Sunday, March 30, 2008

WORD: 4 Ways to Write Your Way to College

by Gabrielle Linnell

For most high school juniors, Spring Break means college tours. Lots of them. This means listening into admissions officers tell you stats, profiles, majors, so much boring information. I love it. But whether you hate thinking about the future or not, always look for the opportunity to use your writing! That's why we write.

Here are four ideas on using your writing to show your fave university your greatness. And to make sure they give you financial aid.

1. Include your publishing resume. I talked to an admissions officer at Duke this weekend and asked how I should show my list of publishing clips. She suggested either attaching it in the "Additional Info" section of the Common Application or standard application, but also recommended stapling it to my guidance counselor's recommendation. She said that way they'd be sure to see it. Personally, I plan on giving them a full list of where I've been published and highlighting the ones that are of particular interest.

For homeschoolers, this might be easier to do because a homeschooler's application is already different. But guys, you must include your resume, even if you've just been published in a few iddy-biddy zines. It shows you're already having success in a field you love.

2. Essays? No sweat. Every American college application, with the exception of community colleges, will request one or more essays from applicants. For most of our friends, these are torturous. Average teens are not used to expressing themselves intimately and concisely on paper. Guess what? We are! Use your spotlight well.

3. Read, read, read. Again, this is something you'd be doing already. Reading makes you sound more intelligent (bonus 1) and boosts SAT verbal & writing scores (bonus 2.) I think reading some older literature (Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice) and making sure you understand the words will do a better job of improving your vocabulary than studying lists. More interesting.

4. Document the experience. I know of local high school seniors writing columns about the process of applying to college for the regional newspaper (which had a HUGE circulation.) If there's not a similar one where you live, ask for a job! Write essays! Write short stories! If you live in a foreign country (say Britain) write for an American magazine on the differences in applying to British schools.

While you're doing all these things, I recommend you take a break by reading Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman. Talk about making college admissions exciting!*

Gabrielle Linnell has been published almost twenty-five times, lives through AP Chemistry homework and plans on attending college somewhere. You an admissions officer? Email me.

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