How to Write a College Admissions Essay

How to write a college admission essay

Writing a college admissions essay has become a prerequisite for entry to many universities. It’s an opportunity for the selection committee to get to know more about you. Writing such an essay tends to be stressful for most applicants. Many will delay writing it, while others will spend days, if not weeks, perfecting their personal statements.

It certainly is a challenge summarizing seventeen years of one’s life or more into a mere 600 words. You will want to come across as being intelligent and the best candidate without being perceived as arrogant. This post will provide you with valuable advice to help you to make a good impression when writing your college admission essay.

The Importance of Your Introduction

An important thing to remember is that the admissions officers are under a lot of pressure. They will have literally thousands of applications to go through. With limited time available to them, it’s crucial to immediately grab their attention and engage them.

One of the best ways to do this is to begin with a personal anecdote. By sharing a moment, you will be able to set the scene. You can reveal how the experience impacted your life and how it helped shape you into the person you are today. Explain how the memory has impacted on your life and explain why it made you choose the study direction in which you wish to proceed.

Think Like an Admissions Officer

Universities and colleges want candidates who will graduate and go on to become successful people. Having alumni who are making great strides in the world reflects positively on the college’s image. If the majority of students failed and dropped out of their college, this would not be a good advertisement for the educational institution.

With this in mind, you’ll want to show that you are a determined individual. You should convey the image of being driven, someone who is passionate, motivated and hungry for success. You need to let them know that you’re resourceful and willing to make sacrifices in order to reach your goals.

Tone it Down

Yes, you want to make an impression. That said, keep it simple. One of the worst mistakes you can make on the admissions essay is to use too much flowery language. Verbosity has its place, but a college admissions essay is not it. Throw away the thesaurus and write using everyday vocabulary. Remember, you are not Shakespeare nor do you need to be.

Colleges are flooded with examples of applicants’ achievements. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments, but do bear in mind that this approach tends to be boring. Think outside the box and show some creativity. Blowing your own trumpet too much can make you come across as conceited and arrogant. If your achievement illustrates why you would succeed in your future studies or be a credit to the college, try to mention it in an understated way.

Be Yourself

The quickest way to spot a fraud is when they are writing about something they have no interest in. You won’t impress the selection committee if you fake it. Doing so will fail to show authenticity and original thinking. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never climbed Mount Everest or gone sky diving. What’s far more important is you being able to honestly express your feelings and discoveries. In fact, being able to show this side is likely to be far more impressive to the admission officers than any individual claim you make. That is, it’s not reaching the top of a mountain that’s important, but being able to honestly detail the process, obstacles and what you learned along the way.

Make your essay personal. Show your passion and let your own unique personality shine through. In doing so, you’ll stand a far greater chance of being accepted than if you ramble on about a topic in which you have little experience or zero personal interest.

Be Controversial

Being controversial may seem like a double-edged sword but it doesn’t have to be. Colleges are on the lookout for people who can take an intellectual position and argue points according to reason. This does not mean you should simply choose an argument and spout off your own opinions.

Don’t pretend that your line of thinking is absolute and unquestionable. Provide reasons as to why you think this way. Give examples with references to statistics and facts. Include the opinions of recognized intellectuals and above all, never, ever take the side of an extremist radical. There’s a vast difference between an intelligent albeit controversial individual, and being an absolute nut-job who has been brainwashed with hype and propaganda.

Fonts and Formats

If there are any guidelines provided, then it’s advisable to stick to them. If you can’t follow instructions for an essay, how will you be able to write a dissertation one day? Keep your font selection clean and easy to read (remember, the admission officials will be reading hundreds of these). Use one standard font throughout.

Separate various sections by making use of clearly identifiable headings. These should be in bold with major sections identifiable through means of a larger, underlined font size.

Last, but not Least

You may have written a phenomenal piece. It could contain the very essence of what your admissions officer is looking for. Have you checked it for spelling or grammatical errors? have you made sure you’re not using the same words too much?

As mentioned previously, admissions officers are under pressure to read numerous applications. In a hypothetical situation, let us assume your application gets reviewed toward the end of a long, rough day. The first thing the officer sees is three spelling mistakes and poor sentence construction in the first paragraph. Chances are your application will be immediately sent to the “Declined” pile.

Make sure you proofread your application. Give it to a teacher or parent to read. Spell check it. Make sure it is worthy of you and the time and effort you put into it.

(Photo courtesy of Jinx!)

6 comments

  1. The thing I was taught by my teacher when it came to college admission essays is to focus on what and how you learned from your accomplishments, not the actual accomplishments. The accomplishments speak for themselves but having the maturity to realize what you learned from them is what can make you stand out from the crowd.

  2. I would be very careful with the “be controversial” suggestion in this article. What you want to do is stand out, but you don’t want to stand out in a bad way. Too many times taking a contrary view or controversial view makes you look opinionated and not open-minded. I would suggest that you concentrate on what you have learned from your accomplishments rather than try to come up with a controversy to get yourself noticed.

  3. Do they really read the college admission essays? I know my high school teachers didn’t read my essays. I would put a sentence in them to see if they were really reading them, and none of them ever noticed it. I bet college admission people do the same thing, or maybe only read the first paragraph or two.

    1. I’m sure that colleges read the admissions essays. This is not an essay just for credit, as in high school. Colleges are making a reputation for themselves. If they are known to have many successful students, then they will be able to have better teachers and more money for their school. They definitely read them.

    2. When the college admission people read through your essay I would say they look to see who you are as a person. For that reason, I think this article will help to get started. It is important to make an impression but also be truthful about all your achievements and accomplishments.

  4. This is an essay about yourself and also this is the first impression the college will have of you so I think it is very important to actually be yourself and not try to impress anyone because this is all about what you have learned, achieved and worked for.

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