Write Your Way In: Crafting an Unforgettable College Admissions Essay

Rachel Toor has recently written a great book, “Write Your Way In: Crafting an Unforgettable College Admissions Essay” that should be required reading for any Counselor that works with students in helping them write their College Admissions Essay.

The book is not about admissions, but about the writing process. The title refers to the fact that early drafts of good essays often don’t start where they start; students usually have to write their way in to find out what they really think, and to arrive at hard, honest truths. The book is designed to help students be better writers, and is based the author’s experience of  a dozen years of teaching the personal essay to undergraduate and grad students.

As a Counselor you  have to learn about many different schools, help students with FAFSA’s and scholarship applications, write their letters of recommendation, and stay on top of deadlines. One area where most people, including Counselors, struggle is with writing first-person personal essays.

Ms. Toor’s book uses the occasion of having to write the personal statement on the college application to show students how to write well. How to use the process to figure out some important things about themselves, their worlds, what they love, what keeps them up at night.

It’s a short, engaging read that teaches students what good prose looks like. The book offers strategies for picking a topic, and hammers on the essentials of what personal essays must do: they have to be honest, authentic, and self-implicating, rather than boring and braggy lists of of accomplishments. There are snippets of classic and less well-known essays that will send students Googling to read them in their entirety, exercises for brainstorming, and tips for revising.

Here’s an excerpt that was published in The New York Times.

After graduating from Yale, Rachel Toor spent a dozen years as an editor of scholarly books. She worked in admissions at Duke and is now a professor in the graduate creative writing program at Eastern Washington University. In 2014, FSG published her young adult novel, On the Road to Find Out, about a girl who was denied early admission to her top choice school and discovers it’s not the end of the world.

For the past two decades, Toor has been a regular contribution to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and was, for a long time, a columnist for Running Times magazine. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The LA Times, Glamour, Reader’s Digest, Runners World, Inside Higher Ed, JAMA—the Journal of the American Medical Assocation—and a variety of other places. Write Your Way in is her sixth book, all from major publishers.

Here is a link to her site with more information about her and how you can get the book -http://www.racheltoor.com