Book Reviews

Book by Alan Gleb
Review by: Arline E. Leon-Guerrero
Academic Counselor, Student Counseling Services
University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam


Will my college application essay help me get into my dream school? I still haven’t decided on a topic to write about and its due in a few weeks. Where do I begin?  College Admissions Essay in 10 Steps provides a thorough approach to writing that winning personal essay. The book focuses on a step-by-step writing process that starts with the first couple of drafts to the final polished product- the one that captures one’s true essence and uniqueness. The authentic student essays referenced in the book help make the writing process easy to comprehend and are very useful. The book can be applied to students, advisors, teachers, and parents.

At the start, Gleb discusses that one must first be dedicated and committed to the writing process. This is not an easy task, however, it is necessary in order to develop that profound essay. The beginning steps discuss a few elements to be considered when developing one’s narrative story.  These include a conflict (identify a problem and solve it), an extraordinary event (what makes the story special) and to question “Why?” (What does this all mean?). The last few steps involve rough drafts, structure, technical issues, and finalizing narrative. Throughout the book, the author offers encouragement and motivation as illustrated through his professional experience in helping students develop their personal narratives, ultimately helping them get accepted into their first choice schools.

I believe this is a resource most beneficial to high school students, advisors and teachers. It would also serve as a great writing guide for college students as well.  The essay questions prompting topic ideas are a plus.  The sample student essays cited in the appendix are worth reading as they also describe their personal writing experiences using the 10 Steps process.

I would recommend this book to advisors and teachers helping high school students who are preparing for college. The book is easy to read with good writing advice, however, redundant in some ways and drawn out. It would also serve as a resource and refresher guide for those who have a love for writing or for those who seek to perfect their writing skills.  The sample student essays would definitely be an excellent resource for students to read to gain an appreciation into the dedication it takes to write an insightful and sincere essay and for teachers to incorporate into any writing assignment lesson plan.

Conquering the College Essay in 10 steps (second edition).  (2013). Book by Alan Gelb. Review by Arline Leon-Guerrero. Emeryville, CA: Ten Speed Press (randomhouse). 224 pp., $11.99, (paperback), ISBN # 978-1-60774-366-8

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