Leslie Atkin leads a college essay workshop at Wheaton High School in Maryland on Oct. 17. (Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)
Find a telling anecdote about your 17 years on this planet. Examine your values, goals, achievements and perhaps even failures to gain insight into the essential you. Then weave it together in a punchy essay of 650 or fewer words that showcases your authentic teenage voice — not your mother’s or father’s — and helps you stand out among hordes of applicants to selective colleges.
That's not necessarily all. Be prepared to produce even more zippy prose for supplemental essays about your intellectual pursuits, personality quirks or compelling interest in a particular college that would be, without doubt, a perfect academic match.
Many high school seniors find essay writing the most agonizing step on the road to college, more stressful even than SAT or ACT testing. Pressure to excel in the verbal endgame of the college application process has intensified in recent years as students perceive that it’s tougher than ever to get into prestigious schools. Some well-off families, hungry for any edge, are willing to pay as much as $16,000 for essay-writing guidance in what one consultant pitches as a four-day “application boot camp.”
But most students are far more likely to rely on parents, teachers or counselors for free advice as hundreds of thousands nationwide race to meet a key deadline for college applications on Wednesday.
[College admissions edge for the wealthy: Early decision]
Malcolm Carter, 17, a senior who attended an essay workshop this month at Wheaton High School in Montgomery County, Md., said the process took him by surprise because it differs so much from analytical techniques learned over years as a student. The college essay, he learned, is nothing like the standard five-paragraph English class essay that analyzes a text.
“I thought I was a good writer at first,” Carter said. “I thought, ‘I got this.’ But it’s just not the same type of writing.”
Carter, who is thinking about engineering schools, said he started one draft but aborted it. “Didn’t think it was my best.” Then he got 200 words into another. “Deleted the whole thing.” Then he produced 500 words about a time when his father returned from a tour of Army duty in Iraq.
Will the latest draft stand? “I hope so,” he said with a grin.
Admission deans want applicants to do their best and make sure they get a second set of eyes on their words. But they also urge them to relax.
“Sometimes, the fear or the stress out there is that the student thinks the essay is passed around a table of imposing figures, and they read that essay and put it down and take a yea or nay vote, and that determines the student’s outcome,” said Tim Wolfe, associate provost for enrollment and dean of admission at the College of William & Mary. “That is not at all the case.”
Wolfe called the essay one more way to learn something about an applicant. “I’ve seen rough essays that still powerfully convey a student’s personality and experiences,” he said. “And on the flip side, I’ve seen pristine, polished essays that don’t communicate much about the students and are forgotten a minute or two after reading them.”
William & Mary, like many schools, assigns at least two readers for each application. Sometimes, essays get another look when an admissions committee is deliberating.
Most experts say a great essay cannot compensate for a mediocre academic record. But it can play a significant role in shaping perceptions of an applicant and might tip the balance in a borderline case.
[Top colleges put thousands of applicants in wait-list limbo]
Essays and essay excerpts from students who have won admission circulate widely on the Internet, but it’s impossible to know how much weight those words carried in the final decision. One student took a daring approach to a Stanford University essay this year. He wrote, simply, “#BlackLivesMatter” 100 times. And he got in.
Advice about essays abounds, some of it obvious: Show, don’t tell. Don’t rehash your résumé. Avoid cliches and pretentious words. Proofread. “That means actually having a living, breathing person — not just a spell-checker — actually read your essay,” Wolfe said.
But make sure that person doesn’t cross the line between useful feedback and meddlesome revision, or worse. (Looking at you, moms and dads.)
“It’s very obvious to us when an essay has been written by a 40-year-old and not a 17-year-old,” said Angel B. Pérez, vice president of enrollment and student success at Trinity College. “I’m not looking for a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece. And I get pretty skeptical when I see it.”
Some affluent parents buy help for their children from consultants who market their services through such brands as College Essay Guy, Essay Hell and Your Best College Essay.
Michele Hernández, co-founder of Top Tier Admissions, based in Vermont and Massachusetts, said her team charges $16,000 for a four-day boot camp in August to help clients develop all pieces of their applications, from essays to extracurricular activity lists. Or a family can pay $2,500 for five hours of one-on-one essay tutoring. Like other consultants, Hernández said she does pro-bono work. But she acknowledged there are troubling questions about the influence of wealth in college admissions.
“The equity problem is serious,” Hernández said. “College consultants are not the problem. It starts way lower down” — at kindergarten or earlier, she added.
Christopher Hunt, with a business in Colorado called College Essay Mentor, charges $3,000 for an “all-college-all-essays package” with as much guidance as clients want or need, from brainstorming to final drafts. He said the industry is growing because of a cycle rooted in anxiety. As the volume of applications grows, now topping 40,000 a year at Stanford and 100,000 at the University of California at Los Angeles , admission rates fall. That, in turn, fuels worries of prospective applicants from around the world.
[Stanford dean: Ultra-low admit rate not something to boast about]
“Most of my inquiries come from students,” Hunt said. “They are at ground zero of the college craze, aware of the competition, and know what they need to compete.”
