Maybe you’re focused on building your resume with activities, awards, work, experiences, travel, and volunteerism. Perhaps you are studying to take your SAT or ACT tests. You may be working to get the best GPA yet—all in preparation to get that college admission notification by spring.
But, you might have overlooked something, one of the most important parts of your college application–the college essay. Or, should I mention ESSAYS!
What? I have to write more than one essay. Yes, that could be. Here are essays many colleges have you write to as part of your application.
The Personal Statement – This essay is part of the Common Application form which most colleges and universities use to review their applicants. There are five prompts on the Common App to choose from, and all have to do with what you have experienced in your life. This is the chance for admissions officers to learn about you as a person and about how you might fit into their campus community. The Personal Statement is considered a soft factor in the admission rubric. It offers you a chance to give more information about your motivations and how you define yourself. It is a place to share what is not already on your application as demonstrated by your grades, scores, and list of accomplishments. This is also the place where you can set yourself apart from other applicants.
The Activity Essay – Although the Activity Essay used to be on the Common Application, it has been removed, but some colleges still ask for it. This essay is usually short. It is an opportunity for you to highlight one activity or experience that impacted you and how it demonstrates your individual interests.
Why-This-College? Essay – This is a supplemental essay, which means it will be required by only some colleges in addition to the Personal Statement. The essay requires you to research the college you are applying to and know some details about the college. Colleges want to know you have really looked at them and considered how you might fit with their programs and requirements. You can also demonstrate interest in this college specifically, always a good thing to do.
Quick Response Essays – These essays tend to be creative and ask you unusual questions like what animal you might like to be and why or who was the worst President of the U.S. and why. These help show if you can think out of the box or if you have a sense of humor.
Now you might have a better idea of what you may have to write about. Here are some suggestions of what not to write.
• Don’t be trite. Admissions readers have read thousands of essays, and many of those essays are the same. Stay away from the usual fare of what happened at a winning game or how great your trip to help the Hondurans was or what you learned from failing a test.
• Don’t be negative or inappropriate. You may have failed or been in love but only go there if there is a positive ending. You want to be honest but present your best sides.
• Don’t be too tricky with the writing format. Poems, videos, writing only dialogue can be creative, but remember cleverness is one thing. The real emphasis always needs to be on the message, not the presentation.
It’s always good to review your writing when you’re done, and not just to proofread. Here are some things to think about after re-reading your essay before sending it.
• Consider if you have answered what the prompt asks and have hit all the aspects of the prompt.
• Consider the university or college you are applying to and if this essay is tailored to its character and expectations.
• Ask if the essay helps illustrate your goals in going to college.
• Assess carefully what the essay says about you both as a student as and as a person.
Good Luck. And, maybe now you will start your college essay(s) the summer before your senior year so you will have enough time to do it right.