After all the extra work you must put in during the final year of highschool, you must really encourage yourself to also sit down and work on the essay that you have been putting off for so long!
Yes, the essay that you must send to the university admission officers! And you know you are expected to summarize the last almost-two-decades of your life into paper, which must certainly stand out against thousands and thousands of other candidates.
It is easy to get overwhelmed and panicked and start to run in circles! But, the tips below will clear a bit of the haze and help you leap to ‘accepted’ status:
- Mind the instructions
Every single word written in the instructions of the application is important and is there for a reason. You may be exhausted of the similar directions in the applications of all the universities you have applied to – but it is a must to follow them!
- Do read the success stories
Read the essays that have worked in the previous years! The letters are not from Shakespeare, but they are pieces of a person’s life that the admissions officer will not put down!
Whenever you feel like you have got the topic, sit down and write from your heart for an hour at the most! It will definitely not take longer!
Then, show the essay to someone whose opinion you value! Afterwards, take a few days away from it only to come back once to edit and send! That’s right – do not keep reading it as it will only drive you nuts!
- Write here what you can’t in your application
The universities do not have the time to research every applying student, so make sure you do put something in front of them that will make connecting the dots possible. Imagine you are sitting next to the admissions officer and responding the questions. That’s what your essay should reflect!
- Stick to your clear essay plan
After having read millions of examples of successful essays, and the ideas you have laid out to present – now make a plan and be concise with it! Write about one subject at a time in the maximum allowed number of words, without trying to cover everything in your life here. Organize it in the three parts: introduction, body, and the conclusion!
- Give a rocking introduction
You can start with an anecdote – engage your reader from the very beginning! Start by sharing a moment that will naturally grab the attention and involve them in the story!
Think outside the typical opening catchy first liners! Focus on revealing your character and personality. Think of doing that through your introductory anecdote. Show how it has shaped you into the person you are and the person you will be.
- Embrace the Admission Officer persona
It is a great aspect to think about and understand that it is important for the universities to have students that will graduate and become influencing personalities in the world and then have exactly the university enjoy the association. So incorporate the side of you that thinks critically, loves to learn, and has a deep passion for particular things, whatever those things are.
- NO! trying too hard allowed
This is one of those mistakes that is always present in spite of all the people that have been repeating this same old sentence ‘Stop trying so hard’. Trying hard to impress will get you further down the list. The beauty lies in the everyday subjects!
The admissions officers have been reading too much of the same dough – the time when you had a spectacular moment for yourself and the team and winning this specific game and what it meant for you and the community! Get creative, really!
And please do not try to sound like you are the reincarnation of Shakespeare! Plus, you’re only 18!
- Write only about what matters to you
Do not try to understand what would matter to your admission’s officers. Just focus on what matters to you. Authenticity and thought quality is what the admissions officers are after. There you have it!
Anything can be the perfect topic – as long as you are capable of showing how you think, your logic, and your ability to keep your reader’s attention! Think about what you would say if you had the chance to meet them and talk to them for 10 minutes in person.
- Stop with the synonyms
In your personal essay, write only how you would speak! The act of showing your repertoire of words will be required for another portion of the application!
You do not want to create any unnatural feelings or distance between you and the reader! It is a document of the self, after all…
- Be yourself
Yes, the usual – BE YOURSELF! – quote! Roughing up your background will not win you the cause!
The most important thing is how you frame your topic and what you have to say, regardless whether the topic involves the mundane!
The essay is supposed to reveal a glimpse into your mind, your view of the world and your perspective! It is okay if you have never had an earth-shattering experience that has rocked your world!
Be vivid and a bit controversial in your writing – so that it does not come out as a bland essay without a stand! Do not pretend you have the final truth, whatsoever! Colleges are here for the discussion of ideas and that’s what matters in your essay, too! And be cautious in your use of humor, if you must use it!
Good luck 🙂
You’ve taken the tests, requested the recommendations, completed the common app, and now it’s finally time to refocus on what you’ve been putting off: the essay.
While most students spend days, sometimes weeks, perfecting their personal statements, admissions officers only spend about three to five minutes actually reading them, according to Jim Rawlins, director of admissions at the University of Oregon.
High school seniors are faced with the challenge of summarizing the last 17 years into 600 words, all while showcasing their “unique” personality against thousands of other candidates.
“It’s hard to find a balance between sounding professional and smart without using all of those long words,” says Lily Klass, a senior at Milford High School in Milford, Mass. “I’m having trouble reflect myself without sounding arrogant or rude or anything like that.”
