College Planning Resources
College admissions essays are very important. Colleges receive quantitative data about our students including grades, test scores, etc., but essays, however, paint a picture of each applicant. They breathe life into a student’s application. Selective colleges normally require an essay. Many other colleges do not require essays. Some college applications ask for a short response. The best essays are not only well written, they present what are often ordinary events from an unusual perspective. Be sure to directly answer the question.
What makes a good impression? Enthusiasm, intelligence, talent, leadership, maturity, writing ability, creativity, and perseverance are all high on the list, but no one expects to find them all wrapped up in one person. What colleges want is honest insight. A good essay conveys the writer as a real and valuable person worth knowing. It expresses who you are and what you have accomplished and fills in the gaps in the statistics, explaining what four years of facts will not show. Please do not repeat your activity list within your college essay.
English teachers and counselors are available to review essays with the student. Students may share their essays with those whose opinions they respect. Students should be careful that the essays are not edited so much that they are no longer their words or a reflection of who they are!
Tips For Writing an Excellent College Essay:
- Plan ahead and leave plenty of time to write and revise.
- Make yourself shine within your story and reveal your personality.
- Read each question carefully and think about what it is asking. Make sure the essay addresses the specific question.
- All responses should be original. Take the opportunity to make an impression—to share values, talents, humor, intelligence, creativity, commitment, and passion. Make sure essays are memorable and stand out from the crowd.
- Avoid trying to write what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. Paint a picture of the “real’ you.
- Essays can show priorities or demonstrate the ability to synthesize and analyze. The essay can also explain exceptional circumstances or show how a student reacts to opportunities and challenges.
- Be specific when responding to questions that ask why a student would want to attend a particular school. This is a way to express motivation.
- Even if it is not required, an essay can often enhance an application. The fact that a student puts in the extra effort to prepare one makes a positive statement.
- Make sure word or space limitations are not exceeded and avoid careless errors.
- Use personal stories: Own your essay, in this way no one else can tell your story, this is what makes you unique.
- Write descriptively: Engage the reader and be specific about your experience. Use powerful imagery and personal anecdotes whenever you can. Leave the reader with a lasting impression.
- Seek the opinion of others. Show your essay to an adult whose opinion you respect (counselor, parent, English teacher).
- Be concise. More is not better.
- Use active voice verbs.
- Write in your own voice.
- Be truthful.
- Try to be funny if you’re not.
- Use Thesaurus words.
- Use the name of the wrong college in the essay.
- Be cynical, over-competitive, or critical. Colleges will wonder if that is the personality you will bring with you.
- Exceed the word limit.
- Write chronologically.
- Use slang language.
- Have someone else write your essay! Deans of admission know the voice of a high school senior.