily board for your convenience and pleasure.  Personalized lunches, dinners and snacks are available to members and their guests by arrangement.
•Members Rates for Rentals: Members enjoy a generously discounted schedule of rental rates when booking Hycroft for personal or business use ~ consider Hycroft for weddings, meetings, parties and special family or business events at member rates.

West Point Grey District Girl Guides

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Monday September 12, 2011 – West Point Grey District Girl Guides Registration event 5:30-7:30pm at St Philip’s Church (3636 W. 37th Ave).  For full details on a Unit of Sparks (Gr K-1), Brownies (Gr 2-3), Guides (Gr 4-6), Pathfinders (Gr 7-9) or Rangers (Gr 10-12) near you, please go to or contact  Join anytime during the year – we’re always open.  Adult volunteer opportunities also available!

October 1 – Girl Guide Chocolaty Mint Cookie sales begin! Only $4 per box. Look for us on Dunbar St. and W10th Ave or selling door-to-door in your neighbourhood.  All proceeds benefit Spark, Brownie, Guide, Pathfinder and Ranger girls directly in their programs and camps.

April 1 –  Girl Guide Classic Chocolate and Vanilla Sandwich Cookie sales begin! Only $4 per box. Look for us on Dunbar St. and W10th Ave or selling door-to-door in your neighbourhood.  All proceeds benefit Spark, Brownie, Guide, Pathfinder and Ranger girls directly in their programs and camps.


Moving of Lord Kitchener Schoolhouse

Monday, August 8th, 2011

The old 1914 wood frame schoolhouse at Lord Kitchener Elementary (King Edward & Collingwood) will be moved from its original site to a new foundation. The building has already been raised and placed on wheels. The first stage of the move begins at 10:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2011.

There will be two days to see movement of the building – it won’t occur quickly. It will first move to the west and then move south over the new foundations.

Tuesday – 7:30 – 10:00 am – set up of moving equipment 10:00 onwards, movement of the building westwards.

Wednesday – the building will move south and will be jacked up over the existing new foundations. The frame building will hover over the new foundation for a week while additional foundations are installed, then it will be dropped into place.

All of the above are  approximate times and are based on ideal circumstances with no challenges or obstacles!

by Lord Kitchener PAC

Happy Anniversary Chloe Angus

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Chloe Angus is one of Western Canada’s hottest designers and she lives right here in Dunbar.

On July 15, 2010, Chloe had the Grand Opening of her concept store and fashion design studio located at 4273 Dunbar Street.   The store features her eco-chic ready-to-wear collection as well as some of her more intricate custom designs.

Chloe’s designs exemplify the balance between work and play, style and comfort, luxury and simple lines. Chloe emulates the spirit of empowered, feminine and sophisticated women from across Canada and around the world.  She believes in clothes that are not only opulent like the Silk Dupioni and soft Jersey Lyocell, but tailored and structured as demonstrated in her use of linen suiting and crisp cotton shirtings.  Like the women who wear them, Chloe’s collections inspire confidence, elegance and ease.  With designs that are as innovative as they are classic, Chloe believes first and foremost in beautiful silhouettes that accentuate all body shapes and sizes without compromising her inherent eye for style.  Not only do they use natural and sustainable fabrics, they run the company as a sustainable green company by producing all the garments in Vancouver at a locally owned, sweatshop-free environment.  In everything from labels to buttons, a conscious decision is made when creating the product.

I asked Chloe these questions as part of my interview:

