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The applicant wasn’t the star of the team, Roberts remembers, and didn’t even like playing baseball much.
With early application deadlines upon us, guidance counselors, professors, and admissions consultants slipped Kathleen Kingsbury seven essays that helped get kids into top schools last year—and she examines exactly what they did right. These are a few topics on independent consultant Arun Ponnusamy’s list of what not to write about in your college application essay.
What you learned about poverty on your $9,000 trip to Africa.
"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.
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.“I just felt like I knew him.”Roberts worries that students tend to be too conservative with essays and are afraid to take risks.“There are no wrong answers here, and the last thing you want is a dry or boring essay,” he says.And yet she chose to write her essay about giving up on ballet, rather than persevering once she'd tired of it."It's OK to let down your guard, not be safe and sanitized," says Poch.The essays were slipped to us by college professors, high-school guidance counselors, independent admissions consultants, and even staffers at student newspapers.For confidentiality reasons, admissions officers can't talk about these essays expressly, so we chose essays that demonstrate the most salient principles to abide by when writing them.“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.Instead, she speaks to her personal relationship with Libya, her father's homeland, and her own understanding of her Islamic faith."It's a mistake for students to think that they have to come up with any deep or life-altering topic," says University of Virginia's Greg Roberts, who expects to read essays this year on Afghanistan, health care, and other hot political issues.