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  • Tackling Common Essay Questions

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    The college application essay is your chance to show what makes you unique.

    Admission officers read hundreds of these every year. Don't write about the same subjects as every other applicant.

    Here are some common essay questions with tips to help you craft a great response.

    Write about someone you admire.

    Many people write an ode to Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. These leaders are admirable and heroic, but you shouldn't write about them unless you have a strong, genuine and very personal reason to do so.

    Otherwise, ask yourself what individual has actually had the greatest influence over your life. Describe the impact they've had on you. The more specific details you include, the better.

    Write about something you have read.

    This question is not asking for a book report! Don't just summarize the plot; detail why you liked this particular selection and what it meant to you.

    Your book choice should make it clear that you read outside of class–stay away from high school mainstays like The Catcher in the Rye.

    Why do you want to attend this school?

    Unless your real reason is something better left unsaid (hint: avoid mentioning keg parties), you should be truthful in responding to this question. Steer clear of generalities (e.g. "to get a good liberal arts education," "to broaden my knowledge") and stay specific (e.g. "I'm a future doctor and your science department has a terrific reputation"). Colleges are more likely to admit students who can articulate specific reasons why the school is a good fit for them (beyond its reputation or ranking on any list).

    What will you be doing ten years from now?

    It's okay to be creative and ambitious, but don't be silly. And don't feel that you need to talk about the ways in which your college education will help you snag a dream job.

    Write about a meaningful activity.

    Careful–it's easy for this response to read as clichéd and uninspired. Don't just say that your service on student council was significant because it taught you the importance of effective leadership. Push yourself to really examine what experiences have been valuable to you. Maybe you learned more from your after–school job at a burger joint than you did as president of the student council. Admissions officers can tell when you're being genuine and when you're just saying what you think they want to hear.

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