The personal essay is the main event, and certainly the hardest to write. But, beyond the personal essay there are other essays that have to be written. These are usually only 250 words. Some are general, like Why do you want to go to this college? or What activity most impacted you? but there are also colleges that have their own individual or supplemental essays.
First, don’t forget about this essay. Make sure to check with each school you are applying to to see if you have covered all supplemental materials. Next, think about how short the 250-word essay is. You are going to have to be brief. What you don’t include is as important as what you do include. Cut, cut, cut. Also be very specific. This short essay requires two specifics and a dash of humor.
Here are some suggestions for doing your best on the two most common short essays for the college application.
Why do you want to go to this college?
Don’t: Write that it is because this is such a great college and ranks so high. The college already knows its ranking.
Do: Explain how a certain department or program at this college will help you meet your goals, career or academic.
Don’t: Write you just fell in love with it or that you know you’ll be a perfect fit—too general (yawn).
Do: Research each campus you apply to so you can give two specifics about exactly what you like about their academics, programs, activities, professors, or culture and/or community.
What activity has most impacted you?
Don’t: Repeat what is peppered already throughout your application. Think about the activities you have listed on your résumé or written about in your personal essay. It’s been said.
Do: Find another activity that shows a different side to you or at least write about an aspect of your favorite activity that you have not written about or described before.
Other essays may ask you to talk about your favorite teacher or class. Don’t spend your words on describing that person or class but how one or the other affected YOU.
If you write about your summer(s), don’t list but do demonstrate your initiative and leadership.
If you are asked to write about your work experience, don’t allow you have not worked. Rather interpret the question broadly and write about a volunteer experience or about how you did a project for a school activity you participated in.
The real trick is to capture something important about your self in just a few words.