College Presidents Challenged to Write Admissions Essays

What happens when 10 college presidents must sit down to write an admissions essay?

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Writing a winning college application essay is difficult. Thousands of high school seniors struggle with the stressful task each year. They know the essay is their chance to stand out and win over a skeptical admissions committee. They also know that a poorly written, bland essay can doom their chances of getting in. Choosing the right topic and striking the right tone are always the tricky parts. If only the adults in charge of these colleges and universities were a little more sympathetic. Now, actually, some of them might be.

The Wall Street Journal decided to "turn the tables" on 10 college presidents and see what happens when they each sit down to write their own college admissions essay. The newspaper asked them to answer an essay question from their own school's application. It set a few other simple rules. Each president had three weeks to write the essay. The essay couldn't be longer than 500 words. And no cheating or help from their university's staff.

The essays that resulted from the exercise were, well, you be the judge. Here's an excerpt from the essay written by the president of Wesleyan University about his late brother whom he never met: "I was to heal the wounds caused by the death of that beautiful little boy in the picture. Yet I was also to remain the trace of those wounds."

All told, there seemed to be a general consensus among the presidents that writing a good essay was indeed challenging. One struggled with writer's block. Several wanted to change their topics after they started writing. They all shared some writing advice.

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    college admissions
    Wall Street Journal