No, not the retelling of a life's tale. The stuff that a movie fantasy and new Broadway musical are made of. The meshing of imagination and whimsy, with reality and truth. 

Then again, perhaps this is just such a story. The exuberance and optimism of youth. That dreamlike romanticism of life, embraced by every teen who sets out to conquer the world, to triumph over mediocrity, determined not only to dream those dreams that are larger than life, but to make those dreams come true.

Yes, Big Fish. Or, more appropriately, finding the right sized pond where that big fish, real or perceived, can grow, flourish, and thrive.

In a way, every college-bound high school student is that big fish -- or sees herself as one. And why not? College is, after all, the stuff that dreams are made of. The place where doors open, and the stage is set for all of the possibilities that may lie ahead.

But which pond to swim in? Which college is "best" for you? Big. Small. Mid-sized. Urban. Suburban. Rural. Liberal Arts. Program-specific. Public. Private. And the list of variables, like that long, rolling river, goes on.

And having found that "perfect fit," how does one tell the story of one's life (so far), weaving the tale so as to not only express who you are and who you hope to become over the next four years, but moreover, to grab your audience, hold their attention, and leave them with a tear in the eye or a smile on their faces? 

To paraphrase Edward Bloom in the movie version of Big Fish, "Most men tell a story straight through. It won't be complicated, but it won't be interesting, either..." Shades of your college essay, eh?

Ah, the college essay. The bane of the college-bound. To make the utterly mundane somehow profound. 

Will Bloom: You know about icebergs, dad?

Senior Ed Bloom: Do I? I saw an iceberg once. They were hauling it down to Texas for drinking water. They didn't count on there being an elephant frozen inside. The wooly kind. A mammoth.

Will Bloom: Dad!

Senior Ed Bloom: What?

Will Bloom: I'm trying to make a metaphor here.

Senior Ed Bloom: Well you shouldn't have started with a question, because most people want to answer questions. You should've started with "the thing about icebergs is."

The big secret for the very best college essay? Keep it simple. Keep it honest. Keep it real. Make it interesting!

Most high school students, at least those with a modicum of ambition and determination, are intended for larger things. College -- well, the right college -- allows them to shape that future, clarify that vision, and become what they always were or wanted to be.

Becoming a big fish, and finding (let alone jumping into) the right sized pond, is no small task. No one said applying to college, let alone getting in, would be easy. Your pond, that perfect fit college, is out there. It may not be on those maps anointed by U.S. News & World Report or Princeton Review. [Talk about tall tales!] Still, with a little help you will find it, and with just a tad of gumption, and a hearty heap of passion, you will get there and dive right in.

And once there, you will become what you were always intended to be -- a very big fish!
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