47. Writing Your Way into College

Ninety percent of the applications I read contain what I call McEssays—usually five-paragraph essays that consist primarily of abstractions and unsupported generalization. They are technically correct in that they are organized and have the correct sentence structure and spelling, but they are boring.

—Parke Muth, senior assistant dean, University of Virginia

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 gorgeous 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 ...

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