When your teacher asks you to analyze the causes of the Civil War, he is going to receive a lot of essays that sound basically the same. But your college essay should be unique and individual to you. College admissions officers tell us that they see many essays about eye-opening travel experiences, the death of a loved one, or “The Big Game.” You can still write about these experiences, but the trick is in the details. No one sees the world quite the way you do, so let your personality shine through.
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Robin Mamlet, former dean of admission at Stanford, Swarthmore, and Sarah Lawrence, and journalist and parent Christine VanDeVelde provide expert, comprehensive and compassionate guidance for every student and parent at each step of the college application process. A best-seller now available in a completely revised and updated edition, this go-to guide for students and parents also features the advice and input of over 150 additional experts, including more than 70 deans of admission. Get your copy of our book now -- on paper or ebook .
It may sound like a chore, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores . However, selective colleges receive applications from many worthy students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. So they use your essay, along with your letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities , to find out what sets you apart from the other talented candidates.