The 'not everyone should go to college' argument is classist and wrong

by Libby Nelson

Many community colleges offer courses in welding.

The economic return on investment for a college degree has never been higher. But the more that fact is discussed, the more some pundits seem to think the US is at risk of an epidemic of unnecessary college-going that can be averted by singing the praises of highly skilled trades.

The latest, in Businessweek, is headlined " Let's Start Telling Young People the Whole Truth About College " — the whole truth being that a four-year degree isn't the only road to a stable, even lucrative, professional life.

Fair enough. (Though the economic evidence still comes down heavily on the side of four-year college graduates being better off in the long run .) But the argument that "everyone shouldn't go to college" — reiterated with dozens of variations in the past few years — rests on some incorrect assumptions about higher education in the US.

Many people imagine a bright line between college and vocational education — Ph.Ds on one side, plumbers on the other. That line doesn't exist, and it hasn't for at least a generation. Particularly at two-year colleges, programs for future English majors and future auto mechanics often exist side-by-side. One path might lead to an associate degree, the other to a certificate, but they're both at a place called "college."

As higher education economist Sandy Baum wrote in a report for the Urban Institute : "It is common to hear the suggestion that many students should forgo college and instead seek vocational training. But most of that training takes place in community colleges or for-profit postsecondary institutions."

The skilled trades are demanding workers with increasing levels of technical ability, and the market rewards those who have the credential to prove it: About 30 percent of construction workers now have some kind of professional license or credential, according to the Census Bureau . So do about 20 percent of industrial workers. Workers without a traditional college degree, but with a credential, earned more than workers with no credentials at all. They still earn less than workers with a traditional degree.

Where do people earn these credentials? The vast majority — 82 percent — of workers with credentials other than a college degree, or in addition to a college degree, earned them from educational institution. In other words, to get ahead in those skilled jobs so often promoted as the alternative to a college education, they went to college.


Somehow, criticism of the cult of the college degree never pinpoints the one group where a belief that "everyone should go to college" really is pervasive: the upper middle class. Students from families in the top fifth of incomes have gone to college in disproportionately high numbers since at least the 1970s. About 80 percent of them now attend college right after high school. More than half have a bachelor's degree by age 25.


Source: College Board

It's more than plausible that some of those well-off students could be happy and successful with a certificate in carpentry instead of a bachelor's in business. Yet the calls to tell the truth about the value of a college degree nearly always stop short of saying where— if too many people really do go to college — that truth-telling is sorely needed.

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Persuasive Essay Sample: Students Should Go to College

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Education is a very important weapon to use no matter where you are just like Nelson Mandela had said. Have you ever thought about whether all students need to go to college or not? I think all students should go to college, but it shouldn’t be obligated to students.

The first main reason that students should go to college is because it offers new experiences and opportunities. The experiences and opportunities are new to the students and it allows them to try more things. Then, it can help with what they wanna do or what kinds of jobs to get in the future. Similarly, college is a whole new environment. Everything will be new for the students to get used to. Students can also meet new friends who can help you later in future.

Secondly, the main reason would be going to college will help with adult life. Going to college will be a very important point in choosing your future job. For exactly to say, it literally decides your future. This means that college prepares for the student’s life after graduating. You can know more people in the area you're working on. When you need help with something related to that subject, they can help you. College allows you to learn about your future job and you can get a better job.

The last reason that students should go to college is that you can also learn how to start your own business. For example, when your major is about learning economic stuff, college can teach you about starting your own business very specifically. Then, in the future, you will

remember every time what to do if you are running a company. It lets you get to have more knowledge. College teaches you how to start and run your business. Lastly, it also helps you to create solid plans so you won’t have to stress too much about it.

There are people in the world who don't go to college and can still do a very fantastic job on their own business. For example, Bill gates, who a lot of people know, is a famous software developer. He didn’t actually graduate from college. Then, he started his business, Microsoft, with his partner Paul Allen. However, on average, graduates have a higher salary than undergraduates. For instance, if students themselves know they cannot have a good future without college, then going to college should be their choice, but it isn’t for everybody.

Going to college is always a choice and it just depends on if people wanna go or not. There are so many things we can learn about in this world today. It’s never bad to have more knowledge than to have less.

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Not Every Student Should Go to College. And That’s OK


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Forty years ago 32 percent of counselors and teachers advised all students to go to college. Just 10 years later, in 1990, that percentage had doubled with roughly two-thirds of educators recommending college for all. Despite a recent surge in popularity for career and technical education, signs indicate that the college recommendation trend has increased over the last generation.

All that college-going advice may do harm in ways most adults in the lives of teenagers hadn’t realized. Research we conducted over the past several years suggests that a “college for all” message causes far too many students from all demographics to make choices that result in failure.

Instead of forcing college on students, educators would do better to encourage them to consider more than one pathway into a good life. Some pathways will include college now or later and some not. Educators also have a responsibility to help create those pathways, and students’ choices rather than their backgrounds should determine which they take.

Students who attend college for extrinsic reasons suffer poor outcomes.

In our research, we collected and analyzed more than 200 stories from students about their postsecondary education choices and surveyed over 1,000 more students to understand what caused them to enroll in college, both two- and four-year institutions, as well as some coding bootcamps and shorter graduate programs. Our participants were roughly representative of the population of students that attend college in the United States across gender, racial, and ethnic lines. Forty-six percent were first-generation college students, meaning neither of their parents had completed a bachelor’s degree. Eighteen percent had at least one child, and 60 percent lived in households with incomes that placed them in the bottom three socio-economic quintiles.

We learned that a significant number of students from all backgrounds enroll in college to do what’s expected of them or to help them get away from a bad circumstance in their lives. These students go to college not because they want the college experience or because of what college will help them obtain. In other words, they are motivated by external factors not internal goals. They choose college because it is a socially acceptable answer to what they are doing next.

Students who attend college for extrinsic reasons suffer poor outcomes. According to our research, 74 percent of those who attended college to “do what was expected of them” dropped out or transferred. Of those who went to college “to get away,” over half had left the school they were attending without a degree at the time we talked to them.

