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College admissions essays bring angst for students

Associated Press | 9/17/2008, 5:13 a.m.

She said her internship “was the easiest thing for me to write.”

Brandenburg said her biggest frustration was keeping within the word limit.

“In the end, it helped me refine what I wanted to say and it became more to the point,” she said.

Muth advises students to read their completed essays to their best friend. If it sounds like them, they’ve probably done a good job, he said.

“If it sounds like a Ph.D. thesis, it’s probably not their voice, the voice we’re looking for,” he said.

It’s OK to seek feedback from a couple of people, he said, but don’t overdo it.

“I think increasingly we’re seeing essays by committee,” he said. “They’ve written a draft for their high school English class. Then their high school counselor looks it over, Mom looks it over and Dad looks it over and a friend. By the time it goes through that many people, the life is out of it.”

Then there are those who seek assistance from professional counselors or the essay companies that have cropped up.

Nassirian said college admissions officers have become good at “detecting paid embellishments” to essays.

College-Admission-Essay.com is one Internet site that offers students help with their essays.

“Imagine standing out amongst a pool of thousands of essays and applications — the odds of beating mediocrity to become a sure pick for the colleges thus becomes a high-pressure challenge,” customer representative Kathy Joon said in a written response to a question about why services such as her company’s are needed.

She said company counselors know what admissions officers are seeking and how to “elaborate the achievements and strengthen the grammar, context and content of the essays, so that they stand out apart from the numbers and details of their application.”

College-Admission-Essay.com charges students $199 to have a professional writer edit a 500-word essay. For services from a counselor, the company charges $150 per hour, with discounts for multiple hours. The counselors also provide general college counseling.

(Associated Press)