Seniors deep into completing college applications are wrestling with one of the most personal parts of the process: the college essay.
While grades matter and extracurricular activities count, many college counselors will tell you that a college essay is where you can truly set yourself apart from the rest of the pack.
“Let your life speak through your essay,” said one college admissions counselor. “Write about something that makes you who you are. If it’s significant to you, make it significant to us.”
When it comes to writing your essay, there are several things to keep in mind:
- Be yourself! Let your essay reflect your true personality. If you’re funny, be funny in the essay. If you’re serious, be serious. The college essay is not the time to reinvent yourself.
- Pick a topic that lets you talk about you. It’s a place for you to share your personal thoughts and experiences. Take a creative approach to writing about something that isn’t covered in other parts of your application.
- Be sure your essay has a thesis. Let your reader know what you are trying to communicate in the essay.
- Write about something you care about. Your personality is more likely to shine through if you write about a topic you are passionate about instead of what you think would impress a college admission counselor. Sometimes the simplest topic can result in a profound piece of writing.
- Choose a topic and stick to it. If you attempt to cover too many angles in one essay, it will be watered down and ineffective. Instead, focus on one of your characteristics to write about.
- Be specific. Don’t just say, “I worked hard to achieve my grades.” Give details, examples, and reasons that help support that idea.
- Speak your own language. Be sure the essay reflects your voice – not your editor’s or the good people at thesaurus.com. Finding an impressive synonym is great, but remember that it’s better to avoid formal, business-like language. Let your personality shine through in your writing.
- Edit carefully! You are smarter than a fifth grader. Not smarter then a fifth grader. Be sure to review closely for typos spellcheck will miss. Ask a teacher or parent to proofread your essay.
- Let someone who doesn’t know you so well read your essay, then have him/her describe the person they just read about. If the person they describe is you, edit for grammar, etc., and be done. If it doesn’t sound like you, go back and write the essay in your own voice.
- Remember, your essay is a fresh opportunity. By now, the grades a college will see have been made; you’ve figured out which teachers to ask for recommendations – and they’ve already formed an opinion of you. Your essay is your new opportunity to let admissions officers know who you are as a person.
- College Board has a whole section dedicated to essay writing, appropriated titled, Essays. See samples of essays with critiques on how to improve them and get more guidance on writing your college application essay.
- U.S. News & World Report offers 10 Tips for Writing the College Application Essay.
- You can frequently find tips for writing essays on college websites, so check out advice from the school you plan to apply to. Here’s an example from Gettysburg College.