One student we talked to, who was the first in her family to attend college, chose college to get away from a bad relationship with her stepdad. She enrolled in a college three hours away from home—even though it didn’t have the courses of study in which she was interested. Once there, she took a heavier-than-usual course load first semester, partied hard, and found herself on academic probation.

Things improved a little second semester, but the improvement was not enough to justify the money she was spending on tuition, she thought. She still struggled with time management and a nagging sense that she didn’t know why she was enrolled. So with $40,000 in federal and private student loans outstanding, she dropped out, returned home, mended things with her family, and started to find jobs to help pay off the debt.

Too many students go to college not knowing what they want to get out of it or how to make it work for them. Committing to a four-year school and taking on lots of debt when they lack passion and focus for the endeavor is risky, particularly given the grim college completion and student debt statistics.

Over 40 percent of first-time, full-time students who started college in the fall of 2012 failed to graduate from four-year programs within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Non-completers not only lose out on the benefits of a college degree, but also face increased debt without increased earnings. Non-completers have a three-fold higher risk of default than completers, according to the Center for American Progress.

Instead of adding to the pressure around college, which parents often fuel, high school educators should be the first line of defense for students who might benefit more from another path. Yes, educators must avoid the low expectations that direct students away from college because of their family’s income, their race, or their ethnicity. Instead, they should encourage all students to reflect on their goals and explore more than one pathway to purpose and success.

One way to help is through courses that are now emerging to give students structured opportunities to discover what drives them. But high schools should go further. They must counter the narrowing of the curriculum over the last couple decades caused by an overemphasis on test results and the decrease in career and technical education pathways in many schools. Extracurricular activities, experiential learning, and opportunities to build relationships with adults outside of school through real-world projects can help students discover their strengths and interests. Rather than marginalize these opportunities, schools should integrate them into every student’s program.

Our research in no way implies that college is a one-time decision. Just because college isn’t the right step now

for a student doesn’t mean it will never be the right step. College and, more to the point, education can help bring a lifetime of happiness, as studies have documented . But that education has to be at the right time and in the right circumstance.

If students aren’t yet ready, then taking a gap year can be a smart move. The stereotype of rich kids gallivanting around Europe is outmoded. An increasing number of programs offer gap-year experiences with financial aid so that all students can partake of them. Counselors and teachers should help students explore these opportunities, which are filled with immersive activities that help students learn about themselves and, in many cases, earn money through holding a series of jobs. This can make a gap year considerably more affordable than college.

Far better than a monolithic college-for-all vision is for individuals to know where they are in their lives, what they want, and how to articulate it. Only then can we ensure that education delivers on its promise of helping people build their passions, fulfill their human potential, and live a lifetime of productive struggle and happiness.

A version of this article appeared in the March 11, 2020 edition of Education Week as The Danger of ‘College for All’

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Why You Should Go to College

Fred dews fred dews managing editor, new digital products - office of communications @publichistory.

October 16, 2014

More students than ever before are enrolling in degree-granting institutions in the United States. Between 2001 and 2011, enrollment increased 32 percent while more women and more non-whites are entering postsecondary education than ever before (National Center for Educational Statistics). Brookings is home to extensive research on the benefits of and challenges to postsecondary education in America. This post highlights recent Brookings research on key areas related to the value of a college degree: the economic return to a college degree; student loan debt and paying for college; the changing model of postsecondary education; and overcoming barriers to college. All of it points to one conclusion, to quote Richard Reeves: “ go to college .”

Is college worth it? (yes, almost always)


Read: Regardless of the Cost, College Still Matters

The Hamilton Project has also recently studied how earnings vary across college majors. In a new interactive feature, the project found that “lifetime earnings vary tremendously by major” but that “a college degree—in any major—is important for advancing one’s earnings potential.”

Visit the  interactive .

Gary Burtless argues that “ The economic reward from attending and completing college has probably never been higher.” Despite the very real increase in costs to attend college and the tighter labor market college grads face today, the key to understanding why college still has such a big payoff, explains Burtless, “is that the prospects for twenty-somethings who do not complete college are much worse than those of the ones who do. What is more, the economic prospects of the young adults who do not complete college have worsened over time, and much faster than the prospects facing new college grads.”

Read:  College Is Not a Ludicrous Waste of Money .

Richard Reeves and Kerry Searle Grannis identify “five strong starts for social mobility,” one of which involves college. Although earning a high school diploma is “vitally necessary,” it “is not sufficient” to succeed in today’s economy. “Attending college,” they write, “even if not for a full four-year degree, results in labor market rewards: each additional year of school means, on average, an extra 10% return in annual income.”

Learn more about strong starts to boost social mobility .

How big a problem is student loan debt?


And yet, according to Beth Akers and Matt Chingos, “Our analysis of more than two decades of data on the financial well-being of American households suggests that the reality of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear.” Akers and Chingos analyzed a variety of factors that mitigate conclusions of a “crisis,” including: higher average debt levels of borrowers with graduate as opposed to bachelor’s degrees; average lifetime incomes of college-educated Americans are keeping pace with debt loads; and the monthly payment burden is about the same or a little less than it has been.

“These data indicate that typical borrowers are no worse off now than they were a generation ago, and also suggest that the borrowers struggling with high debt loads frequently featured in media coverage may not be part of a new or growing phenomenon,” they conclude.

Get more data and analysis on this issue here .

Akers also discusses the student loan issue and solutions in a recent Brookings Cafeteria podcast .

See also Susan Dynarski’s economic perspective on student debt , including whether there is a debt crisis; the costs and benefits of interest subsidies; and an income-based repayment system.

The Hamilton Project has also explored innovative policy proposals for higher education financing. These include: reforming federal lending and financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant; expanding the use of “net-price calculators” to provide prospective students with a better estimate of the real cost of attending college; and a new system for federal lending that allows repayment schedules to rise and fall with a borrower’s income.

Learn more about  these proposals .

Akers has also called attention to “the plight of recent college grads” who are facing lower earnings, or even unemployment, at the beginnings of their careers but have immediate debt burdens to contend with. “It’s important,” Akers says, “to allow graduates to repay their debts during the times in their careers when they are reaping the economic benefits of their degrees.”

Read:  Assessing the Plight of Recent College Grads .