At Wheaton High, it cost nothing for students to drop in on a college essay workshop offered during the lunch hour a couple of weeks before the Nov. 1 early application deadline. Cynthia Hammond Davis, the college and career information coordinator, provided pizza, and Leslie Atkin, an English composition assistant, provided tips in a room bedecked with college pennants.
Her first piece of advice: Don’t bore the reader. “It should be as much fun as telling your best friend a story,” she said. “You’re going to be animated about it.” Atkin also sketched a four-step framework for writing: Depict an event, discuss how that anecdote illuminates key character traits, define a pivotal moment and reflect on the outcome. “Wrap it up with a nice package and a bow,” she said. “They don’t have to be razzle-dazzle. But they need to say, ‘Read me!’ ”
As an example, Hammond Davis distributed an essay written by a 2017 Wheaton High graduate now at Rice University. In it, Anene “Daniel” Uwanamodo likened himself to a trampoline — a student leader who helps serve as a launchpad for others. “Regardless of race, gender or background, trampolines will offer their uplifting influence to any who request it,” he wrote.
Soaking this in were students aiming for the University of Maryland at College Park, Towson, Howard and Johns Hopkins universities, Virginia Tech, the University of Chicago and a special scholars program at Montgomery College. One planned to write about a terrifying car accident, another about her mother’s death and a third about how varsity basketball shaped him.
Sahil Sahni, 17, said his main essay responds to a prompt on the Common Application, an online portal to apply to hundreds of colleges: “Discuss an accomplishment, event or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”
Sahni showed The Washington Post two drafts — his initial version in July, and his latest after feedback from Hammond Davis. (It’s probably best not to quote the essay before admission officers read it.) During the writing, he said, he often jotted phrases on sticky notes when inspiration occurred. If no notepads were handy, he would ink a keyword on his arm “to stimulate the ideas.”
Sahni summarized the essay as a meditation on the consequences of lost keys, “how the unknown is okay, and how you can overcome it.” He said composing three or four high-stakes essays also had a consequence: “Every day you learn something new about yourself.”
Senior Sahil Sahni with Cynthia Hammond Davis, the college and career information coordinator, at Wheaton High’s college essay workshop. (Bonnie Jo Mount/Washington Post)
Essay No. 01
Co-education is system of educating boys and girls together. In ancient times, co-education existed in Sparta in Greece. There was no discrimination between boys and girls. They studied and played together. Along with academic education, physical training was also given to both the sexes.
Plato ,the Greek philosopher, believed that co-education helped in the development of personality of both men and women and created a feeling of comradeship among them. In the west, the importance of co-education has been felt since ancient times.
In early Vedic Society, co-education was prevalent in a few places. But gradually female education began to be ignored. Moreover, the system of education was quite different from that of today. The boys stayed in Gurukuls, for whole educational period. There they received both academic education and physical training. The former included the study of the scriptures and the latter, training in warfare. Girls were not sent to the Gurukuls, and thus were deprived of the benefits of education.
In medieval India, those belonging to lower castes and the women folk were not allowed to attend schools or study the scriptures. Raja Rammohan Roy, a great social reformer and scholar, fought against this practice and succeeded in his mission. His job was further carried on by other social reformers.
Today co-education is prevalent in almost all the countries of the world. In India, there are a number of co-educational schools, colleges and universities. There are a number of advantages in the co-educational system of education. It is economical. Poor countries cannot afford to open separate schools for boys and girls are taught together in the same school, then there is no need open separate schools for them. Thus the cost to be incurred on building infrastructure furniture, stationery, personnel recruitment, etc. will be saved.
There is a shortage of good trained teachers in developing countries like India . if there is co-education, same staff can teach both boys and girls at the same time in the same class, and the problem of teacher shortage can be dealt with Establishing more of co-educational schools can help in spreading literacy even with the limited teaching staff and infrastructure. Thus co-education is beneficial for both boys and girls and the nations a whole.
Co-education helps the boys and girls to intermingle and understanding each other well. They become more broad minded and tolerant towards the opposite gender. They interact freely with one another and there by overcome hesitation and shyness. Thus co-education leads to a healthy and harmonious relationship between boys and girls.
In a co-educational school, boys are free to meet and talk with girls. They develop a feeling of friendship among themselves. Hence , these boys usually do not indulge in eve-testing. Co-education contributes to the balanced development of the personality of boys and girls.
A study has revealed that the co-educational schools are better because the presence of girls in classes restrains boys from indulging in unruly behavior and improves their academic performance. In facts, a higher percentage of girls not only lowers the amount of classroom disruption but also fosters a better relationship between students and their teachers. The researchers for and that classes with more than 55 percent of girls resulted in better examination results and less violent outbursts overall. They conclude that this effect is due to the positive influence the girls have on the classroom environment.
In fact the study found that primary school classrooms with a female majority showed increased academic success for both boys and girls. In the middle and high schools, the classrooms which had the best academic achievements overall were consistently those that had a higher proportion of girls enrolled. The researchers suggest that boys and girls may learn differently, but it is better not to send them to sex segregated schools.
Boys become conscious of their dressing habits, behavior and the style of communication in the company of girls. They dress properly, behave well and talking a decent language. Girls, similarly, overcome their shyness, behave well with boys and understand them better.
