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Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Easy Steps, Third Edition


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The definitive guide to writing an amazing essay and mastering the college applications process.

Table of Contents


Introduction | 4

STEP ONE: Understanding the Narrative | 10
STEP TWO: Finding Your Topic | 27
STEP THREE: Point of View | 44
STEP FOUR: Getting It Down | 57
STEP FIVE: "Big Picture" Editing | 70
STEP SIX: Second Draft | 86
STEP SEVEN: Self-Editing | 102
STEP EIGHT: Third Draft | 116
STEP NINE: Pulling It Together | 133
STEP TEN: Finishing Up | 152

Appendix 1: Real Student Essays | 165
Appendix 2: Conquering the Supplementals | 195
Appendix 3: For Parents | 220
Appendix 4: New for Teachers | 222

About the Author

ALAN GELB is a college essay coach and professional writer whose clients include colleges and universities across the country. He is the author of The Complete Student, A Survival Guide for Students, and Most Likely to Succeed, among others.


Praise for Alan Gelb's Approach:

"Indispensable...Gelb provides applicants with much-needed advice as well as the confidence and skills they need to win over the admissions dean."
-Sue Wasiolek, dean of students at Duke University

"Alan Gelb has done the impossible: he's created a sane and simple process for crafting a knock-your-socks-off essay! His guide is perfect for high school students facing the most important document they will ever write. The student still has to do the work, but Gelb's approach reduces the stress."
-Donald Asher, author of Cool Colleges and Graduate Admissions Essays

"Alan's guidance in the process of writing my college essay was invaluable. Not only did I end up with an immensely superior product than I would have without his help, I also learned, with Alan's help, how to mine the depths of my experience to find a meaningful narrative and then convey it with a clear, coherent structure. I got in early decision to Columbia University with that essay; I am forever indebted to Alan for that."
-Josh Freed, admitted early decision to Columbia University

"Taking an ordinary essay and helping to mold it into an extraordinary one is what Alan Gelb does best. [He] helped transform ... my essay into a final draft that could stand out amongst an elite crowd."
-Megan S. Steven, PhD, one of Alan's first students, admitted to Dartmouth for undergrad and awarded a Rhodes scholarship; now a faculty member with the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College

"Alan Gelb saved us by working with our daughters to help them understand what works in a college essay. My daughters' admissions to Brown and Macalester were enormously helped by his advice."
-Jane Hirschmann, parent

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