Isabel Sawhill says there are three ways to make college more affordable : government or philanthropy pick up more of the cost; borrow the money; improve the productivity of the sector “so that students learn as much (or more) but at a lower (or the same) cost.

Read what she proposes as possible solutions to the third way.

Akers explains how Income Share Agreements are another solution to finance higher education . ISAs “allow students to raise funds to pay for their degrees by selling ‘shares’ in their future earnings,” she explains.

Read: How Income Share Agreements Could Play a Role in Higher Ed Financing

Are there alternatives to four-year college?


Stuart Butler argues that college leaders should look at the recent experience of music, book and film industries and “recognize that the higher education industry is encountering a multi-pronged and existential threat composed of successive waves of disruptive innovation. This disruption will force top-to-bottom changes in the very concept of higher education and its relationship with the broader economy.”

Read:  Tottering Ivory Towers .    

In another piece, Butler explores what the future college business model will look like under today’s competitive pressures, which are intensifying, “particularly as the cost of information transfer to students declines to near zero.”

Read:  The Future College as Travel Agent .

Community college “will remain the most appropriate option for postsecondary learning” for many , especially those from less advantaged backgrounds, according to Quentin Karpilow and Richard Reeves. Although community college enrollees exhibit low completion rates, there is, they argue, “huge scope for improving mobility outcomes through the development of the community college system, especially by boosting Associate degree attainment rates and helping students transfer to 4-year institutions.”

Read more here  and find all of Brookings’s research on community colleges here .  

How do we address barriers to college access?


Should everyone go to college? Isabel Sawhill and Stephanie Owen’s research on the question shows that “on average, the benefits of a college degree far outweigh the costs.” The total wage premium over a lifetime for a bachelor’s degree is $570,000, they found. On average. But several “key dimensions significantly affect the return on a college degree,” they write, including: school selectivity, college major, and graduation rate.

See their interactive for more detail and also policy recommendations to help students make smart investments in postsecondary education. 

Sawhill has also pointed to another issue: an uneven playing field when it comes to college completion , high school preparation, and the intersection of these with class. Despite the well-understood link between college and higher income, and taking into account the research on the key dimensions that affect the return on a college degree, Sawhill finds that half of college students, “and much higher proportions of poor and minority students,” drop out before completing a degree. Thus, “despite our dedication to the idea of a higher education system open to all,” she writes, “we are not doing a very good job of leveling the playing field. The result is that opportunity is still linked too strongly to class.”

Learn more about Sawhill’s work on Higher Education and the Opportunity Gap .  

Ron Haskins testified to Congress that a “primary reason that disadvantaged students have trouble both getting into college and completing a degree is that they are not academically prepared to do college work.” He evaluated the major federal college-preparation programs and found that they have little or no impact on enrollment or graduation. He proposed a five-step reform to these programs.

Read his  testimony .

In a Hamilton Project report on policies to address poverty in America , Bridget Terry Long observes that “academic preparation may be an equally formidable barrier to postsecondary education.”

Read her three recommendations for better addressing the academic preparation problem with the hope of improving rates of college success.

Also as part of The Hamilton Project’s report , Harry Holzer argues that the high drop-out rate among low-income youth and adults and, for those who complete degrees, a choice of low-compensation fields “hurt the poor, and weaken the impacts of large national investments in higher education.” He proposes state- and federal-level reforms to improve earnings prospects for graduates and “to encourage two- and four-year colleges to be responsive to labor market demand.”

Read:  Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged College Students .

Visit the archive of Brookings’s research on U.S. higher education , and also the Brown Center on Education Policy .

Charmaine Crutchfield contributed to this post.

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The Best Reason to Go to College

It’s the same as it ever was: To learn that the world is more than the issues that divide us.

argumentative essay about should every student go to college

By Pico Iyer

Mr. Iyer is an author.

As colleges throughout the United States reopen, facing a weird new landscape of empty rooms and scattered classmates, it’s easy to wonder what these traditional places of learning still have to teach the rest of us. Long before the pandemic, campuses were in the news not so much for opening young minds as for closing down discussions and less for encouraging humanity than for promoting ideologies.

Upon my own return to a university classroom, in the spring of 2019, after a hiatus of 37 years, I imagined that my tastes and values, my very language, might seem out-of-date to many of the students I was instructing, and I’m sure they did. I suspected that these teenagers would be much less concerned with books than I and my old classmates were, and I was right. I assumed that as a writer who had been crisscrossing the globe for 45 years, I’d have wisdom about travel to impart, and I was wrong: Thanks in part to their generous and well-endowed university, the 16 undergraduates in front of me spent the first class speaking of recent trips they’d taken to Nauru and Kyrgyzstan and Hongpo, among other places I’d barely heard of.

In almost every way, the young at this elite university seemed brighter, more mature, more reliable and infinitely more globally aware than I and my pals had been in our radically less diverse day. But the most beautiful surprise was to see how deeply many of them had absorbed lessons not to be found in any textbook. Picking up a campus newspaper one day, I found an article by the person I’d foolishly taken to be our class clown. He went to Mass every Sunday, he wrote, precisely because he had no religious commitment. He wanted to learn about perspectives other than the ones he knew. He admired the discipline and sense of order encouraged by such a practice, which he felt he might lack otherwise. He’d been startled by the open-mindedness of a devout roommate, with whom he used to argue through the night. If someone of religious faith could be so responsive to other positions, he wrote, should not a secular liberal aspire to the same?

I realized, as I read the piece, that I had little to teach such students in a class ostensibly about exploring cultures different from our own. More deeply, I was impressed by how imaginatively a young person was addressing the central problem of the times: the fact we’re all united mostly by our divisiveness. Whether in the context of climate change or the right to life — let alone the ethics of trying to protect others from a killer virus by simply wearing a mask — more and more of us refuse ever to cross party lines. And in an age of social media, when we all imagine we can best capture the world’s attention by shouting as loudly as possible, there’s every incentive to take the most extreme — and polarizing — position around.

