Preparing for College

College Presidents Pen Admissions Essays

How many of you have seen (or will see) this college application essay prompt?

Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

I've seen it a million times and worked with countless applicants who struggle with it every year. For some reason, the writers seem to gravitate to grandma or grandpa, not that there's anything wrong with that. However, in today's ultra-competitive applicant pools, what's an applicant to do in order to stand out?

Well, here's how one college president began her response to that that prompt:

When I was a young faculty member at Williams College, my teaching and research interests turned to the questions of poverty reduction and macroeconomic policies in the developing world. As is so often the case in academic settings, I was influenced by older and wiser minds, notably in this instance Professor Henry Bruton. The influence of Henry's interest in how to improve the well being of the world's poorest people, particularly in Africa, eventually led me to a three-year residence in Zambia, where I applied my interests and talents directly to the problem. There, as one might expect, I was also influenced by people with more experience, and I learned as much about development economics as I contributed . . .

Her completed essay runs 523 words, about ideal, in my professional opinion. Would she be accepted to her first-choice college with this opus? Hard to say in today's environment.

Why don't you play admissions officer and let us know what your admission decision would be? I'm curious about that.

If nothing else, this composition can serve as an example of what's good about writing. Obviously, you won't have a background like President Hill, but you can benefit from someone who oversees a college with a nationally known writing program. Read and learn.

Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.