The following tips will help applicants make the leap from ‘average’ to ‘accepted’:
1. Open with an anecdote.
Since the admissions officers only spend a brief amount of time reviewing stories, it’s pivotal that you engage them from the very beginning.
“Instead of trying to come up with gimmicky, catchy first lines, start by sharing a moment,” says Janine Robinson, writing coach and founder of Essay Hell. “These mini stories naturally grab the reader … it’s the best way to really involve them in the story.”
Let the moment you choose be revealing of your personality and character. Describe how it shaped who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.
2. Put yourself in the school’s position.
At the end of the day, colleges want to accept someone who is going to graduate, be successful in the world and have the university associated with that success. In your essay, it is vital that you present yourself as someone who loves to learn, can think critically and has a passion for things—anything.
“Colleges always say to show your intellectual vitality and curiosity,” Robinson says. “They want kids who are going to hit the ground running—zoom to class and straight out into the world. They want them hungry and self-aware.
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3. Stop trying so hard.
“One of the biggest mistakes students make is trying too hard to impress,” Robinson says. “Trust that it is those every day, specific subjects that are much more interesting to read about.”
Colleges are tired of reading about that time you had a come-from-behind- win in the state championship game or the time you built houses in Ecuador, according to Robinson. Get creative!
Furthermore, you’re writing doesn’t have to sound like Shakespeare. “These essays should read like smart, interesting 17-year-olds wrote them,” says Lacy Crawford, former independent college application counselor and author of Early Decision. “A sense of perspective and self-awareness is what’s interesting.
4. Ditch the thesaurus. Swap sophistication for self-awareness
There is a designated portion of the application section designated to show off your repertoire of words. Leave it there.
On the personal essay, write how you would speak. Using “SAT words” in your personal statement sounds unnatural and distances the reader from you.
“I think most students are torn between a pathway dividing a diary entry and a press release. It’s supposed to be marketing document of the self,” Crawford says.
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5. Write about what matters to you, not what matters to them
Crawford recommends students begin by answering the question, “if you had 10 minutes to talk to them in person, what would you say?” The admissions teams are looking for authenticity and quality of thinking.
“Theoretically, I think anything could be ‘the perfect topic, as long as you demonstrate how well you think, your logic and ability to hold readers’ attention,” Crawford says.
6. Read the success stories.
“The best advice is to read essays that have worked,” Robinson says. “You’ll be surprised to see that they’re not winning Pulitzers; they are pieces of someone. You want your story to be the one she doesn’t put down.”
Once you find a topic you like, sit down and write for an hour or so. It shouldn’t take longer than that. When you write from your heart, words should come easily.
Rawlins recommends showing the essay to a family member or friend and ask if it sounds like the student. “Take a few days and come back to it. But only do that once,” Rawlins says. “Reading it over and over again will only drive you nuts.”
7. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
While colleges tend to nod to disadvantaged students, roughing up your background won’t help your cause.
“It’s less about the topic and more about how you frame it and what you have to say about it, Robinson says. “The better essay is has the most interesting thing to say, regardless of a topic that involves a crisis or the mundane.”
The essays serve as a glimpse into how your mind works, how you view the world and provides perspective. If you have never had some earth shattering experience that rocked your world, don’t pretend you did. Your insights will be forced and disingenuous.
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8. Follow the instructions.
While the directions on the applications may sound generic, and even repetitive after applying to a variety of schools, Rawlins points out that every rhyme has a reason.
“They have to know that college put a lot of thought into the instructions we give them—so please follow them!” he says. “We’ve given a lot of thought to the words we use. We want what we ask for.”
9. Use this space to tell them what your application can’t.
Most colleges don’t have the time or bandwidth to research each individual applicant. They only know what you put in front of them. “If they don’t tell us something, we can’t connect the dots,” Rawlins says. “We’re just another person reading their material.”
Like Crawford, he recommends students imagining they are sitting next to him in his office and responding to the question, “What else do I need to know?” And their essays should reflect how they would respond.
At the end of the day, however, Rawlins wants students to know that the personal essay is just another piece of the larger puzzle. “They prescribe way too much importance to the essay,” Rawlins says. “It makes a massive difference—good or bad—to very few out there, so keep it in context.”
Paige Carlotti is a senior at Syracuse University.
admissions essay, college applications, Paige Carlotti, writing, VOICES FROM CAMPUS