Posts Tagged ‘admissions essay’

Common App Essay Tips

Friday, May 29th, 2015

App Essay Prompts

What does it mean to “share your story?” The pool of topics for common application essays is vast, but with this freedom comes the terrifying sense of getting the topic wrong or not communicating that urgent aspect of yourself that you meant to. College supplements often asks applicants to write about their strengths, their weaknesses, their suitability to college life and so forth. It all gets a bit hoop-jumpy, but that’s not to say you can’t write something meaningful or important to you, even when the prompts begin to blur and it feels like you’re having to write the same essay over and over.

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Writing A College Admissions Essay

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

How should I approach writing my college admissions essay?

Writing your college admissions essays can seem pretty overwhelming–especially when you’re trying to finish them on top of juggling a full class load, extracurricular activities, and SAT prep. On top of that, the personal statement (also known as simply “the college essay”) on the common application essay prompt is vague and open, which only increases the intimidation factor. Here’s the good news: nobody is asking you to prove that you’re the “perfect” applicant or the next great American writer.  College admissions officers just want to see that you can write a clear, engaging essay that reveals something about who you are as a person.

In other words, the college admissions officers who read your essay want to know who you are— not what you think they want to hear.  Don’t pepper your admissions essay with references to how you’re “hard-working” and compassionate,” or other “says who?” adjectives.  If you’re genuinely hard-working, that hard work is likely to lead to a higher GPA, and if you’re truly compassionate, it’s likely to have an impact on the types of extracurricular activities you pursue.

It’s always better to demonstrate positive qualities than to declare them on your college admissions essay.  You’ll also want to avoid clichés.  It’s not a great idea to write about how climbing a mountain made you realize that, with enough determination, there’s no obstacle you can’t overcome.  (Admissions officers have seen that one a lot.)  Another common college application essay relates how, through helping others (e.g., volunteering at a homeless shelter), you received unexpected benefits yourself (e.g., realized that money is less important than happiness.) Of course, if you have had a genuine experience climbing a mountain, or volunteering for the needy, and feel like you have a new perspective to offer, go for it.

Finally, don’t write your college admissions essay the way you would write a standard four-paragraph or five-paragraph essay, complete with introduction and thesis, two or three developmental paragraphs (each focused on a distinct, concrete example) and formal conclusion.  This format works well for an English paper or an SAT essay, but to write a first-rate college application essay, you’ll probably want to take a less formal approach.

Here’s the bottom line: show the college admissions officers what makes you tick.  Tell a story about a meaningful experience and how it changed you, or about the impact a teacher or mentor had on you.  Make your admissions essay so specific to who you are that it couldn’t possibly be written by anybody else.