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Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps: Crafting a Winning Personal Statement

4.7 out of 5 stars 110 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1580089104
ISBN-10: 1580089100
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Editorial Reviews


“This indispensable resource clearly outlines the qualities and techniques that make for superb personal statements. With an educator’s attentiveness and editor’s keen insight, 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 and coauthor of Getting the Best out of College --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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 Professionals, Most Likely to Succeed, and more. Alan lives with his family in East Chatham, New York.

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Founded in 1981, The Princeton Review helps high school students achieve their higher-education goals through test-preparation services and resources, such as study guides, flash cards, and more. Visit our featured selection resources for the ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and college admissions. Some Princeton Review guides are also available as Kindle books.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580089100
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580089104
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #507,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Gelb is the author of Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps, which often ranks on Amazon as the #1 best-selling resource on this subject. He has written about the college admissions essay for many different outlets, including The New York Times website "The Choice." His work as a college essay coach has been profiled in The Wall Street Journal.

Alan's theories about the college admissions essay draw upon a long and varied writing career. His novels and nonfiction have been published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, E.P. Dutton, Dell, Avon, St. Martin's Press, and others. He is also a marketing consultant who works with colleges and universities across the country. In addition, Alan regularly appears as a featured speaker at conferences and events. Visit the "About" section of conquerthecollegeessay.com to find out about his upcoming speaking engagements.

Every year, Alan tutors a limited number of students from around the world on their admissions essays. He and his students engage in a process that is highly collaborative and that allows for students to maintain complete ownership over their work. He remains constantly amazed by the depth of feeling and expression that his students achieve--a feeling shared by all of the nation's top schools, who have not only admitted Alan's students but have often commented on the quality of their essays.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Conquering the College Admission Essay in the 10 Steps', by Alan Gelb reviews basic high school composition and how it applies to the college applicant's personal statement. Developing the technical aspects of conflict, protagonists and timing are critical to an interesting product.

I recommend that the editing parent and student read 'Conquering . . ', then everyone is on the same page. Gelb crafts a great example of story telling by a classic 'mom', then injects the critical aspects of a successful essay. Very clever and interesting example for discussion between writer and editor.

Another great book is 'On Writing the College Application Essay', by Harry Bauld. In contrast, Bauld's book gives incredible insight into who is the recipient of the essay; how to fashion the final product to intrigue the decision maker and their panel; and the process of the application. 'On Writing . . ' is smartly written for the Ivy League applicant -- or the best prepared future state school attendee.

Together these two books will supply the writer with ammunition and the tools needed for a solid essay. Good Luck!
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Format: Paperback
A friend recommended this book to me after weeks of being unable to focus on writing an essay. It's a relatively short book so I initially finished it in one day. The first thing I really liked was how the author assures us that procrastination and feelings of dread are a natural process of writing, and true to form, I prolonged writing my essay as long as possible. When I made goals for myself, like the author suggests, of writing a few words or a paragraph a day, I went back to the 10 steps and used it like a guide book. Every "step" that Gelb gives is an action that the applicant must take. For me, some steps took longer then others. I basically carried the book everywhere for six weeks while writing my essay, and would use the book to help me focus my thoughts and ideas, to edit better and cultivate my essay. I'm happy about the outcome of my essay. Also, at the end, the author inserts some full essays from successful applicants he has helped (he uses examples from them throughout the book to breakdown the steps as well), and reading these helped me form a voice in my essay. I'm really glad my friend pointed this book out to me.
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Format: Paperback
Whether you're clueless or completely confident on how to write your college essay, this book will provide you with intelligent yet simple advice that will quickly make you feel like an expert on the personal statement.

I was very confident with my essay when I first wrote it, but as soon as I'd skimmed the first few pages of Alan Gelb's book I realized there were dozens of improvements I could make, and Mr. Gelb points out these improvements in a way that is clear and fun to read. Without the book my essay wouldn't have been nearly as great as it was, and I would have had a hard time writing it.

Another great thing about this book is it's flexibility of use. I've only just written my college essay and I already use Gelb's tips for all kinds of essays for school. If you read this book, or even just glance through it, you'll find that you use Alan Gelb's tips every time you put a pen to paper.
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Format: Paperback
No matter how accomplished a writer you've become, you DO need this book. I'm embarrassed to say how many books I looked at prior to finding Mr. Gelb's jewel. The college admission's essay is a unique piece of writing. This book recognizes that, unlike so many of the others, and takes you right to heart of a successful admission's essay. No fluff, no generalizations. Keeping in mind whom the readers of these essays are, I needed to be rescued from obscurity and simply could not have written such a compelling essay and I'm 100% certain it was instrumental in my admission success. A "so-so" writer, my first several attempts were pathetic. The 10 steps outlined in this book are concise tools, easily understood that helped me a great deal in everything from topic selection to organizing my thoughts and following a timeline to help me with my habitual procrastination. The lessons on brevity, succinctness and interesting prose will be with you long after you finish your admission's essay(s). The hardest thing for me to do was to edit down and to lose those passages I was so fond of if they didn't help my essay. Mr. Gelb helped me to write convincingly in a manner in which my "voice" would show and I was able to produce an essay which I have no doubt was unique, got the admission committee's attention and was a huge part of my acceptance (accepted early decision to an Ivy League school).
Considering how important the essay is nowadays, this book is worth it at 100x the cost.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want step by step excellent advice on how to focus your son or daughter on their college essay, this book is exactly what you need. From selecting a topic to figuring out how to construct the essay and make it special, this is really an extraordinarily well thought out and accessible resource. What was really wonderful was that the advice on constructing the college essay also spilled over into excellent pointers about writing more generally so it was a valuable book for more than just the college essay. If you're wondering how your child is ever going to get started, if s/he's hit a wall in putting the essay together, or if you just feel as though the essay could be better, get this book. It's not easy helping a high school senior put together the college application (I've now done it with three children) so it's a real gift to find a book this good that you can just give to your child and know they're getting excellent advice. I really do think every parent should buy this book for their college bound high school student.
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