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Five ways to ace college applications

Expert tips on surviving the college application process (without doing all the work yourself!).

By Brad Munson

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Read up on apps and essays

Our picks from experts who have been there, done that:

Rock-Hard Apps: How to Write the Killer College Application, by Katherine Cohen (who worked in the admissions department at Yale University), gives plenty of concrete advice while following three very different students to widely different schools. It gets an A for accessibility.

A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges, by Michelle A. Hernandez, is also written by a former admissions officer (at Dartmouth College this time). She covers everything from filling out the forms to acing the personal interviews.

Parents will get particular comfort from Admission Matters: What Students and Parents Need to Know About Getting into College, by Sally P. Springer, Jon Reider, and Marion R. Franck. The comments aimed at moms and dads — like "What your child will remember long after the college admissions process is over is how you supported him or her" — are especially valuable.

Writing the essay is often the most daunting step, but Alan Gelb’s Conquering the College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps: Crafting a Winning Personal Statement can help. It comes highly recommended for its practical information and gentle voice, for students and parents alike.

Harry Bauld’s On Writing the College Application Essay is a little more formal and Ivy League-focused, but its insights are invaluable. It’s considered a classic in the field for good reason.

Brad Munson is a freelancer writer, father, and sex educator based in Pasadena, Calif.

Comments from readers

"i think its so wrong that the people that looks at your application and decides wether or not you get accepted into the college of your choice just because they want someone thats over the top/an einstein and thats truly unfair "
"I love school "