You work hard to get good grades in school, and it hardly seems fair that a measly 500 words on a page can hold the key to whether you will receive an offer of acceptance to a college or university or one telling you that your application for admission has not been accepted. Writing a college admissions essay is not a punishment; it’s an opportunity for the school admissions people to get to know something about you that they can’t find out from the numbers on standardized tests and your grades.
There is much more to you than your academic achievement. You’re a whole person, who has skills, opinions, and accomplishments. You have been shaped and influenced by circumstances from your past and may have struggled to reach this point. No doubt you have hopes and dreams for the future that are tied in to completing your degree. These are the kinds of things that no one can glean from reading numbers on a page and can be discussed in your admission essay – if you do it right. Here are some tips to help you along.
Read the prompts carefully
One surefire way to get your application thrown out is by failing to follow instructions. If you are asked to write 500 words, then don’t write 350 or 700 words. Write 500 words. The instructions aren’t merely suggestions. Consider them to be written in stone. This exercise is about your writing ability as well as how well you follow instructions. The university wants to know that you have the basic skill set to perform well as a student.
Brainstorm for ideas
Give yourself plenty of time to work on your essay and think about several possibilities for your topic. At this point, just write down anything that comes to mind that would fit the prompts the university has provided. If you have never sat down and really thought about the kinds of things that have influenced who you are and your perspectives, now is the perfect time to start. You could look at:
• Accomplishments to date
• Favorite books or movies and how they influenced you
• Your strongest personality trait
• What you would like to be doing most
• Extracurricular activities you have been involved in
• If you have ever worked hard for something and failed (what you learned)
• What you have learned from your hard-won successes
• Why is it so important for you to continue your education
• Who was your role model when you were growing up and why
Choose a topic for your essay
Once you have a basic idea for your essay, you need to make sure that you have enough information to support it. You’ll need to be able to flesh it out with personal experiences to make it interesting reading. Keep in mind the person you will be reading your work also reads many other admissions essays every day. You need your essay to stand out. If the idea sound too much like “How I Spent my Summer Vacation,” you’ll need to choose another one.
Don’t repeat information the admissions committee can find somewhere else on your application. Your admissions essay is not the place to talk about standardized test scores and then list your mark.
Use your own voice
This is more difficult than it sounds. Use descriptive language to tell the reader about who you are, in “your” voice. If it helps to picture the person reading your essay sitting in the room with you, then do it. Your goal is to be memorable and present yourself in a way that no one else could.
Put it down for a while before editing
Ideally, you should be able to walk away from the essay for a few days before going back to review it. Does it flow well? Are you happy with its tone? Now get out your editor’s pen and go to work. You may need to go through this process several times before you are happy with the result, and that’s normal. Keep working with your essay and polishing it until you are happy with the results.
Following these suggestions will help you let your uniqueness show through when writing a college admissions essay and increase your chances for success.
Guest Post by Leslie Anglesey
Leslie Anglesey is an educator at University of Southern California and an editor in essay writing service. Apart from academic life she loves to travel with her family and dogs.