February 16, 2016
The essay is an extremely important part of your college application, because it tells admission officers things about you that they can’t possibly glean from your grades and test scores. Not only can a great essay showcase your personality, future promise, and writing skills – but it can also tip the scales in your favor if your credentials fall just short of the school’s requirements. But – your essay can only work for you if it really impresses the admission officers. Here’s how to make sure it does:
- Read essays that worked.
- Before you begin writing, read essays that have gotten other students into top universities. Look at the topics,
writing style, and quality. You’ll see that the best ones aren’t necessarily the most sophisticated, but they do offer a unique perspective, strong writing, and an authentic voice – the three main things admission officers are looking for. You’ll also notice that the strongest essays feature a story that the reader won’t want to put down.
- Pick a topic that matters to you. There’s no “perfect” college essay topic. The reality is any topic can be “the one,” as long as it’s written well, grabs your reader’s attention, and demonstrates your authentic quality of thinking. In fact, some of the best essays are about a mundane event that the writer tells with a creative spin and a unique perspective.
Other strong topic ideas include challenges you’ve faced, failures you’ve experienced, and problems you’ve solved using your ingenuity. You might also write about your commitment – the difference you want to make in the world and where you’re going in your life. And remember, you don’t need to be perfect – you want to show the admission officers that you’re a real person with the capacity to succeed at school and in life.
- Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not just to write a stellar college essay. If you’ve led a fairly privileged life, don’t re-write history. You can win over the admission officers while being true to yourself – it’s all about how you frame it. Tell your authentic life story while showing that you’re a smart, self-aware, and interesting seventeen-year-old who knows how lucky he is.
- Use your college essay as the golden opportunity it is. The college essay is your chance to really impress the admission officers beyond your grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. When you’re writing, imagine the reader is asking the question, “What else do we need to know about you? Other than your academic performance, why should we choose you for our university?” From there, aim to demonstrate that you’re a whole, unique, and authentic person who will have a positive impact on the college and its community.
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