This satirical essay — or a version of it — was written in 1990 by high school student Hugh Gallagher, who entered it in the humor category of the Scholastic Writing Awards and won first prize. The text was then published in Literary Cavalcade , a magazine of contemporary student writing, and reprinted in Harper's and The Guardian before taking off as one of the most forwarded viral emails of the 1990s.
Though it was not Gallagher's actual college application essay, he did submit it as a sample of his work to college writing programs and was accepted, with scholarship, to New York University, from which he graduated in 1994. Since then he has worked as a freelance writer. His first novel, Teeth , was published by Pocket Books in March 1998.
A common tactic by students pushed for time is to use too many quotes – or very long passages – from other people (scholars, sources and so on) to bolster the word count and reduce the amount of writing they actually have to do themselves. Try to avoid doing this if you can; it’s a transparent tactic and shows that you haven’t fully mastered the subject yourself, so you have to resort to hiding behind the words of others. The vast majority of the writing in the essay should be your own. Short quotes here and there, accompanied by your commentary on them, are a good thing; lots of long quotes that take up much of the essay, with little explanation from you, are not.
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