When you apply to college, you’ll need to complete an essay as part of your application. This is your opportunity to show admission officers who you are and to provide information about yourself that didn’t fit in other areas of your application.
Your college application essay needs to breathe life into your application. It should capture your genuine personality, explaining who you are beyond a series of grades, test scores, and after-school activities. But that’s not nearly as scary as it seems, because you get to choose what to share and how to share it.
Your essay is also the only part of your application that is guaranteed to be unique; many other students may have the same GPA, nearly identical transcripts, or the same extracurricular activities as you, but none will have an essay like yours.
Well-written college admission essays can help students gain scholarships, grants and other financial aid.
The number one piece of advice from admission officers about your essay is “Be yourself.” The number two suggestion is “Start early.”
There’s no reason to rush your essay. Give yourself at least a week to compose your essay.
Choose a Topic That Will Highlight You
One of the most common struggles students encounter is resisting the urge to squeeze everything they’ve seen, done, and heard into their essay. Instead, pick one moment in time and focus on telling the story behind it.
Do share your personal story and thoughts, take a creative approach and highlight areas that aren’t covered in other parts of the application, like your high school records.
Start with a Template
Templates can give you a good starting point for your college admissions essay. You can browse the Internet to find templates and sample essays to help your ideas begin to take shape. Templates can also help you get an idea of how to create a solid college admission essay format.
Don’t rely on phrases or ideas that people have used many times before. Avoid overly formal or business-like language, and don’t use unnecessary words.
The brainstorming stage may be more tedious than writing the actual application essay. The purpose is to flesh out all of your possible ideas so when you begin writing, you know and understand where you’re going with the topic.
Use your own voice and your own stories to illustrate why you would be an asset to the school. Don’t fall into the trap of sanitizing your speech and your opinions for risk of offending an admissions officer. Although you do need to use proper spelling and grammar, your college essay is a perfect place for creative metaphors, witty turns of phrase and humor.
Keep your essay’s focus narrow and personal. Don’t lose your reader. Start with your main idea and follow it from beginning to end.
Be specific. Avoid using clichéd, predictable, or generic phrases by developing your main idea with vivid and detailed facts, events, quotations, examples, and reasons.
Thesaurus abuse is a lazy and easily spotted trick, and seasoned admissions officers will see right through it. If you feel that you’re overusing a particular word, think of alternatives on your own without consulting a thesaurus; using words that you’re familiar with will help you avoid misusing them.
Have another person (or several!) read your essay, whether it’s a teacher, guidance counselor, parent, or trusted friend. You know what you meant to say, but is it clear to someone else reading your work? Have these people review your application essay to make sure your message is on target and clear to any audience.
Giving yourself plenty of time, focusing on the specific details of your life, and showcasing your unique personality can help you craft the perfect college application essay. A strong essay can give you the best chance to get into the school of your dreams.