Don’t Write A Stale College Essay

Glancy gives an example. She tutored a student who’d gotten elected for a leadership position in a model legislature and court program. “I won the race! Look how great I am!” wouldn’t have cut it as far as essay topics go, so Glancy told the student to write freely about the election.

On the surface, her first two paragraphs were about mundane details: She was nervous during the group interview, because while everyone was dressed in business casual attire, she was wearing jeans and doc martens. Still, her descriptions were vivid enough to make Glancy ask questions about them. Eventually, the two discovered that the essay wasn’t really about the student getting elected. It was about her platform: giving a voice to people whose voices were almost never heard. The fact that she’d worn her boots to the group interview wove into the theme perfectly. “The essay was just so beautiful and moving,” Glancy says. Why? There was actual passion behind it.


For students who are interested in becoming business majors, Glancy advises writing essays that demonstrate initiative, perseverance, creative problem-solving, and the ability to collaborate with others. But she stresses that she’d never tell someone, “Write an essay in which you show your perseverance.” “It would be stilted,” she says. It’s best to start by writing freely and seeing what comes out.

Speaking of stilted essays, anxious parents can often induce them by getting too involved. She recalls one particular Skype session: She had asked a student to come up with a significant moment in her life, and it was only after the call was over that the student emailed her and asked if she could write about the time her mother was hospitalized during a nervous breakdown. She’d been afraid to bring up the subject earlier because her mother had been in the room. Though Glancy thinks parents should stay supportive, she advises them to resist the urge to micromanage the essay-writing process, even if they’re just as worried—or more worried—about impressing admissions officials. “Let it be a process of self-discovery for the student,” Glancy says.

Make no mistake—that process costs a pretty penny. Glancy doesn’t have a specific fee, preferring to work it out with the families themselves (she sometimes puts students on full scholarship). Still, she makes one thing clear: “I’m not cheap,” she says. She considers her price to be one of the drawbacks of her profession. It’s hard to blame Glancy for simply capitalizing on a market need. (I’m the last person who would blame a writer for finding a way to get paid well.) But in today’s hyper-competitive college admissions process, you have to wonder if students with 4.4 grade-point averages and families who can afford Glancy’s services need any more of a leg up.

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