Don't just recount—reflect! Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the summer they spent in Rome. When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary. Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you. Being funny is tough. A student who can make an admissions officer laugh never gets lost in the shuffle. It's the question every high school senior asks: What happens in the admissions office?
You work for months, bundle your entire life together into a neat, page application, send it off, and wait. The students did not use fluff, big words, or try to write an essay they thought admission decisions makers wanted to read.
The essays that impressed me the most were not academic essays, but personal statements that allowed me to get to know the reader. I was always more likely to admit or advocate for a student who was real and allowed me to get to know them in their essay. Skip the moral-of-the-story conclusions, too. Warm-up strategy: Read the first two sentences and last two sentences in a few of your favorite novels.
Did you spot any throat-clearing or moral-of-the-story endings? Probably not! Don't read the Common Application prompts. If you already have, erase them from memory and write the story you want colleges to hear. The truth is, admission reviewers rarely know—or care—which prompt you are responding to.
They are curious to discover what you choose to show them about who you are, what you value, and why. Even the most fluid writers are often stifled by fitting their narrative neatly into a category and the essay quickly loses authentic voice.
Write freely and choose a prompt later. Spoiler alert It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. This college essay tip is by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N. Proofread, proofread, proofread. After you're done writing, read your essay, re-read it a little later, and have someone else read it too, like a teacher or friend—they may find typos that your eyes were just too tired to see.
Colleges are looking for students who can express their thoughts clearly and accurately, and polishing your essay shows that you care about producing high-quality, college-level work.
Plus, multiple errors could lower your chances of admission. So take the extra time and edit! Take the pressure off and try free-writing to limber up. If you are having trouble coming up with what it is you want to convey or finding the perfect story to convey who you are, use prompts such as: Share one thing that you wish people knew about you. What have you enjoyed about high school? I suggest handwriting versus typing on a keyboard for 20 minutes.
Don't worry about making it perfect, and don't worry about what you are going to write about. Think about getting yourself into a meditative state for 20 minutes and just write from the heart. To get myself in a meditative state, I spend 60 seconds set an alarm drawing a spiral. Never let the pen come off the page, and just keep drawing around and around until the alarm goes off. Then, start writing. It might feel you didn't write anything worthwhile, but my experience is that there is usually a diamond in the rough in there Do this exercise for days straight, then read out loud what you have written to a trusted source a parent?
Don't expect a masterpiece from this exercise though stranger things have happened. The goal is to discover the kernel of any idea that can blossom into your college essay—a story that will convey your message, or clarity about what message you want to convey. Show your emotions. Adding feelings to your essays can be much more powerful than just listing your achievements.
It allows reviewers to connect with you and understand your personality and what drives you. In particular, be open to showing vulnerability. Nobody expects you to be perfect and acknowledging times in which you have felt nervous or scared shows maturity and self-awareness. This college essay tip is by Charles Maynard, Oxford and Stanford University Graduate and founder of Going Merry , which is a one-stop shop for applying to college scholarships Be genuine and authentic. Your essay should be a true representation of who you are as a person—admissions officers want to read essays that are meaningful, thoughtful, and consistent with the rest of the application.
Essays that come from the heart are the easiest to write and the best written. Have a teacher or counselor, not just your smartest friend, review and edit your essays. This college essay tip is by Jonathan April, University of Chicago graduate, general manager of College Greenlight , which offers free tools to low-income and first-generation students developing their college lists. Note how the writer incorporates a wide range of details and images through one particular lens: a scrapbook.
The very best essays come from students who have devoted a significant amount of time to introspection and preparation. It is apparent to us when a student has spent only a couple hours on an essay. If there is nothing particularly exceptional about your personal background, choose another prompt. If the failure that you learned from paints you in an unflattering light, that's not the prompt for you.
Whatever the topic, be sure to relate it back to you as an individual, and how that person, place or thing affected you and made you the type of student this school would want to attract.
Be sure to keep your topic, well, topical, and within the bounds of reasonable discourse. It's critical, as well, to stay focused, even if you are trying to say a lot. Some essays might be about one topic or event or person, while others weave a compelling story about multiple things," according to Shawn Abbott, Assistant Vice President and Dean of Admissions at New York University.
But, he warns, "The only danger is that the essay is going to be read by admission officers, each with a potentially different expectation for that essay. And they are going to read the application and essay at a relatively rapid rate, so you risk losing the attention of the committee if you try to accomplish too much with one writing sample. It is one writing sample. You're not expected to tell us about every experience in your life. It's lazy and not creative," he says.
But, after reading these enthralling stories about other people, I still know absolutely nothing about the student who wrote the essay. What are you like beyond your GPA and test scores? What makes you unique? What can you contribute to our campus community?
Now, keep in mind that creativity and a bit of humor are nice. Professionals on admission committees have the daunting task of reading thousands of application essays per year, and it can get a bit daunting after a while. This being said, remember to choose an essay topic that helps keep the focus on you but is still flexible enough for you to incorporate your personality, your history, your sense of humor.
In this list, admissions officers reveal the types of essays that have been overused.Crafting an Unforgettable College Essay Most selective colleges require you to submit an essay or personal statement as part of your application. It may sound like a good college essays regarding sports, and it will certainly take a substantial amount of work. But it's also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores.
On the other hand, if you're writing about something you love, something that excites you, something that you've thought deeply about, chances are I'm going to set down your application feeling excited, too—and feeling like I've gotten to know you. I see all kinds of errors of spelling, text type, even a lower-case 'i' and 'lol.
Based on the image the writer uses, how would you describe her relationship with her family? Now, keep in mind that creativity and a bit of humor are nice. We want to learn about growth. Don't reuse an answer to a similar question from another application. The essays that made the best impressions on me were the essays that were real.
Be honest about what matters to you.
This is your chance to tell your story or at least part of it. You may point out areas that need revision, but you cannot rewrite or edit — the essay must be the student's work.
But they are extraordinarily different essays, most strikingly because the former is generic where the latter is specific.
Don't reuse an answer to a similar question from another application. What do these details tell us? But if not, then maybe you should steer clear. Keep the story focused on a discrete moment in time. Telling Your Story to Colleges So what does set you apart? The sentence in bold above is essentially her thesis.