College admissions essays can play a big part in the college admissions process, especially if students are applying to selective colleges. When numerous competitive students apply and only a small amount of spots are available, the essay could be the thing that helps the student stand out. The essay could also encourage an admissions committee to take a chance on a student they may not otherwise admit. Whatever institution it is, the essay could play a major role in the decision process and students should take their time crafting a great essay to submit with the rest of their college application.
Here are ten tips that can help your college admissions essay stand out from the crowd.
- It is not an academic paper. For years you have been writing five paragraph essays that start with an introduction and thesis statement. College essays are not academic papers. You are free to write it however you want. It does not need to be academic because it is about you.
- Grab the reader’s attention early. Admissions readers will read hundreds or thousands of college admissions essays every year. Essays that start off slow may lose the reader’s attention very quick. Instead, students should consider doing something very early in the essay that will grab the reader’s attention and will make them want to continue reading. This can be done by making a bold statement or speaking directly to the reader.
- Don’t tell the same story others will tell. When reading many college admissions essays, the stories will start to blend together for the readers, especially if the stories are similar. When brainstorming topics for college admissions essays, students should ask themselves if someone else could send in the same type of story. If numerous students could tell the story, they probably will. Make an impression on the reader! Some of the best college admissions essays are the ones that stay with the admissions reader long after the admissions decision has gone out. (Side note: There are some essays I can still remember vividly of essays I read ten years ago when I first started making college admissions decisions. And yes, those students were admitted.)
- Be yourself. Don’t try to be the person you think the admissions committee wants to admit. These types of essays are usually easy to recognize and do not come off as authentic. Instead, write the essay in your voice and show your personality. The college admissions essay may be the only personal introduction the admissions committee will have to get to know you as an applicant.
- Show, don’t tell. It is easy to tell a reader something about yourself. However, it is important to show the reader. For example, if you want the admissions committee to know that making a difference in your community is important, don’t just say it. Give an example of what you have been doing to make a difference. Anyone can say something about himself or herself, but it can mean so much more by showing it to the reader.
- Big words are not always important. There is no need to use big words and show off all of the vocabulary words you know from your SAT prep. Instead, the college admissions essay should use the words you might use on a regular basis. Replacing “common” words with words found in the thesaurus does not always make a person sound smart. Instead, adding big words when they do not come from you naturally can feel forced and make the whole essay not flow well. It is okay to write the college admissions essay using the words and tones you use on an everyday basis.
- Answer the questions. Sometimes people get so caught up in sharing a story and they forget about answering all of the questions. Many college admissions essay prompts are layered and have multiple questions. Don’t just answer the first part of the prompt. Complete your thoughts and answer everything the prompt asks.
- Proofread. Before sending anything, proofread your essay to make sure it does not have any errors and flows naturally. In addition, go through the list above and ask yourself the questions about your essay. For example, did you grab the reader’s attention early? Could someone else send in the same essay? Is it unique?
- Have someone else review your essay. Sometimes we are too close to our work. When you are too close to your work, it is possible to miss something that others might not. Therefore, it is important to have someone proofread your essay and get their thoughts. While proofreaders might catch something you missed or give you an idea you think will help your essay, don’t let them rewrite your essay. The essay should remain ‘your’ essay and in your voice.
- Start early. Don’t wait until the last minute to start writing your essay. Take your time. Give yourself enough time to brainstorm ideas, write, edit, and get feedback from others. Waiting until the due date can push you to rush the essay and miss something that could make a difference in the admissions decision. Plus, waiting until the last minute can put a lot of stress on you, and being that it is senior year, you will already have enough stress.
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