Best Ivy League College Application Essays

Admissions

Read the essay this high school senior wrote to get accepted to all eight Ivy League schools

By Harley Geffner04/17/17 6:19pm

Cassandra Hsiao, a first-generation immigrant from Malaysia, was recently admitted to attend all eight Ivy League schools.

"I opened them one after another, and they all were saying, 'Congratulations! Congratulations!' And I know that is something special," she told NBC Los Angeles.

In addition to a 4.67 GPA and active involvement in her California community, Hsiao's Common App essay about her struggle with the English language helped grab the schools' attention.

"In our house, there is beauty in the way we speak to each other," Hsiao wrote in the essay. "Language is not broken but rather, bursting with emotion. It is a little messy. But this is where we have made our home."

The 17 year old moved to California with her family when she was just five. 

In addition to her Ivy League acceptances, she has also received offers from Stanford University, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University and University of Southern California, among others, according to NBC.

Hsiao has yet to make her decision, but told BBC News she will be touring the schools in the coming weeks.

A student-journalist in high school, Hsiao told ABC7 that she is considering a Storytelling Arts major.

In my humble opinion, the single biggest reason quality applicants get rejected from elite colleges is their inability to understand and execute essays. When people ask me, “Dave, wha’s the biggest problem you see among today’s high school students?” I don’t have to think twice: It’s their inability to formulate and articulate a convincing written argument.

Compounding this problem is the unique challenge of the elite college application. Admission committees at these top schools aren’t looking to hear about your summer vacation to Europe or your plan to end world hunger. In fact, they are much more interested in hearing your observations about the frequency of cars running yellow lights at the intersection near your home or how many years it has taken for that oak sapling outside your front window to push up the sidewalk slabs next to it.

You’re probably asking yourself why on earth anyone could be more interested in your intersection or oak tree than your great trip or humanitarian ideals. The answer is simple: Because the intersection and that oak tree can tell more about who you are and how you think. As you read a few samples of real-life college essays, notice how the writers reveal themselves, their attitudes, preferences, strengths, and even weaknesses, in a series of everyday situations. Their lives are no more exciting or glamorous than yours is. The difference between your writing style and theirs, though, may be due to your lack of understanding of how to speak through your writing in your own unique “voice.”

Voice is that elusive quality that allows your reader to hear you talking without the aid of your spoken words. Tha’s what makes the great novelists so great. Think about Steven King and D.H. Lawrence, or essayists like Andy Rooney, and even humorists like Dave Barry (no, not me; I’m Dave Berry). Once you’ve read these people’s writing, you feel as though you’ve seen the world through their eyes and, if you had the chance to meet them, they would probably talk just like they write. If you don’t believe me, just watch Andy Rooney’s spot at the end of 60 minutes some Sunday evening, then read one or two of his columns in the newspaper or one of his excellent essay collections. He sounds just like he reads. He reveals himself through his writing. Therein lies your essay challenge.

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