Our institutions are not going to solve this; they (and the unwisdom of crowds) are often the problem. As the wise Franciscan priest Richard Rohr points out, the only thing more dangerous than individual ego is group ego. That’s one reason I, driving around blue-state Santa Barbara, Calif., try to listen to Fox News — I can get plenty of the other side from my friends. It’s also why I, though not a Christian, seek out the clarity of Richard Rohr. We’re caught up in an addiction to simplifications for which the only medicine lies within. We need to be reminded that not to be right doesn’t always mean you’re wrong. And that to be terribly wronged does not mean you’re innocent. The world deals in black-or-whites no more than a hurricane or a virus does.

It’s hardly surprising that so many citizens, unable to find wisdom in the political sphere (which, almost by definition, thrives on either/ors), look to religious figures for a more inclusive vision. Pope Francis, in Wim Wenders’s glorious documentary “A Man of His Word,” stresses the importance of not imposing our views on others and never thinking in terms of simplistic us-versus-thems: Would God, Francis asks, love Gandhi any less than he does a priest or a nun simply because the Mahatma wasn’t a Christian? The Dalai Lama, for his part, points out that to be pro-Tibetan is not to be anti-Chinese, not least because Tibet and China will always be neighbors; the welfare of either depends on the other. He begins his days by praying for the health of his “Chinese brothers and sisters.”

Traveling across Japan with the Dalai Lama a year before the pandemic, I heard him say often that after watching the planet up close as a leader of his people for what was then 79 years, he felt the world was suffering through an “emotional crisis.” The cure, he said, was “emotional disarmament.” What he meant by the striking phrase was that we can see beyond panic and rage and confusion only by using our minds, and that part of the mind that doesn’t deal in binaries. Emotional disarmament might prove even more feasible than the nuclear type, insofar as most of us can reform our minds more easily than we can move a huge and intractable government. By opening our minds, we begin to change the world.

Religion itself, of course, can be as sectarian as the enmities it deplores, which is why the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s most visible religious figures, published a book titled “Beyond Religion.” It’s why he puts much of his faith in science, whose laws and discoveries lie beyond human divisions and apply equally to believer and nonbeliever, Muslim and Jew. Yet the same wisdom was apparent to me in 16 students who seemed ready to look beyond convenient dogma and dehumanizing abstraction.

One of them, a sunny and very personable gay athlete, was an unabashed supporter of Donald Trump (whatever, he asserted, the president might say about gay rights). When I handed out an excerpt from Barack Obama’s “Dreams From my Father” for our group to read and discuss, I was properly apprehensive.

The minute we assembled the following week, up shot the hand of the passionate Trumpite. He’d been stunned, he said, by the intelligence, the eloquence and the subtlety of “President Obama,” as he respectfully called him. “I don’t agree with many of his positions,” he said, “and I wouldn’t vote for him.” But how could he not be swayed by the humanity of the man’s command of the word and the power of his prose? He’d been so impressed that after completing the 20-page assignment, he’d spent the weekend going through the entire 442-page book.

Of all the many things I learned in that classroom, perhaps that was the most valuable. If someone barely of voting age could open his mind so expansively, how could I and others a generation or two older continue acting like preschoolers? We alone among the animals, the Dalai Lama regularly points out, enjoy reasoning minds, the capacity to see beyond reflex. The best reason to go to school, even if you’re a so-called teacher, is to find out how much you don’t know.

Pico Iyer is the author of 15 books, most recently the companion works “Autumn Light” and “A Beginner’s Guide to Japan.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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Argumentative Essay Examples & Analysis

July 20, 2023

Writing successful argumentative or persuasive essays is a sort of academic rite of passage: every student, at some point in their academic career, will have to do it. And not without reason—writing a good argumentative essay requires the ability to organize one’s thoughts, reason logically, and present evidence in support of claims. They even require empathy, as authors are forced to inhabit and then respond to viewpoints that run counter to their own. Here, we’ll look at some argumentative essay examples and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

What is an argumentative essay?

Before we turn to those argumentative essay examples, let’s get precise about what an argumentative essay is. An argumentative essay is an essay that advances a central point, thesis, or claim using evidence and facts. In other words, argumentative essays are essays that argue on behalf of a particular viewpoint. The goal of an argumentative essay is to convince the reader that the essay’s core idea is correct.

Good argumentative essays rely on facts and evidence. Personal anecdotes, appeals to emotion , and opinions that aren’t grounded in evidence just won’t fly. Let’s say I wanted to write an essay arguing that cats are the best pets. It wouldn’t be enough to say that I love having a cat as a pet. That’s just my opinion. Nor would it be enough to cite my downstairs neighbor Claudia, who also has a cat and who also prefers cats to dogs. That’s just an anecdote.

For the essay to have a chance at succeeding, I’d have to use evidence to support my argument. Maybe there are studies that compare the cost of cat ownership to dog ownership and conclude that cat ownership is less expensive. Perhaps there’s medical data that shows that more people are allergic to dogs than they are to cats. And maybe there are surveys that show that cat owners are more satisfied with their pets than are dog owners. I have no idea if any of that is true. The point is that successful argumentative essays use evidence from credible sources to back up their points.

Argumentative essay structure

Important to note before we examine a few argumentative essay examples: most argumentative essays will follow a standard 5-paragraph format. This format entails an introductory paragraph that lays out the essay’s central claim. Next, there are three body paragraphs that each advance sub-claims and evidence to support the central claim. Lastly, there is a conclusion that summarizes the points made. That’s not to say that every good argumentative essay will adhere strictly to the 5-paragraph format. And there is plenty of room for flexibility and creativity within the 5-paragraph format. For example, a good argumentative essay that follows the 5-paragraph template will also generally include counterarguments and rebuttals.

Introduction Example

Now let’s move on to those argumentative essay examples, and examine in particular a couple of introductions. The first takes on a common argumentative essay topic —capital punishment.

The death penalty has long been a divisive issue in the United States. 24 states allow the death penalty, while the other 26 have either banned the death penalty outright or issued moratoriums halting the practice. Proponents of the death penalty argue that it’s an effective deterrent against crime. Time and time again, however, this argument has been shown to be false. Capital punishment does not deter crime. But not only that—the death penalty is irreversible, which allows our imperfect justice system no room for error. Finally, the application of the death penalty is racially biased—the population of death row is over 41% Black , despite Black Americans making up just 13% of the U.S. population. For all these reasons, the death penalty should be outlawed across the board in the United States.

