You’ve completed all the application forms, taken all the tests, and now it’s finally time to impress your university’s admission officers with a great college application essay.
A college application essay is usually around 500 words, and those words can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. You will spend many days researching and crafting your essay, but admissions officers will only have a few minutes to actually read it, so you need to get their attention.
However, if you are the type of person who likes to start with the don’ts, check out our blog post on How Not to Write a University Application Essay.
1. Read the instructions carefully
They say starting the essay is the hardest part. You may think it’s redundant to mention that you need to read the instructions carefully, but with all the excitement and stress that characterizes this period of your life, it needs to be highlighted.
If you don’t follow the application essay guidelines, the admissions officer may assume that you won’t be able to follow the directions of the university’s program. Page and word limits are mentioned for a reason and you must be able to organize your submission by following the rules.
After you’ve read through the instructions a few times and gathered your notes, you can start creating an outline to organize your essay and decide what message you want to send. Now you're ready to write your first draft.
2. Start with a compelling introduction
Great writing is hard to achieve, but it’s possible if you’re smart about it. Anyone who works in journalism will tell you that you can catch any reader’s attention as long as you deliver a great introduction.
The admissions officers will only spend a brief amount of time reviewing your essay, so you need to start with a vivid paragraph that will keep them engaged. The introduction has to reveal to the reader what your essay is about and catch their attention. You could open with an anecdote or an interesting story that will show some of the best parts of your personality and character, offering an insight that will help the admission officers get to know who you are.
3. Use your inner voice
Universities are looking for authenticity and quality of thinking, so don’t try to shape your essay around phrases or ideas that people have used many times before, but base it on your genuine beliefs.
The application essay is your opportunity to impress an admissions officer with your determination and existing knowledge of your chosen subject. Make sure it reflects all of your skills and ambitions, and show how your chosen program will help you achieve future goals.
4. Avoid clichés
While you research your application essay, you will be encouraged to check out some examples of great essays and get inspired. While this is a great exercise, many students allow themselves to be influenced too much by the examples, and use lots of clichés in their desire to impress the admission officers.
Remember that there are thousands of others students applying to your desired university, and you need to distinguish yourself. Re-read your essay, delete all the sentences that sound like a cliché, and try to find a more original angle.
Admissions officers go through thousands of applications a year, so it’s only logical that they will notice those that bring a unique personality to life. Let them discover that!
5. Give good examples to support your ideas
A college application essay is basically a glimpse into how your mind works and how you view the world. If you want your essay to be credible, you need to make sure everything you write supports that viewpoint. Spend some time figuring out how the essay question relates to your personal qualities and then write from a specific angle.
That means that every time you want to express an idea, you don’t simply state a fact, but you also include specific details and examples to develop your ideas. You can do that by offering examples from your personal experiences and writing about what truly motivates you and how you developed a certain belief.
6. Stick to a clear essay plan
Creativity is an aspect very much appreciated in writing, but don’t assume that a creative essay is not also an organized one. Obviously, you don't want to write a bunch of words without meaning, so make sure you write about just one subject at a time.
You will have a maximum number of words, so the secret is not to try to cover everything in your essay. Create a plan before you actually start writing, organize your essay in three parts (introduction, body and conclusion), and decide on the main ideas you want to express.
7. Ask someone to proofread your work
You want to create a great college application, so you will probably read it over and over again in order to make sure there are no typos and spelling and grammar errors. But after a while, you might need a fresh perspective. It's best to ask someone who hasn't seen it yet to take a look, as they're likely to see mistakes you won't catch.
If you ask a teacher or parent to proofread your essay, they will be able not only to catch mistakes, but also to check if the writing sounds like you. After reading so many examples and following all those instructions, it’s hard to tell if what you just wrote is a statement of who you really are or not. Enlist the help of others to make sure that your essay is immaculate.
Now start writing and craft an extraordinary essay!
500 words that will help you get into college
Writing your college admissions essay can definitely be stressful. Between work and school, you may barely be able to stay awake, let alone worry about writing this essay. With so many other qualified candidates applying, this one little essay can often mean the difference between being accepted to the school of your dreams and never moving out of your parents' basement.
But don't let that scare you away from trying! Think of your college admissions essay as an opportunity to stand out from other applicants and really make an impression. With some planning and careful consideration, you can draft a great college admissions essay that will vastly improve your chances of being accepted to the college of your choice.
1. Don't write an autobiography
Make sure to give your essay a solid theme or thesis. Sometimes a college may specify a topic for you, other times they may let you choose your own; either way, make sure your focus is both narrow and personal. Remember you may only have 500 words.
Pick one story or event in your life to focus on; don't try to cover everything and don't ramble. Don't write a resume or list your accomplishments; this information can be found elsewhere in your application. Your college admissions essay should tell a clear and engaging story, perhaps one about overcoming a difficult time in your life, getting your first pet, or where your love of gardening comes from.
2. Show your personality
Try to view the college admissions essay portion of your application as an opportunity to highlight who you are as an individual. This is the time to let your passions and personality really shine through. The application gives the admissions officer facts about you, but the college admissions essay tells him or her who you really are.
Show the admissions officer you are mature, thoughtful, and responsible. Other qualities he or she will be looking for include empathy, confidence, creativity, persistence, and organization.
3. Have a great opener
Be sure to have a great lead to your essay. Consider starting it off with a relevant quote, anecdote, question, or brief story. Grab the reader's attention and make him or her want to read your college admissions essay, not put it at the bottom of the pile!
4. Make the admissions officer smile
Don't be afraid to add a little humor to your essay—but just a touch! You don't want the admissions officer thinking you aren't taking the task seriously. However, a well-placed witticism can lighten an especially deep or personal essay.
5. Make every word count
College admissions essays often have a very limited word count, so make the most of every word. Avoid being overly wordy; simple language often conveys your meaning best. Watch out for vague or meaningless sentences and be especially aware of unintended meanings.
6. Avoid cliches
Nothing can ruin a great piece of writing like a cliché; it sounds lazy and it can seem as though you're trying to make up for poor content. Look at any comparisons or analogies and avoid being corny or predictable. You want the person reading your college admissions essay to think you are smart, fresh, and creative; you don't want the reader rolling his or her eyes at an overused simile.
7. Show, don't tell
Make sure you are being specific. Don't just say your mission to Guatemala opened your eyes and leave it at that; describe how working with orphaned children really changed your perspective on Western life and why. Use facts, quotations, and examples to tell your story.
You can't just write one draft of your college admissions essay and think it will be ready to send. Start by writing a rough draft. Don't worry about quality at this stage. After you've completed your rough draft, take some time away from it and start again with fresh eyes. When you are editing your admissions essay, don't look at particulars like spelling and grammar; rather, look at the college admissions essay as a whole. Find your essay's weaknesses and work on those.
Once satisfied with your revised college admissions essay, it's time to proofread for clarity, spelling, and grammar. Ask someone else to review your paper. Writers are often unable to see mistakes in their own work, so having someone else check your essay will double your chances of catching any stray errors. Our admissions essay editors will examine your college admissions essay and ensure it is not only free of errors, but that it also makes sense.
10. Take your time
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to write your college admissions essay; don't expect to write it the night before you need to submit your application. Allow yourself plenty of time to brainstorm ideas, write the initial draft, revise, and edit your application. The earlier you begin, the better your essay will be.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you can do this. All you need to do is relax and enjoy telling your story!
Image source: Tamarcus Brown/Unsplash.com
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