The teenager who sits on a Queens rooftop at night to ponder her city; the Boston boy who sees in the condition of his mother’s feet, her sacrifices on the factory floor on his behalf; the wannabe comic honing his skills in comedy clubs, usually with mixed success; the mathematician trying to describe the beauty he sees in Mandelbrot sets—these are essays I still remember because each offered a distinctive insight into the specific experience of an individual teenage life.
But even the exceptional essays play a role only within a broader narrative that encompasses all the academic and social choices a student made throughout high school.
We all know that a sincere, well-written essay that provides insights about how the student has matured, is occasionally shared among the admissions staff.
But, I’m guessing that there are a lot more essays that produce eye-rolls, giggles and gasps of “not again.” So how do you make your essay famous instead of infamous?
They are the exclamation points to that story, not the centerpiece.
You want your essay to be the one that is passed around the admissions office…. It’s a little bit like the difference between being famous and infamous.While students will not be let in on their SAT or ACT scores alone, for many selective colleges these results function at least as a simple “sorting hat” that divides the possible admits from the merely hopeful.Similarly, while an outstanding personal essay will probably not overcome the weight of poor grades or lukewarm letters of recommendation, they help admission officers choose from among a surfeit of strong candidates. The percentage of all colleges, public and private, for which the essay is a significant factor in selectivity, has increased from 14% in 1993 to 25% in 2012, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling in its latest annual report.Inevitably, the more selective private institutions with their growing pools of high-performing applicants tend to review applications more holistically and, therefore, place the most emphasis on non-quantitative elements such as the personal statement.Given the opaque but obviously significant role of personal essays in American applications, it is not surprising that a recent blog post that revealed essays written by students admitted to Columbia’s class of 2017 elicited the vitriolic response that it did.ASB trips can focus on a wide range of social issues: from working in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to rebuilding trails in national parks; there is much to benefit from and learn while on a service-oriented break.Though it may seem like a big commitment to give up your spring break, here are five benefits from joining your school’s ASB program that'll change your mind.Maybe it’s a hike through the Amazon or a safari in South Africa. We think it’s a major mistake for you to be writing about such topics in your college essays. We’ve been saying it for years and yet, year after year, students send us their college essays boasting of their extensive travel throughout the world. Just as nobody wants to look over your shoulder as you show them picture after picture of your adventures on the Greek Islands (even if they’re smiling and nodding that they do), no college admissions officer at a highly selective college wants to hear about it either. And you don’t want to be boring in your college essays. But beyond boring, all that traveling abroad conveys to admissions officers at highly selective colleges is that mommy and daddy can afford to send you to far off parts of the world.“Alternative Spring Break,” often referred to, as “ASB” is a weeklong service opportunity most college campuses offer students as a unique way for students to spend their vacation.While some school programs will spend their week volunteering in their local communities, others may travel outside their own city to give back to a less fortunate area.