Why this introduction works: First, it’s clear. It lays out the essay’s thesis: that the death penalty should be outlawed in the United States. It also names the sub-arguments the author is going to use to support the thesis: (1), capital punishment does not deter crime, (2), it’s irreversible, and (3), it’s a racially biased practice. In laying out these three points, the author is also laying out the structure of the essay to follow. Each of the body paragraphs will take on one of the three sub-arguments presented in the introduction.

Argumentative Essay Examples (Continued)

Something else I like about this introduction is that it acknowledges and then refutes a common counterargument—the idea that the death penalty is a crime deterrent. Notice also the flow of the first two sentences. The first flags the essay’s topic. But it also makes a claim—that the issue of capital punishment is politically divisive. The following sentence backs this claim up. Essentially half of the country allows the practice; the other half has banned it. This is a feature not just of solid introductions but of good argumentative essays in general—all the essay’s claims will be backed up with evidence.

How it could be improved: Okay, I know I just got through singing the praises of the first pair of sentences, but if I were really nitpicking, I might take issue with them. Why? The first sentence is a bit of a placeholder. It’s a platitude, a way for the author to get a foothold in the piece. The essay isn’t about how divisive the death penalty is; it’s about why it ought to be abolished. When it comes to writing an argumentative essay, I always like to err on the side of blunt. There’s nothing wrong with starting an argumentative essay with the main idea: Capital punishment is an immoral and ineffective form of punishment, and the practice should be abolished .

Let’s move on to another argumentative essay example. Here’s an introduction that deals with the effects of technology on the brain:

Much of the critical discussion around technology today revolves around social media. Critics argue that social media has cut us off from our fellow citizens, trapping us in “information silos” and contributing to political polarization. Social media also promotes unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards, which can lead to anxiety and depression. What’s more, the social media apps themselves are designed to addict their users. These are all legitimate critiques of social media, and they ought to be taken seriously. But the problem of technology today goes deeper than social media. The internet itself is the problem. Whether it’s on our phones or our laptops, on a social media app, or doing a Google search, the internet promotes distracted thinking and superficial learning. The internet is, quite literally, rewiring our brains.

Why this introduction works: This introduction hooks the reader by tying a topical debate about social media to the essay’s main subject—the problem of the internet itself. The introduction makes it clear what the essay is going to be about; the sentence, “But the problem of technology…” signals to the reader that the main idea is coming. I like the clarity with which the main idea is stated, and, as in the previous introduction, the main idea sets up the essay to follow.

How it could be improved: I like how direct this introduction is, but it might be improved by being a little more specific. Without getting too technical, the introduction might tell the reader what it means to “promote distracted thinking and superficial learning.” It might also hint as to why these are good arguments. For example, are there neurological or psychological studies that back this claim up? A simple fix might be: Whether it’s on our phones or our laptops, on a social media app, or doing a Google search, countless studies have shown that the internet promotes distracted thinking and superficial learning . The body paragraphs would then elaborate on those points. And the last sentence, while catchy, is a bit vague.

Body Paragraph Example

Let’s stick with our essay on capital punishment and continue on to the first body paragraph.

Proponents of the death penalty have long claimed that the practice is an effective deterrent to crime. It might not be pretty, they say, but its deterrent effects prevent further crime. Therefore, its continued use is justified. The problem is that this is just not borne out in the data. There is simply no evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than other forms of punishment, like long prison sentences. States, where the death penalty is still carried out, do not have lower crime rates than states where the practice has been abolished. States that have abandoned the death penalty likewise show no increase in crime or murder rates.

Body Paragraph (Continued)

For example, the state of Louisiana, where the death penalty is legal, has a murder rate of 21.3 per 100,000 residents. In Iowa, where the death penalty was abolished in 1965, the murder rate is 3.2 per 100,000. In Kentucky the death penalty is legal and the murder rate is 9.6; in Michigan where it’s illegal, the murder rate is 8.7. The death penalty simply has no bearing on murder rates. If it did, we’d see markedly lower murder rates in states that maintain the practice. But that’s not the case. Capital punishment does not deter crime. Therefore, it should be abolished.

Why this paragraph works: This body paragraph is successful because it coheres with the main idea set out in the introduction. It supports the essay’s first sub-argument—that capital punishment does not deter crime—and in so doing, it supports the essay’s main idea—that capital punishment should be abolished. How does it do that? By appealing to the data. A nice feature of this paragraph is that it simultaneously debunks a common counterargument and advances the essay’s thesis. It also supplies a few direct examples (murder rates in states like Kentucky, Michigan, etc.) without getting too technical. Importantly, the last few sentences tie the data back to the main idea of the essay. It’s not enough to pepper your essay with statistics. A good argumentative essay will unpack the statistics, tell the reader why the statistics matter, and how they support or confirm the essay’s main idea.

How it could be improved: The author is missing one logical connection at the end of the paragraph. The author shows that capital punishment doesn’t deter crime, but then just jumps to their conclusion. They needed to establish a logical bridge to get from the sub-argument to the conclusion. That bridge might be: if the deterrent effect is being used as a justification to maintain the practice, but the deterrent effect doesn’t really exist, then , in the absence of some other justification, the death penalty should be abolished. The author almost got there, but just needed to make that one final logical connection.

Conclusion Example

Once we’ve supported each of our sub-arguments with a corresponding body paragraph, it’s time to move on to the conclusion.

It might be nice to think that executing murderers prevents future murders from happening, that our justice system is infallible and no one is ever wrongly put to death, and that the application of the death penalty is free of bias. But as we have seen, each of those thoughts are just comforting fictions. The death penalty does not prevent future crime—if it did, we’d see higher crime rates in states that’ve done away with capital punishment. The death penalty is an irreversible punishment meted out by an imperfect justice system—as a result, wrongful executions are unavoidable. And the death penalty disproportionately affects people of color. The death penalty is an unjustifiable practice—both practically and morally. Therefore, the United States should do away with the practice and join the more than 85 world nations that have already done so.

