“We have 22,000 applications, so it’s easy to blend into the crowd.”• Kathleen Kingsbury: The Best College Food• Kathleen Kingsbury: How to Choose a College Roommate This year that may mean students want to reconsider before giving their take on the recent financial meltdown or the national health-care debate.
At California’s Pomona College, the admissions staff anticipates an influx of essays on the economy, similar to what they saw post-September 11, 2001, when nearly half the applications essays dealt with the terrorist attacks.“But it’s a different story if you watched the towers collapse from science class at [New York City’s] Stuyvesant High School than if you live on a farm in Iowa,” Pomona’s admissions dean Bruce Poch says.
I don't care who it is, they all have 750 words of something compelling to say to an admissions officer." He adds, "They need to relax, think about what means a lot to them or gets them fired up, and then write about it." ( Click here to read Hallie's essay.)Rule #3: Essays Succeed or Fail in the Details The "hand-cranked" ice cream. "If the essay mentions you going to dinner, I want to know what you were eating," says Ponnusamy.
Adds UVA's Roberts: "A standout essay starts with good writing.
Be as descriptive as possible about the moment you're writing—we want to see it, smell it, touch it." ( Click here to read Isabel's essay.)Rule #4: Make Sure You're the Hero of the Story By emphasizing her own personal challenges and then showing how she wouldn't allow them to subsume her, Hannah Edwards was able to make herself look good without bragging.
"It's fine to talk about your dad being a coke fiend or your stint in rehab with your favorite WB crush," Ponnusamy says, "but unless you end up as the 'hero' in the essay, you will have done nothing to help you and it's the one place you're guaranteed to have the opportunity to speak in the first-person." ( Click here to read Hannah's essay.)Rule #5: Make Your Intellectual Curiosity Clear Rahul Kishore wanted Cornell to know how obsessively devoted he was to science, and his essay describes in great detail his fascination."I once heard one [essay-writing] professional brag about slipping in mistakes to throw off admissions officers," he says."That's just disgusting."Rule #1: When Tackling a Global Issue, Make it Personal Brown Freshman Nawal Traish could have chosen to write about U. relations with Libya or general unrest in the Muslim world.In a year where 10 brilliant kids are vying for every one slot at your average Ivy League school (yes, that statistic is accurate), the personal essay has become a tipping point that can turn a deferral into an acceptance letter.So The Daily Beast tracked down seven college admissions essays that did work—seven essays that helped get the kids who wrote them into one of the country's top schools."I remember in the days after [Hurricane] Katrina, I had an otherwise thoughtful and engaged kid sitting across from me bemoaning how the kids in New Orleans were 'going to have awesome essays,'" says Ponnusamy."This sense amongst upper-middle-class kids that 'nothing bad has ever happened to me' is always amusing. The essay that got Isabel Polon into Yale swells with appealing and insightful details that show her meticulous nature.“Families are going through hell right now, and it’s the very personal experiences that will resonate the most.” Then again, Poch adds, “Sympathy isn’t the only reason we let kids in.”Despite what admissions guidebooks tell you, there's no surefire formula to the college essay.Poch confesses even a small error or two will not necessarily kill your chances of getting in—as long as it's not on purpose."We purposely have a diverse staff with a variety of interests and backgrounds." That said, had Morgan been applying to, say, a school in the Deep South, she might have chosen her words more carefully.( Click here to read Morgan's essay.)Rule #7: Don't Be Afraid to Show You're Not Perfect Abigail Hook was applying to Harvard—the one school you don't want to tilt your hand near.