  • What is your connection to Dunbar?  My grandparents bought their house at 42nd and Blenheim in 1955, my parents bought their first house at 50th and Dunbar in 1975; and my husband, Gabe, and I bought our house just off of Dunbar in 1999, so my roots have always been here. When I was little my Granny used to take me to Tinkers Hatch Bakery at 33rd Ave. and Mackenzie St. for a cookie and when I turned twelve my mom took me to Olinda’s  on Dunbar and Olinda made what I considered my first real dress.  So there are quite a few Angus’s between Dunbar and Angus Drive.
  • Why open your store on Dunbar Street?  I have a history in the Dunbar area and I have seen it take on new life in the past 10 years. Old Vancouver mixed with new, young families mixed with long-time residents makes Dunbar a unique place and because my style can flatter all ages I feel I have something to offer to everyone plus I have had a book by appointment studio in the area for the past three years and have built a client base here; and did I mention that the parking is still free (a real plus for shoppers).
  • What is your favourite thing about Dunbar?  The feeling of old school Vancouver.  Many people have lived in the Dunbar area for a long time, and it even has some of the history of the Musqueam Indian Band on the lamp posts going down Dunbar. It is still a place where you walk down the street and go to the baker, the grocer, the pharmacist, and the florist while waving at your neighbour.
  • Do you have kids?  No, but I have eleven nieces and nephews who all like to come and help out in the new studio.
    What is the story about your little white pony?  Pony? What pony? Sonny is Dunbar’s little secret.
  • What is your favourite part of each day?  Making an outfit for a lady that makes her feel great.
  • What is a great day?  When that lady comes back and tells me that her husband loved it too!
  • Who is Sarah MacLachlan and how did you meet?  Sarah is the Director of Operations and Assistant Designer.  We met through a business contact.  Sarah had worked for mega Canadian fashion company, Peter Nygard, in Winnipeg and had just moved to Vancouver; at that time I was just about to launch my first collection to The Hudson Bay’s Canadian by Design Department.  Sarah knew what I didn’t about garment production, she came on board to work with me that first season and we have been working together even since.  We are both workaholics who have an addiction to fashion.
  • How did you get into this business?  Besides being born to do this, I went to fashion design school and I went after every opportunity I could to get into the industry.
  • What is your background, interests, passion?  My parents moved to a very remote area of the Sunshine Coast when I was little where they raised my three brothers, my sister, and me. We grew up on an Organic Sea Food Farm ( and were home schooled.  I have always been a creative person with a passion for experiencing life; when I travel I love to find different fabrics and bring them home to make beautiful things that have been inspired by what I saw, or by someone I met.
  • Who is your inspiration? Every lady who walks through my doors inspires me.
  • Do you ever feel scared of the future and where this could take you? Of course, but that’s what keeps me creative and motivated.

When Chloe first called me to inquire about an ad in the magazine, she sounded like a sweet young girl.  It wasn’t until I went to her website and met her at the store that she blew me away.  So confident, fun, mature and inspiring.  You can’t help but feel her success as her energy and love of design beam from her. Her attention to detail and presentation as seen in her store and on her website are impressive. It is exciting to hear the customers shopping in the store with such enthusiasm.

I was so impressed with Chloe’s Button Wrap that I went for a fitting with Sarah and bought one in Bark colour.  I have worn it so much that I want it in every colour now!

Congratulations Chloe on your one year anniversary of the Dunbar store!

This article was originally posted in Dunbar Life Magazine in September 2010.

4273 Dunbar Street, Vancouver BC.  Telephone 604-224-2456

photos by Sandra Steier

Saltwater City for Youth: Vancouver’s Chinese Roots

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

New summer program for youth.

In recognition of Vancouver’s 125th anniversary, the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C. (CCHSBC) is proud to offer the inaugural summer camp “Saltwater City for Youth: Vancouver’s Chinese Roots”, a summer enrichment program for young teens of all ethnic backgrounds ages 13-14 that will take place from July 9 – Aug 17, 2011. During this six-week, part-time program, participants will hear from local community and academic leaders, visit museums and historic sites, review innovative website resources and create their own community artwork.

The camp begins Saturday, July 9th and will continue with weekly three-hour sessions on Wednesdays (July 13, 20, 27, August 3, 10, 17) from 6:30-9:30 pm. Additional sessions will be held on Saturday, July 23rd and Saturday, Aug 6th.

The cost is $200 per participant, or $150 for immediate family of a CCHSBC member. Discounts are available if registering more than one participant. Priority will be given to youth ages 13-14.

For more information or to enroll in the camp, please contact:  Elsome Tsui, Assistant Camp Coordinator,

Request for TV Show Participants

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Consumed is a new HGTV show  and it’s about families who have too much stuff.  The show is hosted by Jill Pollack,  a de-cluttering expert, who helps families to purge their unwanted stuff and shows them how to live with less.

The show is produced in Vancouver and features families from the greater Vancouver area. The producers of Consumed are actively looking for new families and hope to find at least one family in the Dunbar or  Kerrisdale neighbourhoods this summer.

Please feel free to circulate this.  According to someone at the show,  feedback from the families that have participated so far has been fantastic.   Everyone loves their newly clean home!

For more information  contact or  call them at 604-873-9777 ext 251.  Ask for Rachel or Mike.

Toorak Tile & Design

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Toorak is a neighbourhood in Melbourne, Australia, which holds many fond memories for Richard and Miranti Moreno, owners of Toorak Tile & Design on Dunbar Street.