Why this conclusion works: It concisely summarizes the points made throughout the essay. But notice that it’s not identical to the introduction. The conclusion makes it clear that our understanding of the issue has changed with the essay. It not only revisits the sub-arguments, it expounds upon them. And to put a bow on everything, it restates the thesis—this time, though, with a little more emotional oomph.

How it could be improved: I’d love to see a little more specificity with regard to the sub-arguments. Instead of just rehashing the second sub-argument—that wrongful executions are unavoidable—the author could’ve included a quick statistic to give the argument more weight. For example: The death penalty is an irreversible punishment meted out by an imperfect justice system—as a result, wrongful executions are unavoidable. Since 1973, at least 190 people have been put to death who were later found to be innocent.

An argumentative essay is a powerful way to convey one’s ideas. As an academic exercise, mastering the art of the argumentative essay requires students to hone their skills of critical thinking, rhetoric, and logical reasoning. The best argumentative essays communicate their ideas clearly and back up their claims with evidence.

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Should everyone go to college

Favorite Quote: sometimes you have to forget whats gone appreciate what still remains and look forward to whats coming next

Some people think it is okay not to go to college. I believe that everyone should attend college. College is an important step in someone's life it helps you get the chance to improve in their education. Also college will later help you get a better job, many jobs require a college degree but some jobs so it will be hard to get a job if you don't go to college. Students should be required to college after graduating because college offers new experiences and you get to meet new people there. All students should go to college after they graduate high school because college offers students many new experiences and opportunities, even outside the classroom. There for college offers students many experiences and opportunities . For example according to Ryan Leslie " The environment really prepared me to be problem solver giving me the critical thinking skills". This proves my point because Ryan Leslie says that in college he was tough to be a problem solver that gave him critical thinking skills. Another reason why students should go to college after graduating high school is because you meet new people there like mentors who can help you around. There for in college you will meet new people, for example according to Ryan Leslie " Seeing the level of passion that many of my classmates had for their special interests encouraged me to follow my own passion for music and entertainment". This proves my point because Ryan Leslie tell us how classmates help you out and encourage you to do your best. However, some students think it's okay not to attend college because the job that they want later in life does not require a college degree. On the other hand if you want to get a better job later and get a better payment you should attend college because it will help you learn more about that job and you will meet new people who will help you around . This is why everyone should attend college even if the job they want later in life does not require a college degree. In conclusion, I believe that all student should attend college or get a chance to attend college. There are some many colleges opened for you, if you have a special talent in something there are colleges that can help you in prove in what your talented in. Some jobs don't require a college degree but that does not stop you from going to college and learning more about that particular subject.

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Favorite Quote: "You are the universe expressing itself as human for a little while." -Eckhart Tolle

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argumentative essay about should every student go to college


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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, should you go to college 4 pros and 3 cons.

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The decision to attend college is a big one. Getting a college degree takes time: at least four years for most people. Getting a college degree also costs money: tens of thousands of dollars for most people. You might be asking yourself, "Is it worth it? Should I go to college?"

In this article, I'll explain the benefits of going to college and detail some of the potential drawbacks. Furthermore, I'll give you all the information you need to decide whether or not you should pursue a college degree.

4 Major Benefits of Going to College

Going to college can make you richer, happier, and healthier—sounds good to me! Here, we take a look at the four biggest benefits of attending college.

#1: There Are Many Financial and Career Benefits

Let's start by considering the financial advantages of a college education.

College graduates with a bachelor's degree earn about $32,000 more per year than those with a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Here's one of the most cited statistics that shows the benefits of a college education: a person with a bachelor's degree will, on average, earn almost $1 million more over the course of her lifetime than somebody with just a high school diploma . While money shouldn't necessarily be the biggest priority in anyone's life, there's no doubt that a higher salary will give you more opportunities, alleviate stress, and allow you to more easily support a family.

Moreover, college-educated Millennials have much lower unemployment and poverty rates. According to recent studies from 2020 to 2021 by the New York Federal Reserve Bank , young people aged 22-27 are more likely to be unemployed if they don't have a college degree. Unemployment among those with a college degree was 3.9%, but it was 10.3% for those without a degree.

In addition, those who attended college are more likely to get married and less likely to be living in their parents' homes. Statistics indicate that attending college has more economic benefits for Millennials than it did for previous generations. Going to college might be more important now than ever before!

Finally, a college degree is required for many entry-level jobs. According to a study done b y the Georgetown Public Policy Institute , 65% of jobs now require postsecondary education and training beyond high school, and 35% of jobs require at least a bachelor's degree.


As you can see, there are tons of financial benefits to getting a bachelor's degree. But what about the professional advantages?

In college, you can make connections that will help you land a good job after you graduate. Experts estimate that 70%-80% of jobs aren't advertised publicly . Often, you simply have to know the right people to secure employment.

Many companies also offer internship programs to college students that can lead to full-time employment after you graduate.

Furthermore, most colleges offer free career counseling and can put you in touch with employers and alumni who can help you find a job. Colleges will often have job fairs as well, where recruiters come to campus looking for qualified students to work for their companies. These fairs give you an opportunity to form relationships with company representatives who can assist you professionally.

Lastly, many of your peers will probably go on to professional success. Your college friends might one day be able to offer you a job, refer you for a job, or make a lucrative business deal with you. As a college student, you'll (likely) be surrounded by many motivated, talented people who, in the future, will want to work with those they know and trust—and this could very well include you.

#2: You Get to Explore Your Interests

College opens up a whole new world to you academically. In high school, you generally only have a choice of a handful of elective classes, but in college you can literally choose from among hundreds of classes and majors.

While there are core requirements at most colleges, for the most part, you can decide what you want to study and take classes in subjects you want to learn more about. Many students are able to spark academic passions in college.

You could take classes in anthropology, psychology, sociology, microbiology, or osteology. Many college grads have several friends and former students who were inspired by college classes that positively changed the course of their academic and professional lives.

Also, while in college, you'll have the chance to pursue tons of extracurriculars and opportunities you might not otherwise have done. These activities can become lifelong passions, help you form meaningful relationships, and even prepare you for a future job.

