The College Essay

The College Essay-51
Even a prize-winning novelist would be hard pressed to convey just one of those qualities in a 500 word character sketch, and the chances of getting an accurate picture from a 17-year-old novice are essentially nil.The essay prompts on the Common App (used by over 750 schools) are predictable and mundane.Anyone who is tempted to stand out—using humor, poetry, or graphics—is probably more likely to harm her chances than help them, no matter how much the colleges insist that they are looking for signs of individuality.

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The college application essays are often the college application component where students experience the most stress, and the element where they’re more likely to make mistakes.

College admissions essays, from personal statements to school-specific supplements, are not rocket science, but there are a number of steps that students can take to put together the most accurate and compelling essays that will help their chances of gaining admission to their top-choice colleges.

The recent arrests in Operation Varsity Blues put the entire college admissions structure under well-deserved scrutiny.

In addition to exposing the wealthy parents who allegedly bribed, cheated, and lied their children’s way into elite universities, the scandal brought increased attention to the many legal-but-sketchy ways affluent families have been able to move their offspring to the head of the queue.

Even in such a badly broken system, however, there is one component that does not need to be fixed. I am talking about the dread personal essay, which is too easy to falsify, and mostly worthless even when it hasn’t been faked.

As revealed by a recent investigation by The Daily Beast, there is a cottage industry of “essay coaches” whose job is to help applicants devise, polish, and perfect their short-form literary efforts until they shine like stars, ring like bells, and stand head and shoulders above the rest—although hopefully having first been purged of clichés and trite allusions.

Of course, those essays would quickly be devalued in the admissions office as too boring and unimaginative, when they in fact prove that those students actually did their own work No professional coach would allow an applicant to write about something as obvious and dull as hump day.

No, the high-priced consultants would throw topics back and forth until the team effort came up with just the right idea–something that combines quirkiness with optimism, erudition with grit, and all tied brilliantly back to the Platonic ideal of Wednesday.

Find something else that reveals something new and that shows you put a lot of thought into your essay. When developing a topic that reveals something new, find a way to frame the story or idea that shows a slice of your life or the event.

If your study of AP biology conflicts with your religious views, write about that and how you reconciled the two. Be descriptive and give details that appeal to the senses – taste, touch, smell, etc.


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