After we finished writing our last two books, Get Into Any College and
Get Free Cash For College, we thought long and hard about what our
next book should be. We asked ourselves, “When we were applying
to colleges, what was the most difficult part?" While we agreed that the
interviews were nerve-wracking and filling out the application forms
took more bottles of white-out than necessary, the biggest challenge
was clearly the essay.
When we were writing our essays we agonized for weeks over what to
write about and had many false starts. It was the first time that we had
to reflect on the 17 years of our lives and capsulize a single memorable
moment into one page of text. And it was the first time that an essay
would play such an important role in shaping the rest of our lives.
It became pretty clear that this should be our next book.
In writing this book we met many wonderful students and admission
officers who shared their experiences and essays. The students we interviewed
have written at least six essays. Each admission officer that
we spoke with has read thousands, if not tens of thousands, of essays
in his or her career. There was certainly no shortage of expertise.
To take a big step back and look at the process from a distance, we see
that there is no single, correct way to write a successful essay. This is
because the best essays are a reflection of their writers. Just as no two
people are the same, no two great essays are the same either.
There are similar qualities (i.e., originality, passion, reflection, good
writing) common to all successful essays, of course, and we have done
our best to highlight these throughout the book. But when it comes
time for you to write your essay, it will be an original. In some respects
it will share the qualities of all of the essays featured in this book, but
in many ways it will be totally different.
While we believe that sharing the 57 successful essays in this book is
a vital part of learning what makes a great essay, we want to underscore
the fact that these are not the only ways to write a great essay.
Incorporate the lessons that you learn from these essays. Study the strategies and mistakes that we present in each chapter. Contemplate
the advice from the admission officers. Then go out and write your
We leave you with one final observation. From our own experience
writing admission essays and from that of the many students we interviewed,
the one thing we never found was a student who after thinking
long and hard said, “I don’t have anything good to write about." No
matter where you grew up or what you experienced, you have the
raw material to create a unique and powerful essay. But you do need
Admission officers and students who have written great essays stress
over and over that to write a good essay you need to think. You can’t just
sit in front of the computer and expect a great essay to pour from your
fingertips. You need to allow time for ideas to percolate and develop.
It was not uncommon among the students we interviewed for them to
have revised their essays more than a dozen times over the course of
several months. Between each revision they would think about what
they had written and push themselves to analyze more. For many,
including ourselves, the writing of the college admission essay took
us to places and made us realize things about ourselves that we never
knew existed when we first sat down to write.
This is as it should be. This is what the admission officers hope you
accomplish. Relish the challenge. Savor the chance to share a part of
yourself on paper. Remember, the admission officers really want to let
you into their college. Give them a reason. Let your essay help open