What You Don’t Know Can Keep You Out of College

One of the nation’s premier experts on the college admissions process explains how admissions comittees think, why perfect scores aren’t enough, and what to do to get an edge at your first-choice school.

Book Recommendation Series: The third Monday of every month, we recommend amazing books on learning and the college process, every one guaranteed mind-blowing.

Previously, we’ve recommended books that introduce you to the college admissions process, reveal all the (legal) dirty tricks that the privileged use to game the system, and help you write great essays.

The next step in your college admissions reading journey is to police your essays for any unintentionally self-sabotaging phrasing. For that, you need, What You Don’t Know Can Keep You Out of College by Don Dunbar, “Guaranteed to make you a stronger college candidate by showing you the kind of character colleges want.”

Organized around 13 ways you can ruin your applications to selective schools, the thrust of the book is that you need to be your best self in your applications – not just yourself – and that what kind of person you are is always going to be the deciding factor when admissions officers have to choose between accepting you or accepting another student with similar activities and stats but who has a documented history of being a good person.

Dunbar warns against being shy, talking about winning, or even accidentally coming off as a stone-cold psycho. He encourages positivity, empathy, and demonstrated passion in a specific area (as opposed to well-roundedness, which isn’t cool anymore).

If you’re applying to any colleges that are hard to get into, read this book before you write your essays.

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