Born in Argentina, Richard Moreno moved to Victoria, B.C. as a teenager. In 1981, he set off on a yearlong sailing adventure. He laid anchor in Sydney, Australia where he stumbled across Country Floors and started working in the tile business. As luck would have it, Country Floors turned out to be the leading tile company in the world.  Richard Moreno soon developed a passion for hand made tiles. After seven years with Country Floors, he joined the head office in Los Angeles, California and remained there for five years. While in Los Angeles, he met his Indonesian born wife Miranti, an interior designer at Country Floors who shared Richard’s passion for beautiful tiles.

In 1995, they moved to Vancouver to manage the Country Floors showroom on Granville Street. After three years, Country Floors decided not to continue in Vancouver, so Richard and Miranti took over and moved down the street to West 8th Avenue.  They remained committed to Country Floors and renamed their new business Toorak Tile & Design. They were able to focus on ordering and designing products exclusively for the Vancouver market.

Their nine-year-old daughter and thirteen-year-old son literally grew up in the company’s showroom where they had their own nursery room. They currently attend Immaculate Conception School. Their daughter is dedicated to rhythmic gymnastics and recently won her provincial age level. Following in his father’s footsteps, their son is a keen sailor and represents Canada at international events.  The Moreno family fell in love with Dunbar when their children began attending school here. They feel akin to the family friendly community with its wonderful parks. Their dream to live and work in Dunbar came true when they discovered the perfect Dunbar location on the corner of Dunbar Street and W 19th Avenue, which is now the home of Toorak Tile & Design. The family moved to Dunbar in December 2009 and opened their new showroom in January 2010.

Toorak Tile & Design showcases an extensive collection of beautiful hand made tiles, natural stones, glass tiles, mosaics, and terra cottas from all over the world. They deal with exclusive factories which custom make stone patterns and mosaics designed by Toorak Tile & Design.  Because Toorak Tile & Design is an owner-operated business, you can expect exceptional personal service, as they are experts in their field. Miranti offers her interior design background to help customize and coordinate tiles for your home. The Morenos remain passionate about tiles and are committed to their customers. And if you twist their arms, perhaps Richard and Miranti may be prepared to share some of their incredible travel tales with you!

written by Sarah Gordon.  photo by Sandra Steier
3496 Dunbar Street     604-739-5966

Sage Construction: Three Wise Men

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Home renos are certainly the buzzword du jour, yet most of us are not capable of tackling a minor project, and tremble at the thought of undertaking a major one, therefore we must seek a qualified professional, but how do you find a company that you can trust?  Fortunately, Dunbar has an ace up its sleeve with Sage Construction located on Dunbar Street.  James Wise, along with his sons Christopher and Nicholas, founded the company in 2009. Adhering to the principles of quality, integrity and value, James has over 35 years of experience in the construction industry. As a founder and partner in his former company, Nexus, he has been an industry leader in custom home construction on Vancouver’s Westside.

Following in their father’s footsteps, Christopher and Nicholas are both journeymen carpenters. Both have worked in the custom home market and have extensive knowledge of the industry.  The “Three Wise Men” have distinct roles in the company.  James is the company’s president, and handles business development, estimates and management.  Christopher is the project coordinator and lead carpenter. Nicholas is the project manager and carpenter.  As the Sage team continues to grow, they have added many talented professionals who have become like family.

What is the benefit of hiring a small family company for your building project? Sage Construction specializes in high quality workmanship and service with competitive prices. Another wonderful bonus is the testimonials of satisfied clients. They are committed to providing a detailed budget to take their client’s vision to a finished product. In addition, they manage all aspects of the construction process to maintain the building schedule.  Sage Construction are general contractors, therefore they hire all sub trades and coordinate the entire construction project from start to finish.  They are pleased to work with the homeowner’s architect or they can recommend someone who they have worked with.

Has James noticed many changes over the past twenty years since he began building homes in the Dunbar area? The building industry has seen a shift to a greater focus on air quality and green building.  He feels that Dunbar has become a stronger community over the years with more development.  He enjoys the growing number of activities and energy that make up this community. He appreciates the number of beautiful  heritage homes that make Dunbar such a visually appealing neighbourhood, along with the backdrop of the tree-lined streets and boulevards.

With real estate booming in Vancouver, new home construction and renovations are in high demand. Sage Construction’s highly qualified tradesmen are at ease with both new construction and renovations.  They are capable of building all styles of construction including contemporary, heritage, and craftsman.   With much of their work arising from client referrals, Sage Construction is bound to leave a legacy of many more elegant homes in the Dunbar area.  Visit the Sage Construction website to view their impressive online portfolio of past projects.
#1 – 3349 Dunbar Street           604-569-2692

written by Sarah Gordon. photo by Sandra Steier