How to Write a College Admission Essay

Posted: November 8, 2012 by UI Upward Bound in Uncategorized

Even the most gifted student can look at the college admission essay as a daunting challenge.  A blank page, a lame prompt and less than 500 words not only to describe your inner most self, but more importantly, to sell yourself to an admissions staff whom you will probably never meet.  Thanks to the growing popularity of the common application, you may need only pen a single essay.  However, that also means you only have one shot to get it right.  No pressure at all, right?  Fear not. Even though more than 300 U.S. colleges now accept the common app, that represents less than 10% of schools and even those using it may still include supplements to get a look at the real you.

Instructions

  1. Follow their directions.  If they say 500 words, don’t write 1,000; if they ask you to write about an inspiring historical figure, do not write about your first grade teacher.
  2. Choose your passion.  Whether you are provided with a prompt or expected to shoot from the hip, it is easier and more natural to write from your heart rather than your head.  Write about what really matters to you and your inner self will shine through.
  3. Be accurate and honest.  If you’re including facts and figures, make certain they are correct.  If you say you scaled Mt. Everest, be prepared to offer them a handful of snow.
  4. Show, don’t tell.  This is the same advice your writing teachers have been giving you for years.  Rather than tell them that you’re a local hero because you pushed a baby out of onrushing traffic, describe the scene, the sounds, the smells.  Paint a picture with your words.
  5. Write to the best of your ability, not someone else’s.  As a high school senior, you should have a good command of sentence structure, grammar and vocabulary, but even if this is your weakness, do not try to overcompensate.  Using  words that aren’t a natural fit to who you are will be disingenuous, and worse, may lead the reader to believe these new words belong to  someone else.
  6. Do not oversell.  There’s a line between confidence and cockiness and you need to err on the side of humility.  Rely on your grades, test scores, class rank and activities to boast, not your essay.
  7. Be funny.  If you’ve always been the class clown, here’s your chance to reflect that all those paths to the principal’s office were leading you somewhere else.  Be careful.  Humor works if you’re good at it, but sarcasm and shock value have no place in a college essay.
  8. Take a chance.  Be different.  It may sound risky, but taking a chance can truly separate your essay from the thousands the admissions personnel must read.  What can you do to make yours stand out?
  9. Don’t be quirky. While you want to stand out you do not want to use gimmicks–no funny fonts, colored paper, included gifts.
  10. Rewrite it as many times as necessary.  Edit and re-edit.  Have someone read it over and check for grammar and punctuation.

Resources

 

By Linda Emma, eHow Contributor

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