For example, you could write for the campus newspaper, or you could be a DJ for the school radio station. You could dance for a hip-hop group, or join a campus organization that provides tutoring to underprivileged kids. You could help build houses for those in need. You could work on political campaigns or join groups that advocate for various social issues. The choice is yours!


Howard Stern started his career working at the radio station at Boston University.

#3: You'll Have Fun and Make Friends

Many students enjoy their college experience. Too often people discount the importance of fun when it comes to education, and for some people, their best memories and most fun times are from their college years. On a college campus, you can attend parties, plays, sporting events, and concerts; you can also create your own random fun with your peers.

Most schools bring exciting events and speakers to their campuses, too. Colleges will often host famous musicians and comedians. For example, The Weeknd has performed shows at Syracuse, Northeastern, Lafayette College, and the University of Minnesota, while Drake has performed at numerous colleges, including Howard, SUNY Purchase, and the University of Kentucky.

Colleges will also sponsor parties and other on-campus events that are just meant to be fun and facilitate social interaction. At Stanford, there's a tradition known as Full Moon on the Quad . On the first full moon of the school year, students gather in the quad, and the seniors welcome the freshmen by kissing them. There's a lot of kissing. It might not be hygienic, but it's memorable.

You may make very close friends while you're attending college. In college, you get to befriend people from all over the US and even other countries. A big part of the college experience is having the opportunity to learn from and interact with people from diverse backgrounds.

Overall, you have the chance to study, live, party, and participate in extracurricular activities with your peers. There will probably be no other time in your life when you get to spend as much time with your friends, and the amount of quality time you get to spend with them will form the foundation for meaningful lifelong friendships.

#4: It Gives You Space for Self-Improvement

For many students, college is the first time in their lives they're not living at home. During college, they learn to be self-sufficient. They learn domestic skills and budgeting—even how to motivate themselves without parental encouragement. At the same time, most college students can still go home or call home if they're in need of some money or advice.

Many people who don't go to college remain at home for at least a couple of years after high school. Though they often have more freedom than they did during high school, their routines and mindsets don't change nearly as drastically as those who went to college. Anecdotally at least, even students who live at home and commute to college experience more growth than those who bypass college.

Whether you go to an in-state or out-of-state school, your college will likely expose you to a new city and environment. For instance, if you grew up in California and went to Stanford , it could still be a six-hour drive from where your family lived. You would be able to experience life in Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a different vibe, culture, and climate from, say, Los Angeles. Many college students are grateful to be able to have the opportunity to live in a different environment.

Furthermore, most colleges have study abroad programs that can give you a chance to take classes in countries around the world. At Emerson College, you can spend a semester in a 14th-century medieval castle in The Netherlands. At the University of Chicago , you can study abroad in Paris, Beijing, Barcelona, Berlin, Kyoto, Bologna, Cairo, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Edinburgh, Hong Kong, London, Oaxaca, Vienna, Milan, and a few other places, too. You can learn about the world by traveling and studying in countries around the world.

Finally, people who go to college tend to be healthier. According to a report from the National Academy of Sciences , people with a bachelor's degree live longer than people without one. They're also less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise.

Similarly, according to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health , people who get a bachelor's degree after 25 years of age exhibit fewer depressive symptoms and have better self-rated health at midlife.


3 Possible Disadvantages of Attending College

Even though attending college can offer you many benefits, there are potential drawbacks.

Note that you only get many of the benefits of going to college if you're able to graduate. A 2021 Forbes article reported that, six years after enrolling in college, less than 60% of students had graduated with a bachelor's degree.

Now, let's take a look at the three biggest cons of attending college.

#1: There's the Risk of High Costs and Potential Debt

College is really, really expensive, with costs continuing to rise, and many college graduates are burdened with astronomical student loan debt.

The College Board estimates that the average cost of attendance for an in-state public college for 2021-2022 is $10,740 , while the cost of attendance for a private college averages $38,070.  Remember, though, that most students receive financial aid that covers at least part of the cost of attendance if they demonstrate financial need.

Unfortunately, many students don't receive the aid they need to fully cover the costs. As a result, they take on unsubsidized student loans to finance their college education. Sadly, student loan debt increased from $260 billion in 2004 to $1.7 trillion in 2021 . Average student loan debt in 2021 was $38,147 —that's a pretty staggering amount.

Overall, student loan debt can dramatically impact your life after your graduate. It can affect the jobs you take and cause you to delay buying a house or starting a family.

#2: The Financial Benefits of College Might Be Overstated

The claim that college graduates earn $1 million more in their lifetimes might actually be skewed by graduates from top universities .

A 2021 study by found that there are only seven schools (out of 1,878 four-year schools) at which earning a college degree can get you a $1 million return on investment. Basically, the reported number that college graduates make $1 million more over the course of their professional lives is not that accurate.

Moreover, it's important to note that while attending college, most people aren’t working or are only working part-time. So in addition to the financial costs and debts you're incurring while in college, you probably won't be able to get the salary you could be making from working a full-time job during the four to six years you're in school.


#3: College Might Not Actually Make You Smarter

The last con of attending college is that going to one might not actually increase your intelligence.

A 2011 study found that 45% of 2,322 traditional-aged college students studied from 2005 to 2009 made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning, or writing skills during the first two years of college. After four years, 36% showed no significant gains.

More recent studies have shown similar trends among those with either some college or a degree. Given the cost of attending college, you'd hope that higher education would have a dramatically positive effect on these skills for all students—but this might not actually be the case.

Should I Go to College? How to Make the Right Choice for You

Admittedly, we might be somewhat biased because we've spent years stressing the importance of attending college to high school students. However, we do recognize that college might not be for everyone.

Other than the pros and cons of college we mentioned previously, here are some additional factors to consider when deciding whether or not to attend college.

You'll Have More Options With a College Degree

You might be planning to enter a trade that doesn't require a college degree and will provide you with a good salary and benefits. However, if you end up deciding that you don't like that field after a few years and you don't have a college degree, your employment options will be limited.

Also, if you take up a trade that requires physical labor and you suffer an injury, you might struggle to find work without a college degree.


There Are Ways to Pay for College

You might be turned off by college because of how much you think it will cost you. But remember that you might not know your out-of-pocket expenses until you get accepted to college and get a financial aid package.

