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Instead, Roberts advises, "It's OK to take on serious topics, but tell us how it relates directly back to you." ( Click here to read Nawal's essay.)Rule #2: Show That You Have Some Perspective Hallie Jordan knew not to pretend she'd had a hard-knock life with no options.
(Scroll down to read the essays, unedited and in full.)You'll need the help: Competition at these schools is fiercer than ever.
For every kid who’s hung prayer flags on a mountain summit in Tibet, there are a dozen others who’ve studied a Bantu language in Rwanda, worked with Guatemalan orphans, cooked with a celebrity chef, or been on reality TV.
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.
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.
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 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.