The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.
—Anaïs Nin, author
On a sunny autumn day in San Diego, scores of college guidance counselors from across the country resisted the temptation to walk along the city’s famous beaches. Instead they grabbed seats in a chilly, windowless room. The counselors, who were attending the College Board’s annual convention, had shown up for one reason—to learn the secrets of writing a successful college essay.
Not surprisingly, the room was jammed. With top schools so competitive, many ambitious kids assume that if they write a zinger of an essay, it just might keep their application from getting fed into a paper shredder. So everyone—from ...