The college application essay is a way to demonstrate what kind of person you are. It is not about what you do; it’s about who you are. Colleges are interested in your achievements as a student; they are also interested in how you will fit into their environment. Both will indicate your success on their campus.
There are many mistakes writers of college essays make, mostly because they do not know how to think about writing the essay and do not plan carefully from the beginning.
Here are some basic tips for planning the college essay in a thoughtful way.
The college application essay is about you!
- Your high school resume tells about what you do. Don’t rehash that. Your essay should not be about your activities and achievements as much as it is calculated to let the admission reader know about who you are outside those activities.
- Writing the essay is about responding to the prompt, but it is not about answering the essay prompt like an essay test question. It’s not about correctness but about a genuine reaction to the prompt to reveal yourself.
- Be careful about choosing a prompt. A prompt might initially appeal to you because you can conceive how to answer it better than the others. But, read all the prompts. One may lend itself to you better than the others. For example, you may have experienced a failure, but remember the prompt is asking about how the failure affected you. Don’t let the essay become more about the experience than about how it impacted you. A question about acting because you challenged an idea might better allow you to write about who you are and what you believe and value.
- If you have to write more than one essay, make sure you don’t write about only one aspect of yourself. You may be an outdoors lover and enjoy the challenge of white water rafting, but write only one essay about this side of yourself. Make sure to use the next essay about some other aspect of yourself. You may also like to sit home and watch old movies which will illustrate not only are you adventurous but how you are a nostalgic person, too.
- Make sure you let admissions readers know the real you. Use your own vocabulary, be simple and direct, don’t brag. For example, writing about that paid summer workshop, college experience, or volunteer trip may ultimately be more about the experience than about you and may result and showing you off as arrogant or spoiled. Who you are in your everyday life is the best illustration of what you are about.
Even though it’s about you, it is also not quite all about you
- Show humility. Colleges want capable students but not snobs.
- Don’t write about what the college can do for you and your future only. Include what you might give to a college and others in your community.
- Know about your college. Do the research so you can make connections between the college and who you are.
Plan your essay
- You need a good introduction that grabs the admissions reader right away, along with an impacting conclusion as a last impression. Those introductions and conclusions are not the same as what is required in English class.
- Make sure one of the impressions you leave is not that you are messy and uncaring. Proof read, spell check, ask others to read for errors. You might even want to consider having an essay editing service give it a final polish for you. Give it your very best before sending it off.