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How to write a college admissions essay

Bethany Arnold, Editor

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Even if you’re a junior and especially if you’re a senior you should start writing your college admittance essays NOW. Deadlines are coming up quickly, and for you seniors that means you should definitely be working on your essays.

For juniors, if you get started now, you will be thanking yourself later. Items such as common app essays will be the same next year as they are this year. Starting on them now will give you with that much more time to write, rewrite, revise, and finalize your essays before your senior year. Do not fret if you are a senior right now because this is for you. Following these steps will not only increase your chances of acceptance, but will make the essay portion a breeze.

Essays are an important part of the application process. They are what give a list of numbers personality and character. The essays are a chance to show the application viewers that your accomplishments have meaning and that you can contribute more to the college than just academics.

Choosing your essay topic: There are prompts given on the common application website from which to choose, but not all colleges are on the common app. For help on using the Common App, see “How to navigate the Common App.” Although, most of the prompts are along the lines of describe an accomplishment, explain a new idea, or tell us what you would contribute to [the college]. You can choose your essay prompt first, or choose your essay topic first, and then shape your own topic to fit one of the prompts that is given. A tip for the “why would you like to attend [this college]” essay is to incorporate the college’s mission statement into your essay. The mission can be located on the college’s homepage or their “about us” page. Usually, colleges would like to see that you agree with their mission and would like to see how you could contribute to it.

Before writing your essay, it can be extremely helpful to read other sample essays. This will give you an idea of what a “good” essay looks like. This could be done by simply searching “sample Common App essays.” Two essays are also attached at the end of this article, written by 2017 graduates of Rogers High School.

The most important thing to remember when writing an essay is DO NOT BE CLICHE. You could write about how you brought your losing sports teams all the way to championship, or how you overcame your troubles to get an A on a test, but guess what? Application viewers have seen those about a million times, and it doesn’t interest them. A common misconception is that the essay has to be academic-related, but it most certainly does not. They would rather hear about your vinyl collection, your horse races, or your YouTube channel with a million subscribers.

Since your essay is the only thing on your application portraying your character, they don’t need to see you do well in school. They can see that in numbers and letters. They want to hear about your dedication, your passion, your responsibility, put into action. One of the best things to do is to try to make your admissions officer enjoy your essay, and even make them laugh. The essay is not the  place to throw your thesaurus into, the words should personally fit you. Now, that goes to say, bragging isn’t preferred. There are lots of ways to say you’re good at something, so don’t make it seem like you’re calling yourself perfect. Also, humor isn’t exactly “my hobby is DabBinG oN tHoSe HaTeRs.” It’s more of adding a little humorous flare into the style of your writing to keep your officer interested, which is most easily added into the introduction.

When writing your essay, possibly the easiest way to start it out is with a story. It can be humorous, it can be heartbreaking, it can be riveting. This will be the first thing they read, and possibly one of the only things. The truth about essays is, officers might not have time to read every single word you write in your essay. The first paragraph is the most important paragraph, so it should have your personality and your thesis within it. That way within 30 seconds they have a good idea of who you are as well as what the essay is about.

One of the key rules in college essays is that there should be NO mechanical errors. Reread your essay multiple times to revise it, but have many others edit it. Others shouldn’t revise your work because essentially changing your writing could be changing our style, but mechanically you should have as many people look over it as possible. This could be your peers, your English teacher, or your counselor. Mechanical errors in an essay are extremely unattractive, and might even cost you an acceptance. Take the time to make sure there are absolutely none within yours.

Essays might seem like the most daunting part of the college applications, but following these steps can maximize and simplify the process entirely. Start writing now.

 

Virginia Paschal’s Common App essay, now attending Pomona College.

Ryan Glover’s Common App Essay, now attending College of William and Mary.

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1 Comment

One Response to “How to write a college admissions essay”

  1. R. Stevens on September 6th, 2017 3:39 pm

    WOW! Love your idea and your article. You give such relevant and important information. Keep it coming because students need to understand the importance of that essay.

    [Reply]

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