In reality, there are many grants and scholarships that can alleviate the financial burden and make college more affordable for you .

You Might Not Need College If You're Already Successful

If you're one of those rare people who has already achieved tremendous professional success before attending college, then going to college might not benefit you much financially.

For instance, say you get drafted in the first round of the draft by Major League Baseball and are offered a multi-million dollar signing bonus. Nobody would fault you for bypassing college. After all, you can always take college classes in the off-season or get your degree when you're done with your playing career.

If you're a mini Mark Zuckerberg or starring in your own sitcom, going to college might not lead to a higher income or a better job after you graduate. Bill Gates and Miley Cyrus were able to do OK professionally without college degrees!

You Might Not Be Academically Inclined

Most people are capable of doing college-level work if they're motivated and apply themselves. That being said, some people just detest school or don't have the aptitude to do well in a college environment.

Keep in mind, though, that college gives you so much more freedom than high school to explore your academic interests and find the fields in which you can excel. Similarly, if there's a subject that confuses you and that you absolutely abhor, you can probably avoid taking classes in it in college.


wecometolearn /Flickr

Conclusion: Should You Go to College or Not?

There's no denying that college offers many financial, professional, and personal benefits. Numerous studies have shown that college graduates have far better financial and job prospects than those who don't attend college. What's more, few people regret going to college despite the tremendous amount of student debt and the less-than-ideal economy.

If you're worried about the cost of attendance, make sure you know about financial aid and how to limit your debt when you graduate . College is an investment that pays off for the vast majority of people who graduate.

Admittedly, some people don't need college to achieve their personal or professional goals. While you can of course be successful without a college degree, college graduates tend to fare better. If you're considering college, make the decision that will benefit you the most now and in the future.

What's Next?

Decided you want to go to college? Then take the first step and find out how to apply .

If you don't think you'll be able to get into college, check out these open admission colleges and these colleges with the highest acceptance rates .

If you still need to take the SAT or ACT for college, take a look at our ultimate SAT study guide and ultimate ACT study guide to learn more about the tests and what you'll need to know to ace them.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.

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CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 29: People walk through the gate on Harvard Yard at the Harvard ... [+] University campus on June 29, 2023 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admission policies used by Harvard and the University of North Carolina violate the Constitution, bringing an end to affirmative action in higher education. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

The college application season is upon us, and high school students everywhere are staring down at one of the most daunting tasks: the college essay. As someone who has guided countless applicants through the admissions process and reviewed admissions essays on an undergraduate admissions committee, I've pinpointed the essential ingredient to a differentiated candidacy—the core of your college admissions X-factor .

The essential ingredient to your college admissions X-factor is your intellectual vitality. Intellectual vitality is your passion for learning and curiosity. By demonstrating and conveying this passion, you can transform an average essay into a compelling narrative that boosts your chances of getting accepted to your top schools. Here are five dynamic strategies to achieve that goal.

Unleash Your Authentic Voice

Admissions officers sift through thousands of essays every year. What stops them in their tracks? An authentic voice that leaps off the page. Forget trying to guess what the admissions committee wants to hear. Focus on being true to yourself. Share your unique perspective, your passions, and your values. Authenticity resonates deeply with application reviewers, making your essay memorable and impactful. You need not have experienced trauma or tragedy to create a strong narrative. You can write about what you know—intellectually or personally—to convey your enthusiasm, creativity, and leadership. Intellectual vitality shines through when you write with personalized reflection about what lights you up.

Weave A Captivating Story

Everyone loves a good story, and your essay is the perfect place to tell yours. The Common Application personal statement has seven choices of prompts to ground the structure for your narrative. The most compelling stories are often about the smallest moments in life, whether it’s shopping at Costco or about why you wear socks that have holes. Think of the Common Application personal statement as a window into your soul rather than a dry list of your achievements or your overly broad event-based life story. Use vivid anecdotes to bring your experiences to life. A well-told story can showcase your growth, highlight your character, and illustrate how you've overcome challenges. Intellectual vitality often emerges in these narratives, revealing how your curiosity and proactive approach to learning have driven you to explore and innovate.

Reflect And Reveal Insights

It's not just about what you've done—it's about what you've learned along the way. When you are writing about a specific event, you can use the STAR framework—situation, task, action, and result (your learning). Focus most of your writing space on the “R” part of this framework to dive deeply into your experiences and reflect on how they've shaped your aspirations and identity.

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The most insightful college-specific supplement essays demonstrate depth of thought, and the ability to connect past experiences with your future life in college and beyond. Reflecting on your intellectual journey signals maturity and a readiness to embrace the college experience. It shows admissions officers that you engage deeply with your studies and are eager to contribute to the academic community.

Highlight Your Contributions—But Don’t Brag

Whether it's a special talent, an unusual hobby, or a unique perspective, showcasing what you can bring to the college environment can make a significant impact. Recognize that the hard work behind the accomplishment is what colleges are interested in learning more about—not retelling about the accomplishment itself. (Honors and activities can be conveyed in another section of the application.) Walk us through the journey to your summit; don’t just take us to the peak and expect us know how you earned it.

Intellectual vitality can be demonstrated through your proactive approach to solving problems, starting new projects, or leading initiatives that reflect your passion for learning and growth. These experiences often have a place in the college-specific supplement essays. They ground the reasons why you want to study in your major and at the particular college.

Perfect Your Prose

Great writing is essential. Anyone can use AI or a thesaurus to assist with an essay, but AI cannot write your story in the way that you tell it. Admissions officers don’t give out extra credit for choosing the longest words with the most amount of syllables.

The best essays have clear, coherent language and are free of errors. The story is clearly and specifically told. After drafting, take the time to revise and polish your writing. Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or trusted friends, but ensure the final piece is unmistakably yours. A well-crafted essay showcases your diligence and attention to detail—qualities that admissions officers highly value. Intellectual vitality is also reflected in your writing process, showing your commitment to excellence and your enthusiasm for presenting your best self.

Crafting a standout college essay is about presenting your true self in an engaging, reflective, and polished manner while showcasing your intellectual vitality. Happy writing.

Dr. Aviva Legatt

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