Most of the colleges you are considering will require you to submit at least one essay. The college essay is probably the most important part of the application. Your grades from freshman, sophomore and junior years are set. You probably have already taken the SAT or ACT and those scores are set. The extracurricular activities you have done in the past are set. No matter your grades, test scores or extracurricular activities, other students probably have similar records. The essay is the thing that can set you apart from other students.
Many students wait until the last minute to put together their applications and essays for admission to college. Sometimes the essays will be well written, but more times than not, the essays seem rushed when submitted on the day of the deadline. As a former Admissions Counselor who read thousands of college admissions essays, I could tell when the essay was rushed. When the essays and applications are rushed, errors are bound to happen. In addition, the essays are usually not unique. It is best to not rush the college admissions essay when it can be the determining factor in the admissions decision. This is why it is so important to start thinking about your college admissions essays during the summer.
The college admission essay prompts for most college applications are already available for review. The top applications include:
- Common Application. Over 500 colleges use the Common Application. The Common Application opens for submission in August. Applicants using the Common Application are given five prompts to choose from and must write an essay of 650 words or less:
- Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
- Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
- Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
- Universal Application. Over 40 colleges use this application including Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Duke. The Universal Application gives one prompt:
- Please write an essay (500 words or fewer) that demonstrates your ability to develop and communicate your thoughts. Some ideas include: a person you admire; a life-changing experience; or your viewpoint on a particular current event.
- University of California. The University of California system has ten campuses throughout California. The application opens on August 1. The UC application has two essay prompts: and must not be more than 1,000 words total. one general essay and one for freshman applicants or transfer applicants.
- All Applicants: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
- Freshman Applicants: Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world shaped your dreams and aspirations.
- Transfer Applicants: What is your intended major? Discuss how your interest in the subject developed and describe any experience you have had in the field – such as volunteer work, internships and employment, participation in student organizations and activities – and what you have gained from your involvement.
Since you have extra time during the summer, it is the perfect time to write your college admissions essays. Here are some tips to help you put together the best essay for college admissions:
- Look through the essay prompts and start brainstorming what your essay could be.
- As you look at your ideas, ask the question, “Could another student send in a similar essay?” Admissions Officers read many essays. Essays and applicants start blending when they have similar stories. Essays that are unique will stick with an Admissions Officer when making an admissions decision.
- Never write an essay because you think it is what the Admissions Officer wants to read. Contrary to popular belief, Admissions Officers want to learn about you, and can usually tell when the essay is authentic. So, be yourself as you are writing. Your essay might be the only way the Admissions Officer and Committee will get to know you.
- Have someone that you trust look over your essay and ask them to do the following:
- If you did not know I wrote the essay, could someone else have given it to you to read? Meaning, is the essay unique enough that it could only come from you?
- Review essay for spelling and grammar errors.
- Do you have suggestions to make the essay better?
- Review your essay a few more times over some time and make changes as necessary.
Note about proofreaders. Proofreaders are great and can help you to see errors and missing pieces in an essay. However, you do not have to take all of their suggestions. Make sure that the essay continues to be YOUR essay.
Take this extra time you have during the summer to start your admissions essays. You do not want to wait until the school year when you have other assignments that you cannot neglect. In addition, by starting now, when you hit that submit button to submit your application and essay, you’ll be confidence you are submitting your best because you did not rush the process!
If you need assistance with your essay, contact me today to set up a meeting.
That is it for my seven tips for rising seniors during this summer. If you missed one, check them out below:
- Build and Narrow Down Your College List
- Clean-Up Your Social Media
- Connect with Colleges
- Gain Experience
- Plan Your Senior Year
- Build Your Brag Sheet