Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Author Gives Step-By-Step Process To Conquer College-Admissions Essays

The cover of the third edition of "Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps."
Courtesy Photo
The cover of the third edition of "Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps."

If you are going to be a senior in high school this fall, author Alan Gelb says you should be spending some of your time this summer working on your college admissions essay.

Gelb is the author of "Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps."

"You need to carve out some space and some mental room for this work. You really need to dig deep emotionally and you need to give it time," Gelb said.


According to Gelb, the essay has been found to be more important than extracurricular activities and teacher recommendations in the college admissions process.

Gelb said a college admissions essay should show that the student has the qualities needed to be part of the college community, show an arc of development and show that the student has writing skills.

Gelb joined Midday Edition on Tuesday to talk about what makes a good college admissions essay.

Author Gives Step-By-Step Process To Conquer College-Admissions Essays
Author Gives Step-By-Step Process To Conquer College-Admissions Essays GUEST: Alan Gelb, author, "Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps"

Even if you have gotten good grades and Easter college test scores the idea of sitting down and writing about yourself in an essay can make great students into grade A procrastinators. College admission essays are way to learn more about prospective students. To off to what they get is a predictable recitation of uninspired events or even worse, an essay someone else has written for the student. Next guest of Ms. that writing a good college admissions essay is not easy but it is not all that difficult with some good step-by-step guidance. Joining me is Alan geld, the other of conquering the college admission essay in 10 steps. The third edition of the book was released last month. Welcome to the program. How important is the college admissions essay in terms of the overall college application? The answer is very. There's been a study from the independent consultants that shows that it is the fourth most important criteria the comes after your grades, standardized test scores and the press of your curriculum but ahead of extracurricular activities and other things like that, teacher recommendations. The reason for that is because everybody applying to the top schools has all of that great stuff in the essays the thing that can different you from your competitors. What are college administrators trying to find out and the essays? I always tell my students that I work with, what you want to do is three things. You want to show you are somebody who can help to make up it college community. That is the business of a college admission counselor not only do they want to be a soccer player, a coder, they want to make sure all those people have the intangibles that will help them really function effectively in the community. By that them and they are likable person, a sincere person and know how long -- how to get along with other people. The want to show some arc of development in the essay by the time the essay reader finishes the essay you know -- he knows you better than when he started. Thirdly, your to show that you can right technically. I understand the idea for this book came out of your personal experience. You Tulsa little bit about that? I've been a rider for all of my life, novelist, playwright and nonfiction in about 30 years ago I moved from New York City to a small town in New York and my sons went to the local high school here. It was and I school but one of the things that I noticed that they were not that strong on was college admission help. I started thinking what I'm was working with my sons, thinking about what the assignment was about and I started doing that with some friends of Ayres -- theirs. I developed theories which are put into the book work it is about how to use the narrative form to writing compelling college essay because the narrative otherwise known as the story is the thing that is going to lodge in the reader’s mind. That is the thing that will make you stick on the memory of that person. In your. The 70 college admission essays are either predict the ball, overly sentimental, to self-promoting. How do students wind up making these kinds of mistakes? I think one of the things, finding opportunity to do -- opportunity to impress the reader. They want to tout their achievements are pulling on the heartstrings of the reader or somewhat going beyond the balance of what they should be. What they really want to do is have a conversation with the reader. I tell them to think of themselves as sitting next to someone they do not know at a party and how are they going to engage that person. They will do that by telling a story. Do not tell me that you are the captain of the tennis team for five years. Tell me story. What happened on the tennis team during that five years, something along those lines. That is right. You say that the story should be told with that eye to the areas of tension and conflict within the narrative. Do you think just about any story, even 18 nature story has an area of tension and conflict? Yes. I think it does. Some of my students come from very embattled backgrounds. The are children of political refugees or illness in the family or they have had illnesses. They are ahead of the game when it comes to this assignment. They hit the ground running because they have capital C conflict. They want to see how people resolve conflict. That is why we read everything we read. What I tell my students to do is look for some conflict that might be a small conflict. You might be an intellectual conflict or problem that they have solved. It might be humor. Falling on the banana peel is conflict. Your is the big question. When should students begin thinking about college admissions essay and then when should they get started on it? They should think about it and get started on it at the same time. I would say at the end of the junior year is an ideal time to say I'm going to get this done before school starts because we all know what freshman year -- freshman semester of the senior year is like work it is packed and you need to carve out space and mental room for this work. You need to dig deep emotionally and you need to give it time. It can be done in a couple of weeks but it is good to have the more downtime of the summer to get it done. Been speaking with Alan Gelb, the author of conquering the college admission essay in 10 steps. Thank you. Thank you.