Co-education generates a spirit of healthy competition among boys and girl. They work hard to remain ahead of one another. Co-education reduces gender bias in the society. It generates a feeling of equality between both the sexes. The feeling of male dominance may be wiped out from the society if this system of education is given importance.
However, some people are opposed to the system of co-education. According to them, this system is against the Indian culture and tradition. It is also argued that girls feel more free in an institution which is meant only for girls. As such they have greater scope of developing their personality. They also participate in sports, dramatics and debates more freely.
Teachers of some subjects like Biology also find it easier to explain some chapters more thoroughly if only girls or boys are sitting in the class. Sex education has also been introduced and in co-educational schools even teachers find it difficult to discuss such topics in the class.
It is also felt that since students are of impressionable age, the possibility of their going astray is much more in co-educational institutions, where they enjoy more freedom of intermingling with the other sex. They also may not remain focused on studies.
It should be acknowledged that in the fast changing society of twenty first century co-education has to become the order of the day. Today girls are entering all professions in large numbers. Many of them are heading bug organization. Co-education will help young boys an girls to mix freely and understand one another better. Today’s children are tomorrow’s citizens. We must encourage them to develop their personality in a free and healthy atmosphere. Girls no more have to remain confined to the remain confined to the four walls of the house. Co-education will help both sexes to learn and work together for the progress of the country.
Essay No. 2
In ancient time, co-education was prevalent in Sparta, a city state of Greece. Both boys and girls were given academic education and physical training together. There was no discrimination between the boys and the girls. They played and studied together.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, was also in favour of co- education helped in the development of personality of men and women and created a feeling of comradeship between them. He felt that coeducation was the only method to make both men and women useful members of society. In ancient India also boys and girls were brought up and taught together. They were not segregated from each other.
Nowadays, the system of co-education is in vogue in U.S.A., Europe and other advanced countries of the world. In India also, a number of co-educational schools and colleges have been established.
There are a number of advantages in the co-educational system of educational. Firstly, if boys and girls are taught together in the same school under the same roof, there will be no need to open separate schools for girls. A poor country like India cannot afford the luxury of opening separate schools for boys and girls. Co – education is thus economical.
Secondly, there is a shortage of trained teachers in India. If the same staff teaches boys and girls together, we can manage with the existing staff of teachers.
Thirdly, if boys and girls study in separate schools, they will grow up in watertight compartments. The result will be that girls will feel shy in the presence of boys. Boys will have curiosity about girls. Co –education helps the boys and girls to inter- mingle and understand each other well. It leads to harmonious relationship between boys and girls
Fourthly, co – education generates healthy competition between boys and girls. Both boys and girls. Both boys and girls work hard to remain ahead of each other in studies and sports.
Fifthly , co – education creates a feeling of comradeship between boys and girls. As the boys are free to meet and talk to the girls, they to not indulge in eve-teasing. Girls too do not feels shy in the presence of boys. The system co- education is thus very conductive to the balanced development of the personality of boys and girls.
However, there are some conservative people who are opposed to system of co- education. They point out that this system is against our tradition and culture. They approached that if boys and girls study together, the possibility of their developing immoral relationship cannot be ruled out. They also felt that the system of co- education may spoil the character of boys and girls.
But these arguments are not very convincing and do not hold well in modern times. If our experience is any guide, boy dress properly and behave well in the company of girls. They use dignified language. By nature, boys are curious about girls if they study with girls, their curiosity will be satisfied. They will not regard girls as strange creatures. Likewise, if girls are taught with boys, they will not feel shy. They will understand boys better.
Thus, we can say that the advantages of the system of co- education outweigh the disadvantages. Since the boys and the girls have to , later on, live together as husband and wife, there is no point in segregating them in schools or colleges. We should move with the times and open more and more coeducational institutions in India. The hackneyed morality of the medieval ages should not be allowed to stand in the way of the progress of our youth who are the future citizens of India.
Essay No. 03
There was a time when it was believed that boys and girls should be taught in separate institutions. In ancient gurukuls, there were only boys who were given education then. In spite of this, women generally had good education in ancient India.
After Independence, several education commissions and committees were set up. They generally advocated co-education in schools upto 10+2 level and separate education for boys and girls at the university level till graduation.
This policy is now by and large being followed in our country. There is, however, co-education again at post-graduation level.
Some people believe that co-education should not be there. In their opinion this can lead to attraction between boys and girls which is neither good for their health, nor character, nor studies.
Some other people are of the view that co-education can bring about a healthy competition between boys and girls and thus it can be of mutual benefit to both sexes. It can mean better desicipline since in the presence of girls the boys will not talk irrelevantly or obscenely in the class.
The most potent argument advanced by co-education lovers is that it can help both boys and girls in the development of their personality. They can come out of their enclosed shell-like personality and get rid of their unwarranted hesitation and shyness.
This can make boys and girls more expressive, progressive and forward in outlook and attitude to life which can be of great advantage to both sexes.
It must, however, be noted that some reservations are also there and even in a country like England, exclusive schools for girls are now being set up.