There are many facets to a successful college application. Grades and test scores, recommendation letters, and interview are only a few of the elements taken into consideration by admissions committees. There is also another important part, and it is one that gives you a chance to share who you are: the admission essay.
High school seniors often panic about writing the essay. With word limits to think about and admissions officers to impress, the essay can seem like it may make or break your admission decision. While a poor essay won’t necessarily ruin your chances of getting into your dream school, it is definitely one aspect that can give you a much-needed edge. So what should you write about? In the end, it’s less about what you write than about how you write it, and even more importantly, who shines through the essay: you!
Get (Kinda) Personal
An admissions essay is not like a research paper or book report. Instead, it is a story. The admission committee wants to read your words and immediately know who you are and what you’d bring to their campus. The more personal you can be, the better. This demonstrates you as a likeable, open, authentic, and genuine person; one who will be an asset to their institution. Your story should be personal and meaningful to you, but it shouldn’t delve into territory that is too uncomfortable. You want to make the readers feel moved, but not put them off with oversharing.
Admissions teams are tired of reading the same old essay over and over again. Many topics are overdone (sports championships, cliche volunteer stories). Consider something fresh, but something that is unique and truly you. If the university offers a prompt for the essay, you’ve already won half the battle. Now, spend some time and come up with a great answer, perhaps one with an innovative perspective that they won’t expect.
Write in Your Own Voice
The admissions essay is not your opportunity to impress (well, maybe a little). It should be clear that you can communicate well with the written word and that you can easily share your views. But leave the “showing off” for other areas of your application such as academic transcripts and lists of achievements. The essay should delve into who you truly are. One of the best ways to do this is to write in your own voice. Avoid slangs and colloquialisms, but try and write in a way that’s similar to how you speak. Don’t bother filling your essay with lengthy vocabulary words you would never use in everyday life. This comes across and disingenuous and most likely doesn’t reflect who you are as a high school student.
Write About Something That Matters to You
If you only had a few minutes to tell an admissions committee about yourself, what would you say? What story would you tell? The answer to that question may reveal the ideal topic for your essay. A strong essay should have a beginning, middle, and end, and ideally include a conflict or struggle. Showing how you dealt with a challenge in your life is always a great starting point, as is writing about a significant life event that shaped you or changed you.