Getting into an elite college has never been more cutthroat. Last year, Harvard’s admissions rate dipped to a record low, with only 5.3% of applicants getting an acceptance letter. Stanford’s rate was even lower, at 5.05%.
These days, it takes more than impressive grades, a full roster of extracurriculars, and a deep commitment to community service to get into a well-ranked school. Experts say that a stellar essay is the linchpin that will win the admissions department over. But what is less well known is that different colleges favor particular topics and even specific words used in essays.
This is a key finding from AdmitSee, a startup that invites verified college students to share their application materials with potential applicants. High school students can pay to access AdmitSee’s repository of successful college essays, while college students who share their materials receive a small payment every time someone accesses their data. “The biggest differentiator for our site is that college students who share their information are compensated for their time,” Stephanie Shyu, cofounder of AdmitSee, tells Fast Company. “This allows them to monetize materials that they have sitting around. They can upload their file and when they check back in a few months later, they might have made several hundred dollars.”
Shyu says that this model has allowed AdmitSee to collect a lot of data very rapidly. The company is only a year old and just landed $1.5 million in seed funding from investors such asFounder.org and The Social + Capital Partnership. But in this short time, AdmitSee has already gathered 15,000 college essays in their system. Many are from people who got into well-ranked colleges, since they targeted these students first. The vast majority of these essays come from current college students who were admitted within the last two or three years.
AdmitSee has a team that analyzes all of these materials, gathering both qualitative and quantitative findings. And they’ve found some juicy insights about what different elite colleges are looking for in essays. One of the most striking differences was between successful Harvard and Stanford essays. (AdmitSee had 539 essays from Stanford and 393 from Harvard at the time of this interview, but more trickle in every day.) High-achieving high schoolers frequently apply to both schools—often with the very same essay—but there are stark differences between what their respective admissions departments seem to want.
What Do You Call Your Parents?
The terms “father” and “mother” appeared more frequently in successful Harvard essays, while the term “mom” and “dad” appeared more frequently in successful Stanford essays.
Harvard Likes Downer Essays
AdmitSee found that negative words tended to show up more on essays accepted to Harvard than essays accepted to Stanford. For example, Shyu says that “cancer,” “difficult,” “hard,” and “tough” appeared more frequently on Harvard essays, while “happy,” “passion,” “better,” and “improve” appeared more frequently in Stanford essays.
This also had to do with the content of the essays. At Harvard, admitted students tended to write about challenges they had overcome in their life or academic career, while Stanford tended to prefer creative personal stories, or essays about family background or issues that the student cares about. “Extrapolating from this qualitative data, it seems like Stanford is more interested in the student’s personality, while Harvard appears to be more interested in the student’s track record of accomplishment,” Shyu says.
With further linguistic analysis, AdmitSee found that the most common words on Harvard essays were “experience,” “society,” “world,” “success,” “opportunity.” At Stanford, they were “research,” “community,” “knowledge,” “future” and “skill.”
What the Other Ivies Care About
It turns out, Brown favors essays about volunteer and public interest work, while these topics rank low among successful Yale essays. In addition to Harvard, successful Princeton essays often tackle experiences with failure. Meanwhile, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania tend to accept students who write about their career aspirations. Essays about diversity—race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation—tend to be more popular at Stanford, Yale, and Brown.
Based on the AdmitSee’s data, Dartmouth and Columbia don’t appear to have strong biases toward particular essay topics. This means that essays on many subjects were seen favorably by the admissions departments at those schools. However, Shyu says that writing about a moment that changed the student’s life showed up frequently in essays of successful applicants to those schools.
Risk-Taking Pays Off
One general insight is that students who take risks with the content and the structure of their college essays tend to be more successful across the board. One student who was admitted to several top colleges wrote about his father’s addiction to pornography and another wrote about a grandparent who was incarcerated, forcing her mother to get food stamps illegally. Weird formats also tend to do well. One successful student wrote an essay tracking how his credit card was stolen, making each point of the credit card’s journey a separate section on the essay and analyzing what each transaction meant. Another’s essay was a list of her favorite books and focused on where each book was purchased.
“One of the big questions our users have is whether they should take a risk with their essay, writing about something that reveals very intimate details about themselves or that takes an unconventional format,” Shyu says. “What we’re finding is that successful essays are not ones that talk about an accomplishment or regurgitate that student’s résumé . The most compelling essays are those that touch on surprising personal topics.”
Of course, one caveat here is that taking a risk only makes sense if the essay is well-executed. Shyu says that the content and structure of the story must make a larger point about the applicant, otherwise it does not serve a purpose. And it goes without saying that the essay must be well-written, with careful attention paid to flow and style.
Shyu says that there are two major takeaways that can be taken from the company’s data. The first is that it is very valuable for applicants to tailor their essays for different schools, rather than perfecting one essay and using it to apply to every single school. The second is that these essays can offer insight into the culture of the school. “The essays of admitted students are also a reflection of the community at these institutions,” Shyu says. “It can provide insight into whether or not the school is a good fit for that student.”
A final tip? If you want to go to Harvard and write about your parents, make sure to address them as “mother” and “father.”
Journeys End R.C.Sherriff "Character Of Stanhope"
"Is Stanhope the hero of Journey's End?"
Explore the ways in which Sheriff presents the character of Stanhope
"How is the dear young boy? Still drinking like a fish, as usual?" The character of Stanhope is introduced by Hardy in Act 1, without him actually making an appearance. Osborne shows respect to Stanhope and is clearly angry and annoyed by the way Hardy is dismissive of Stanhope's ability. Already, we are presented with two contrasting views of Stanhope. By considering the way in which both characters discuss him, we can address the question of whether or not Stanhope possesses heroic qualities.
The play depicts the horror of trench warfare; it gives us an insight into what life is like in the war, the reality of the war and the reality of heroism. Heroism is to show great courage and bravery. A lot of men in the war signed up because when the war was over they wanted to be seen as a hero. None of these men had any idea about the reality of the treacherous conditions in the trenches. R.C Sheriff wanted to dispel the myths about the horrors of the war and address how real men survived; the heroic men. In this essay, I am going to analyse Act 1 and Act 2, scene 2. I will look at the ways in which Sheriff uses language, stage directions and dramatic devices to present the character of Stanhope and I will address the question as to whether or not Stanhope possesses heroic qualities.
In Act 1, the character of Stanhope is introduced. This has a major impact on the audience. It builds up tension for stanhopes arrival and provides the audience with valuable information about the character of Stanhope. Hardy shows disrespect towards Stanhope, for the simple reason that he 'likes a good drink'. Osborne is indignant over these comments and continually informs Hardy of his dedication, loyalty and perseverance. "Oh he's a good chap" Hardy says this in a patronising manner, dismissing his abilities as a leader. He does not share the same respect but instead uses Stanhope's values as an amusement. He was particularly amused at the fact that Stanhope missed his leave. He put it down to the reason that he did not want to show his family the drunkard state he was in. Maybe, the actual reason is that he is so loyal to his men that he does not want to abandon them. Osborne repeatedly defends Stanhope and emphasises the fact that he had seen him suffering all day, physically and mentally, then out on duty all night. "Young Stanhope goes on sticking it, day in and day out" This comment recognises Stanhope's quality of loyalty, commitment and overwhelming mental strength. It is for these qualities that could describe Stanhope as a hero. Sheriff's purpose of including this scene in the...
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