Writing the college essay book

Prompt: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you? With moments to spare, I catch a glimpse of the boarding platform for my train.


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Like a captain frantically seeking port in a storm, I haul myself through the turbulent ocean of people, trying to avoid being stranded — or trampled — in the dustiest city in the world: Beijing, capital of both China and smog. Luckily, I board my train with seconds to spare, and without being turned into a pancake — always a plus. The conductor welcomes me aboard. At last, it is time to return home to Shanghai.

In another week I will cross the globe to start a new life in a foreign land called Charlotte. Which is home? The place I am leaving or the place I am going? Arrival or departure?

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Unsettled, I turn to my ever-present book for comfort. They say the best books tell you what you already know, resonating with your own thoughts and emotions. As I read, it is as if the tempest of my thoughts is spelled out on paper.

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His words somehow become my words, his memories become my memories. Despite the high speed of the bullet train, my mind is perfectly still — trapped between the narrative of the book and the narrative of my own life. I read the last page and close the book, staring out the window at the shining fish ponds and peaceful rice paddies. I feel like a speck of dust outside the train, floating, content and happy to be between destinations.

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I am at home between worlds. I speak both English and Chinese: Chinese is for math, science, and process, but I prefer English for art, emotion, and description. America owns my childhood, filled with pine trees, blockbuster movies, and Lake Tahoe snow; China holds my adolescence, accompanied by industrial smog, expeditious mobility, and fast-paced social scenes. We are drawing into Shanghai Hong Qiao station.

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Home is neither arrival nor departure, neither America nor China. Questions about the essay? Contact Kim Lifton at kim wowwritingworkshop.

Kim Lifton is President and Founder of Wow Writing Workshop , a strategic communication company specializing in college admission and grad school application essay writing and professional training. She leads a team of writers and teachers who understand the writing process inside and out. Before co-founding Wow, Kim worked as a reporter and communication consultant. Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource.


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    Time to Write Those College Essays! Regardless of the prompt, they: Answer the question. Showcase a positive trait or characteristic. Sound like a high school student.


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    In my experience, students love to write about how they have learned from their mistakes. The application process is competitive, and there are plenty of good applicants out there who have never broken the law. You are not required to incriminate yourself in your application essay, nor should you. This might be your only chance to show the admissions committee that you are more than just a GPA, test scores, and a bunch of extracurricular activities, so it may be best not to ruin their first impression of you with your past criminal history.

    Sometimes the admissions committee will make a decision on whether or not to admit you to their college or university immediately after evaluating your application, and other times, they may hold on to your file for months before making their final decision.

    Crafting an Unforgettable College Admissions Essay

    You need to end your application essay just as strongly as you began, so the committee remembers you when it comes time to make their final decision. When there are only a few spots left in the class, you want to be the one they choose. If your essay is forgettable, well, you might be too. Once you have completed your application essay, be sure to find a couple of people you trust to look over your work before you submit it. A teacher or family friend would be a great choice. You should also try reading the essay aloud to yourself. Birch, oak, and what else?

    Few things will throw off an application evaluator more than misspellings and typos in the college essay — except when you mention the wrong college!

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    Remember, in the grand scheme of the college admissions process, the application essay is a unique opportunity — and an opportunity to be unique. And, pencils down. Comments 0 comments. No Problem!