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Essay Advice From the Colleges

While the college essay process is stressful to many, it is exciting to me. We're in the heart of essay season-and I love drawing stories out of my students. It allows me to really get to know them, which helps me refine their college lists in terms of major or social environment.

Look for essay advice and suggestions from college admissions officers over the next few weeks. Writer's block? I'm here to help you pull your ideas together at

Tip #1-If someone else could write this, make it less generic.

Chris Peterson, Assistant Director at MIT Admissions. The tip below is paraphrased from the post “How To Write A College Essay” on the MIT blog.

Be specific. Consider these two hypothetical introductory paragraphs for a master's program in library science.

“I am honored to apply for the Master of Library Science program at the University of Okoboji because as long as I can remember I have had a love affair with books. Since I was eleven I have known I wanted to be a librarian.”


“When I was eleven, my great-aunt Gretchen passed away and left me something that changed my life: a library of about five thousand books. Some of my best days were spent arranging and reading her books. Since then, I have wanted to be a librarian.”

Each paragraph was 45 words long and the words had the same intent (applicant has wanted to be a librarian since she was a young girl). But they are extraordinarily different essays, most strikingly because the former is generic where the latter is specific. It was a real thing, which happened to a real person, told simply. There is nothing better than that.

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