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Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to Write a College Application

The college application essay is the most nerve-wracking writing assignment most 17-year-olds ever face. Students can write about 500 words to set themselves apart and convey personal qualities not readily apparent in grade point averages, SAT scores, and lists of extracurricular activities. A new book called 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays: What Worked offers a straightforward learn-by-example approach that can help any applicant write a persuasive essay to win acceptance to competitive colleges. The most helpful aspect of the book is the compilation of essays written by students who were ultimately accepted to the nation's top-ranked school.

The book begins with some tips on how best to communicate what admissions officers are looking for: "Show your readers through anecdotes, colorful details, or self-reflection how you've grown, how you've overcome a certain loss, or how you've mastered a personal weakness. Both creative and conventional approaches are illustrated in the examples given. Even the stuff of everyday life can elegantly showcase personality or character qualities and score with admissions officers. For example, one young woman explained how her art teacher broadened her perception of beauty with a simple rusted pot. A young man's response to a well-intended, but hurtful comment from his father displayed the teen's growing maturity and sense of self.

Nervous college applicants will gain both topic ideas and increased confidence from reading essays that vary widely in subject, style, and even quality of writing. There really isn't a formula for the perfect college essay; a compelling composition is one that reveals the applicant as a thoughtful person with inspirations and passions that they claim as their own. The name of this useful book compiled by the staff of the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, is 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays: What Worked For Them Can Help You Get Into the College of Your Choice.

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