The College Essay

As I’ve said before, the most important part about the college application is the essay. It tell the college that you’re applying for what it is that you do and why they should accept you among the other applicants; in short, what sets you apart? Writing the essay can be the most difficult part about the application because it forces you to reflect on your goals and accomplishments and do it in a way that would grab your reader’s (the admissions officer in this case) attention. But how do you do that?

One thing to note is that many colleges require several essays and ask specific questions, but for the more general ones, you’ll have to come up with whatever stands out the most and be as concise as possible. I managed to find a few tips from Purdue OWL, UNC, and Peterson’s to help you with that:

  • When answering the question(s), be as accurate and concise as possible. And most importantly, be honest with yourself. An admissions officer can tell when a student is trying to impress them when there’s little proof to back up what you’re saying. If there’s any doubt, they can always look at your grades or your letters of recommendation; you don’t want them to do that. You want to be professional, of course, but try not to be “stiff” in your writing.
  • Take risks. Relay a personal event that may have influenced your motivations or aspirations, or write a poem even, if you’re good at it. The College Board gives an example of this, which in fact involves the entire essay, telling the reader in so many words that the student learned to be honest with himself. Another way to look at this is you should be creative in your response.
  • Make references to the career field and degree program that you want to go into. Again, be creative.
  • Proofread. ‘Nuff said.
  • If the questions asked don’t engage you, ask yourself: “Why do I want to go here?” Maybe that college really isn’t for you.

Writing the essay, or essays,  is going to take some time. You will be going through several drafts before your essays are presentable. Writing is an art and you will want to be sure that what you write portrays who you are in the best way possible.  Start working on it a month or two before the deadline and be sure everything (including letters of recommendations, transcripts, etc.) is submitted at least two weeks before the deadline, just to be it all gets there on time; you don’t want to go through all that hard work for nothing.