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Book Review: College Admission Essays For Dummies

This is a thoughtful guide to writing a winning college admission essay.
College Admission Essays For Dummies by Geraldine Woods, published by Wiley Publishing Inc.

If you are suffering from writer's block, pick up College Admission Essays For Dummies by Geraldine Woods, which has sage advice for writing application essays. Woods has written 50 books, including many in the Dummies series, so she knows how to overcome the most persistent writer's block. Her prolific teaching career spans over four decades, including a long stretch at the Horace Mann School, an elite college prep school in New York City.

The book has built-in appeal for students as, as it has real admission essays from students who were successful in gaining admission to the winner's circle of elite colleges and universities. The author's carefully selected essays will show you how to use ideas and determine what are the benchmarks for high-quality essays. It will help you choose the right tone and structure. Woods has also included some "fictional clunkers," so you'll know what to avoid like the plague when writing your own essay.

You can also read inspiring personal statements at written by Real University of Washington pre-law students.

The book helps you to pinpoint your defining qualities. Woods is a big fan of students writing anecdotes to show admission officers their personalities in a charming way. She also helps you to avoid common traps to sabotage your application and helps you respond to typical college essay topics like "an experience that has shaped you" or "a person who matters to you,"  and the like.

Woods says an admission essay can:
  • Show how you respond to demanding situations
  • Reveal your values, sense of honor and priorities
  • Explain interesting factors in your background that have made you who you are as a young adult
  • Fill in gaps about your academic record especially if there are glaring deficiencies
  • Show how you will contribute to the college instead of being dead wood
  • Relate why you and your dream college are a good fit

Woods urges students to tell an interesting story, but cautions them against embellishment and stooping to outright lies.

"Why are 'Survivor' and other reality shows so popular?" asks Woods. "Because all of us enjoy peeking into someone else's life. Admission officers want to hear about the real stuff of your life. Like every human who ever lived, they don't take kindly to liars or exaggerators."

If you are facing a dilemma about whether you should invest your time and effort in writing the optional essay look to further than what Woods has to say on the subject.

"Usually, the optional essay isn't optional. Unless you are a shoe-in for admission (your grandparents donated a new media center) or unless the deadline is five minutes away, you should take the time to write a good , additional essay whenever the application allows you to do so," writes Woods.

If you liked the author's non-sugarcoated, no-nonsense answer to your optional essay dilemma, then you will love College Admission Essays For Dummies.



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