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Harvard College Essay Prompt 2014 Jeep

Pro tip: If you’re applying to Harvard, your best bet is to write a downer essay about your “mother’’ and “father.’’

AdmitSee, a one-year-old start-up that allows current college students to share their application materials with prospective students, recently analyzed 15,000 college essays from within its system. The company’s founders told Fast Company how they noticed something interesting when comparing essays from current Harvard and Stanford students—and it had to do with their parents.

Harvard students were much more likely to call the ’rents “mother’’ and “father,’’ but Stanford students were much more likely to call them “mom’’ and “dad.’’

AdmitSee also found that Harvard likes bummer essays. Co-founder Stephanie Shyu told Fast Company the words “cancer,’’ “difficult,’’ “hard,’’ and “tough’’ appeared more frequently on Harvard essays, and that students were more likely to discuss challenges they had overcome in their lives. Stanford students, on the other hand were more likely to include the words “happy,’’ “passion,’’ “better,’’ and “improve,’’ and to discuss their family backgrounds or issues they cared about.

“Extrapolating from this qualitative data, it seems like Stanford is more interested in the student’s personality, while Harvard appears to be more interested in the student’s track record of accomplishment,’’ she told Fast Company.

Shyu and her co-founder Lydia Pierce Fayal also analyzed essays from other high-ranking schools. They found that Brown hopefuls should write about volunteer or public service work, while those hoping to attend Cornell or the University of Pennsylvania should discuss their career aspirations.

This all goes to show that it really does matter how you talk about your parents — not only in front of them, but also when it comes to college applications.

Related gallery: Famous Harvard alumni



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