Contributor Guide

Please contribute essays to Q4Colleges and advice to his page:


If you work at a college we hope you will submit an essay to us.

Students needs to hear from from people like you.

If you have a story to tell, a question to ask, or an opinion to state then send it to us.

We are collecting thoughts and stories – not writing samples. Perhaps you are not a good writer. That’s fine. You may work with anyone you wish to edit or rewrite your story. You can credit the people who help you or not. What we care about is your opinion or the truth as you see it.

Here you will find some help convincing you to participate, and help once you decide to.



Writing for us is easier and more rewarding than you might imagine.

Jill Ker Conway describes the difficulties in writing well again after getting her Ph.D. at Harvard and serving as president of Smith College. In Inventing the Truth – The Art and Craft of Memoir, she writes of her time as an academic, “Later, at Harvard, working on my doctorate made me have difficulty writing. As an academic you internalize the critical voice of your supervisor and your fellow students and you lose access to spontaneous narrative.” Regarding her stint as an administrator and college President, she says, “In that kind of position you write endless reams of memoranda to the board of trustees and goodness knows what other officialdom, and in all your communications there’s always the legal department looking over your shoulder and fussing about language. You begin to write like a bureaucrat.”


The easiest way to write what we the kind of essay we want is to say it first. If you want, we can interview you and send you a transcript of the conversation for you to edit. For an example, read the essay by Beth Adubato that began as a telephone interview. The first half was reworked as an essay and the second was left in interview format.

Peter Elbow tells you how to “Talk onto the page.”

Peter Elbow is Professor of English Emeritus at UMass Amherst. He has a BA from Williams College, a BA and MA from Exeter College Oxford, and a PhD from Brandeis. He directed the Writing Program there and at SUNY Stony Brook.  He also taught at M.I.T., Franconia College, and Evergreen State College.

After leaving graduate school (he went back for a PhD five years later) he studied his writing struggles and developed the approach he’s worked with throughout his career. He’s become known for two books about the writing process: Writing Without Teachers (1973) and Writing With Power (1981). His latest book is Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing (Oxford University Press, 2012).

Peter offers us this exclusive advice on how to write an essay for


I got interested in writing because in my first try for a PhD at Harvard, I gradually couldn’t write.  I had to quit before I was kicked out and felt like a complete failure because I had so much invested in my image of myself as a good student.  When I went back to grad school five years later (at Brandeis) I gradually learned what became my philosophy of writing:  I can’t write right, but I can write wrong;  and then I can make it right.  It’s too hard to take a mess in the head and turn it into coherence on paper;  but it’s not so hard to take a mess on paper and turn it into coherence on paper.

Continue reading HERE 



We want Q4Colleges to be a place where students can learn from their elders; where they can find people to be like, to model their lives after, to look toward as role models and for inspiration.

Barry Schwartz, Professor at Swarthmore College, author of The Paradox of Choice and Practical Wisdom, and frequent TED speaker gave us an exclusive interview on the role Q4Colleges can play in helping keep institutions on track.

Brooke Allen: Barry, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I would like to use Q4Colleges as a way of getting higher education back on track with regard to the narrative. The questions I had when taking my kids around visiting colleges were, “Who is running these places?” “What are these people like?” “What are they trying to do?”

So let us get your reaction.

Barry Schwartz: Well look, I think it is a terrific idea. I do not think people who run academic institutions ask themselves the questions that you want them to answer. And that may be one reason they are reluctant to answer because they have not thought much about them. Increasingly, college education is a consumption decision, or an investment in future consumption. And partly the colleges are to blame for charging obscene amounts of money and begging parents to ask what return on investment is going to be.

Colleges are to blame for this for being summer camps with libraries…and we do not need libraries anymore so we should just turn those into giant gyms with climbing walls. When I came to Swarthmore 40 years ago, the place was shabby. I mean it is physically beautiful…but the buildings were in disrepair; there were leaks everywhere; nothing worked quite right; the dorms were holes. And I took the message they wanted to implicitly convey to be: “We spend money on things that are worth spending money on, namely maximizing opportunity for students to interact with one another and faculty. The rest is window dressing.”

And I was incredibly impressed, even though there were always leaks in my office and drafts in my window. But those days are gone at Swarthmore. Each time a building is renovated the standard for what counts as acceptable goes up. Students want amenities at various times, and since we are in this ridiculous competition with Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan and Pomona to see who can reject the most qualified applicants, every time they do something we feel like we have to match them.

So now it seems to me when you walk on the Swarthmore campus and they hold out their hands asking for money, my reaction would be: What are you, out of your damn mind? How can I give you money when you show you are willing to waste it on all these extravagances that have nothing to do with why kids should be here?

So I think it has become a consumption decision and I think it is particularly bad at places like
Continue reading HERE.


We want Q4Collges to be a public relations opportunity for colleges that believe authenticity trumps spin.

On October 4, 2011, I (Brooke Allen, co-founder of Q4Colleges) attended the “Brand Camp University” seminar on personal branding.  The announcement said, “Social media has created a new environment where smart organizations are rejecting canned messaging in favor of putting their personalities on display. By sharing their “human side,” these companies are regularly winning over new customers who are active online.” Because I hold public relations in low regard, I expected to learn lots of techniques for manipulating the public’s perceptions.

Instead speakers including public relations professionals, media, journalists, venture capitalists, business leaders, networking experts, and even the dean of General Studies at Boston University all told us not to worry about self-promotion but rather emphasized the importance of being truthful, authentic, and of value to others.

Here are some of the speakers from the seminar and what I learned from them that might be of interest to the leaders at colleges who might be skeptical regarding participating in our project.

 Linda Wells is Dean of the College of General Studies at Boston University. She asks those considering promoting themselves to  reflect on: 1)  How was your identity formed, and 2) What makes us susceptible to the narratives of others.  It is because of her that we choose the questions that we did. We think that one purpose of college is to help students form their identity and that is why we’re asking the leaders and teachers at colleges to reveal character through essays.



Brooke Allen (co-founder of manages a quantitative trading desk for a securities firm and he is often asked to speak to college classes.

He was once asked by a student, “What do you look for in an employee?”

“Integrity and the ability to do the work,” Brooke replied.

The class laughed and the student said, “Do you mean to say that, in this day and age, anyone cares about integrity?” This incident is one reason Brooke started Q4Colleges.

There must be more to integrity than not cheating on tests. How can students develop integrity?

We asked Clint Korver, co-author of Ethics for the Real World, serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and lecturer at Stanford University. He said, “I view a code of ethics and a clear conscious to be far more important to living a meaningful, fulfilling life than a good resume or possessions. Your internal narrative — the story you tell yourself about yourself — drives attitude, discipline, and ultimately your potential. Your internal narrative starts with your view of your own character. Are you a person of your word? Do you do the things you say you are going to do? Do you treat people well? Someone may be able to ‘get away’ with unethical acts in the market or in a relationship, but they know what they did.”

And how does one build a personal narrative? By example. By learning from mistakes. By listening to the narratives of others.

We want you to tell your story so others can incorporate the lessons you have learned into their character development.



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