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Jun 08 2017
by Natasha Beauchesne

5 Popular Books That Were Written by College Students

By Natasha Beauchesne - Jun 08 2017
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There are many activities that come to mind when one thinks of the typical college student: studying, partying, drinking, you know it. "Stressing" or "freaking out" is usually pretty common, too. Some students who attend college pull all-nighters to write papers and study, busily drinking copious amounts of coffee and crying softly to themselves as the stress levels steadily rise.

That’s why it’s so incredible to think about those people who can somehow juggle school, a social life and their personal health, along with the remarkable accomplishment of writing a novel. Here are five popular books that were written while the authors were in college.

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth

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Veronica Roth was pursuing a degree in creative writing at Northwestern University while writing the Divergent series. When she was 23, Divergent was released. Less than a year after she graduated college, she sold the film rights to her books. She is frequently asked what inspired her to write the first book, a dystopian novel in which society is divided into five factions based on personality. As part of her answer, she cites a pyschology 101 class as her inspiration for one faction, the Dauntless. She says, 

"I was taking it at the time. In psych 101, you get an overview of the study of psychology, so you go through many things very quickly. I had just learned about exposure therapy in the treatment of phobias ... This is where the Dauntless initiation process comes from. I thought that a group of people whose primary goal was to overcome fear would probably use this technique."

2. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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During his three years at Princeton, F. Scott Fitzgerald penned a very early version of his first book, This Side of Paradise. In order to persuade his soon-to-be wife, Zelda, to resume their engagement after she had broken it off, he rewrote the work to become what is now, This Side of Paradise. The book focuses on life at Princeton in the post-World War I era. Interestingly, Fitzgerald was actually a very poor student who would frequently skip classes. He also struggled with spelling and may have even had dyslexia. 

3. Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace

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David Foster Wallace double-majored in English and philosophy during his years at Amherst College. He did an honor thesis on both subjects, but the English thesis eventually became his first novel, The Broom of the System. When asked why he prefers the medium of writing to talking out loud, he replied, 

"I am a five draft man. I actually learned this at Amherst, in William Kennick’s Philosophy 17 and 18, with their brutal paper-every-two-weeks schedules. I got down a little system of writing ... two rewrites and two typed drafts. I’ve used it ever since. I like it. My problem with most interviews is that they’re terribly first-draftish. If an interview question is even remotely interesting, it’s going to be hard to answer it briefly. I always wish they’d let me scuttle into the next room and do five drafts and come back out. This way, unless it turns out your deadline’s real short, I can do five drafts."

4. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

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The Outsiders, a classic young adult novel about gang conflict in Oklahoma, was written by S.E. Hinton when she was a senior in high school. She finished it her senior year and it was published during her freshman year of college at the University of Tulsa. Reportedly, she was disappointed with the lack of realistic young adult books while she was growing up, so she decided to take matters into her own hands and write one herself. 

5. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

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Eragon is the first book in a fantasy series following the adventures of a boy and the dragon whom he befriends. Christopher Paolini's story is somewhat unique. He was homeschooled and received his high school diploma when he was only 15. From there, he set out on a "personal challenge" to write a novel. After self-educating himself on the basics of writing creatively, he finished the story and the book Eragon was published by his family's small publishing company when Paolini was only 19 years old. The first editions of the book were drawn by Paolini himself, as were the maps on the inside cover. He promoted the book himself by traveling to bookstores and reading excerpts while dressed in medieval garb.

While stories about the incredible dedication and intelligence of people like these authors can be inspiring, it can also be somewhat disheartening for those of us who haven't managed to write an award-winning book series by the time we've turned 20. Allow the stories of these authors to motivate you to become even better at your craft. Whether you're a writer, a baker, an athlete or anything else, just know that it's possible to accomplish great things as a college student or beyond.

Lead Image Credit: Michael D. Beckwith via Unsplash

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Natasha Beauchesne -

Natasha Beauchesne is a sophomore at Le Moyne College majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing. She enjoys reading, running, yoga, and cuddling with her cats. If you have any leftovers, she will most certainly eat them all for you. Follow her on Twitter @tashabeau

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