Volunteering College Essay

"I once heard one [essay-writing] professional brag about slipping in mistakes to throw off admissions officers," he says.

"That's just disgusting."Rule #1: When Tackling a Global Issue, Make it Personal Brown Freshman Nawal Traish could have chosen to write about U. relations with Libya or general unrest in the Muslim world.

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.

“We have 22,000 applications, so it’s easy to blend into the crowd.”• Kathleen Kingsbury: The Best College Food• Kathleen Kingsbury: How to Choose a College Roommate This year that may mean students want to reconsider before giving their take on the recent financial meltdown or the national health-care debate.

At California’s Pomona College, the admissions staff anticipates an influx of essays on the economy, similar to what they saw post-September 11, 2001, when nearly half the applications essays dealt with the terrorist attacks.“But it’s a different story if you watched the towers collapse from science class at [New York City’s] Stuyvesant High School than if you live on a farm in Iowa,” Pomona’s admissions dean Bruce Poch says."We purposely have a diverse staff with a variety of interests and backgrounds." That said, had Morgan been applying to, say, a school in the Deep South, she might have chosen her words more carefully.( Click here to read Morgan's essay.)Rule #7: Don't Be Afraid to Show You're Not Perfect Abigail Hook was applying to Harvard—the one school you don't want to tilt your hand near.(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.In a year where 10 brilliant kids are vying for every one slot at your average Ivy League school (yes, that statistic is accurate), the personal essay has become a tipping point that can turn a deferral into an acceptance letter.So The Daily Beast tracked down seven college admissions essays that did work—seven essays that helped get the kids who wrote them into one of the country's top schools.“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.“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.

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