What to Include in Your College Admissions Essay
Creating the perfect college essay is stressful, to say the least. The good news is, you can take any pressure off yourself when it comes to being perfect. Admissions officers do not need to see perfection, but rather authenticity, originality, and something that sets you apart from the herd. Basically, instead of worrying so much about writing the best essay they have ever read, try focusing on writing the essay that introduces yourself to someone who really wants to understand you better.
6 Keys to Writing a Killer Admissions Essay
1. BRAINSTORM: Take a few minutes and make a list of all of the biggest things that have happened in your life. The biggest challenges, the happiest (and saddest) events, things you regret, and victories that have made you the proudest. Chances are, your winning essay topic will lie within that list.
2. SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY: College admissions officers have to sort through a sea of applications. Take into account that most applicants will have extremely similar grades, test scores, etc. What makes you stand out? In other words, if it is down to two applicants (and you’re one of them), and there is only one available slot for acceptance, what makes you stand out? Remember, you and the other applicant have the same test scores, same GPA and are neck-in-neck for that spot. Why should the admissions team pick you? This is where your personality can really jump off the pages of your essay.
3. SHOW, DON’T TELL: I know your words are limited, but this isn’t the time to be vague. If you’re trying to stress that you are a giving, charitable person who cares about your community, you need to give details to back it up. Instead of, “I want to make a difference in my community,” try this: “I will never forget the homemade card my ‘Little Brother’ gave me that explained how important our weekly movie nights meant to him. His hand-written note illuminated the reality that, although I had volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Austin to help others, the experience has forever changed my life, too.”
4. ANSWER ALL OF THE QUESTIONS: If your essay prompt lists multiple questions, make sure you answer all of them. Following directions meticulously may be one of the things that your admissions officer over. If that is the case, your essay could be dismissed because of failure to follow basic instructions, regardless of how good it is.
5. BE ORIGINAL: Before you say, “Yeah, yeah…” hear me out! I cannot stress enough that you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd through your essay. The admissions team cannot be won over by your piercing green eyes or your disarming personality. All you have are your words on the page to show this person you’re human! When you’ve decided on a topic, ask yourself, “Could anyone else have written this essay, or is it uniquely me?” What you really want is something that is specific to you and your life, not an essay that most anyone could have written. The key to doing this is the old saying, “Be Yourself.” It’s well-known for a reason.
6. EDIT, EDIT, EDIT: Have someone else read your essay after thoroughly editing it yourself. Ask him or her to be honest and to give you constructive feedback. Make those changes! The last thing you want is a careless typo to be the reason the other guy gets picked over you. Yes, some admissions officers are that particular. Remember, there are always more applications than openings, so give yourself every edge you can!
Good luck, and remember: The admissions officer can see your transcripts to know that you studied hard and scored well on the SAT’s. He or she can assume you’re a “good person” who wants to “change the world.” They don’t need a generic essay telling them how great you are and how much you need to get into that college or you’ll be excommunicated from your family. Just relax, take a deep breath, and introduce yourself to someone who is really eager to meet you!