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Should college applicants (who can afford it) spend thousands of dollars for coaching on what to write?Are those who take their money just doing a better (and less visible) job than are many parents?
Picture this before you plop yourself down in front of your computer to compose your college application essay: A winter-lit room is crammed with admissions professionals and harried faculty members who sit around a big table covered with files.
The admissions people, often young and underpaid, buzz with enthusiasm; the professors frequently pause to take off their glasses and rub their eyes.
A car, kimchi, Mom’s upsizing — the writers used these objects as vehicles to get at what they had come to say. REPEATING THE PROMPT Admissions officers know what’s on their applications.
They allowed the writer to explore the real subject: This is who I am. Instead, look at times you’ve struggled or, even better, failed. Don’t begin, “A time that I failed was when I tried to beat up my little brother and I realized he was bigger than me.” You can start right in: “As I pulled my arm back to throw a punch, it struck me: My brother had gotten big.
They would go into the garage and talk, really talk: “Once my mom said to me in a thick Korean accent, ‘Every time you have sex, I want you to make sure and use a condo.’ I instantly burst into laughter and said, ‘Mom, that could get kind of expensive! And remember those exhausted admissions officers sitting around a table in the winter.
’ ” A girl wrote about her feminist mother’s decision to get breast implants. Jolt them out of their sugar coma and give them something to be excited about.
The college counselor couldn't help but be impressed with the draft application essay.
It had a solid theme and related to the student's academic interests. But the counselor, who described the situation on condition of anonymity, said that she just didn't think her student could possibly have written it.
Replace “was” in “The essay was written by a student; it was amazing and delightful” and you’ll get: “The student’s essay amazed and delighted me.” We’ve moved from a static description to a sprightlier one and cut the word count almost in half. Ending on a preposition is the sort of English up with which teachers will not put.
WORD PACKAGES Some phrases — free gift, personal beliefs, final outcome, very unique — come in a package we don’t bother to unpack. RULES TO IGNORE In English class, you may have to follow a list of rules your teacher says are necessary for good grammar: Don’t use contractions. And don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but” or “because.” Pick up a good book.