The college admission essay can play a big role in the college admission process, especially if you are applying to selective institutions. When many impressive students are applying and only a small number of spots are available, the essay can be the thing that helps the student stand out. The essay can also encourage the admission committee to take a chance on a student they might not have admitted. No matter what colleges you are sending your application, the essay might play a big role in the decision process. Therefore, students should take their time crafting a great essay to submit with the rest of the college application. Below are 12 steps for a great college admission essay.
1. Make it personal
You have been writing five paragraph essays that start with an introduction and thesis statement for years. However, your admission essay is not an academic paper. Instead, it is your personal statement. You are free to write it however you want. It does not need to be academic because it is about you.
2. Write the essay yourself
Unfortunately this is something that needs to be mentioned because there are always students who submit essays written by someone else. Sometimes a parent might have good intentions and are trying to help their student with the admission process. Or, the student might pay money to a service because they are so concerned about being admitted to a particular college that they will do anything to be admitted. Whatever the reason, most admission readers and committees can spot essays that are not written by the applicant. If there is any concern the essay was not written by the student, the student could be automatically denied and will not be considered for admission. In addition, if the college ever figures out that someone else wrote the essay, even after the student was admitted, the admission decision could be rescinded! Don’t risk it! Write your own essay.
3. Grab the reader’s attention early
Admission professionals and readers will read hundreds or thousands of college admission essays every year. Essays that start off slow may lose the reader’s attention. Students should consider doing something very early in the essay that will grab the reader’s attention and make them want to continue reading. This can be done by making a bold statement or speaking directly to the reader.
4. Be unique
Don’t tell the same story others will tell. When reading college admission essays, the stories will start to blend together for the readers, especially if the stories are similar. When brainstorming topics for your admission essays, students should ask themselves if someone else could send in the same type of story. If many students could tell the same story, they probably will. Make an impression on the reader! Some of the best college admission essays are the ones that stay with the admission reader long after the admission decision has gone out!
5. Be yourself
Don’t try to be the person you think the admission committee is more likely 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 admission essay may be the only personal introduction the admission committee will have to get to know you.
6. 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 admission committee to know making a difference in your community is important, don’t just say it. Give an example of something you have been doing to make a difference. Anyone can say something is important to him or her, but it will mean so much more by showing the reader it is important to you.
7. Big words are not important
There is no need to use big words to show off the vocabulary you learned from your SAT prep. This is a personal essay and should sound personal. If you are a “big word” kind of person and you use these words on a regular basis, use them in your essay. However, if it is not a word you would use when speaking to your friends or teachers, there is no need to use a big word. Replacing “common” words with words found in the thesaurus does not always make you sound smarter. Instead, it can sometimes make an essay not flow as well. It is okay to write the admission essay using the words and tones you use on a regular basis.
8. Answer the questions
Sometimes students get so caught up in sharing a story and forget about answering all of the questions. Many college admission essay prompts are layered and have multiple questions. Don’t just answer the first part of the prompt. Make sure you answer all of the questions.
9. Be concise
The Common Application essay requires at least 250 word, but no more than 650 words. Just because you can use 650 words does not mean you need to use 650 words. If you can answer the questions in a unique way in 300 words, there is no need to add “fluff” to your essay. Admission readers will only be able to spend a few minutes reading your essay. Therefore, make your impression without adding extra words or stories that don’t need to be in the essay.
Before sending anything, proofread your essay to make sure it does not have any errors and flows naturally. You might want to consider checking your grammar and spelling using tools such as Grammarly* because it might pick up on errors you or your computer did not catch. You might have sent in a unique essay, but if you have many errors, it might not help your case when the admission committee is making decisions.
11. 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 do not. While proofreaders might catch something you missed or give you an idea you think will help your essay, don’t let them rewrite the essay. The essay should remain your essay and in your voice.
12. 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 make you rush the essay and miss something that could make a difference in the admission decision.