When I first delved into the complicated business of writing my college application essays, I was at a bit of a loss for words. Honestly, it’s tricky to find outstanding originality when you’re swimming in a pool with thousands of other fish. What to write? What to say? These questions aren’t easily answered. Now add the pressure of answering them for Brown’s or Princeton’s Admissions cabinet, and being unique just reached a whole new level of urgency.
Though catering to the Ivy League standards is by no means easy, there are certain pointers that can alleviate some of its hardship. First of all, forget the whole ‘amazing role model + humanitarian ideals’ charade. I mean, I get it, it’s true…but the thing is, what universities (and prestigious ones in particular) really want to hear are your most random observations; things like a story about how you noticed the stream next to your house stopped flowing as fast, or how ant colonies were diminishing in your backyard. What these minuscule yet significant observations do for you is tremendous, because they are a little extract of how you view the world and how your eyes and mind differ from others. Scenarios like this, in which you can weave in your strengths while simultaneously being creative, are great because of their engaging and revealing nature.
Another thing to keep in mind while writing your essays is voice. An Ivy League application essay should read out, or at least attempt to read out like the writer speaks. This is one of the most important aspects of the whole ordeal because a strong voice shows conviction, character, personality, and the golden ticket: originality. What better way to sound unique than to sound like yourself? It might sound like a piece of cake, but in reality, finding one’s own voice when it comes to composition is a struggle. So, to get better at it and establish a loud one at that, it’s necessary to practice writing creative-style essays before actually sticking to the one you’ll send in to colleges.
It’s also imperative to keep in mind that most (if not all) of the Ivy League schools distribute numerous prompts besides the one in the Common Application. These are a chance to stand out from the crowd, so in order to tackle these, one has to fully understand both the question and why it is being asked. The why is especially important because it exposes what these universities are truly looking for in a candidate. Deeply researching each particular school’s history, mission, and specialties is also significantly rewarding, as it can provide specific insight into the type of students that fit into that particular scheme- and more importantly gives insight into whether or not it’s the right fit for the applicant.
Photo Credit: Andrys