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Admissions Essays Blog
Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Saturday, September 12, 2015
What's in the Winning College Admissions Essays
This is the million-dollar question, of course. The admission essay is a centerpiece of the college consulting industry, primarily because it is such an enigma. Test scores and grades-those are measurable. We know what good and bad ones look like, and colleges can be explicit in their expectations.

The essay is much mushier. This blog and countless others have devoted thousands of words to describing the perfect one. Still, students struggle to find out what colleges are looking for.

Admit See is a start-up with a simple model: invite verified high school students to share their college application materials, and pay them for it. Students have an incentive to share, and Admit See suddenly has valuable goods for future students. See what the successful essays actually look like.

In just the year since its inception, Admit See boasts a catalogue of over 15,000 essays, many from successful admits to top schools. The information they share is broad and of varying degrees of utlity.

For example, successful Harvard admits tended to address their parents as "mother" and "father"; at Stanford, it was "mom" and "dad". Harvard essays contained more words related to hardship ("cancer", "difficult"), while Stanford essays were more optimistic ("happy", "passion"). And while these minutiae may or may not actually improve one’s odds, other observations might.

Risk-taking apparently pays off. The more uniquely structured (well-executed) narratives drew the attention of admissions committees. Even taboo subject matter seemed to poll well with readers.

Companies like Admit See cleverly prey upon students' anxiety surrounding the mysterious essay. But you never know-they may just be on to something.


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