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Tips to Writing a Good US College Admissions Essay

I remember my dad telling me that I had to finish a rough draft of my college essay by the time school started. Even though most college applications weren’t due until around winter break, he was convinced that if I didn’t finish it five months early, I would never get it done. I told myself it wouldn’t be too difficult, I mean, what’s two pages about myself when I’ve been writing multiple page analytical essays throughout high school, right? How about no. I would consider myself a relatively strong writer, but when it comes to talking about myself, bragging about past experiences in a way that shows both my diversity, sense of self, and potential contribution to a specific institution, getting past my name is difficult. So to aid the process, below are some tips that I found helpful while writing a great college admissions essay.

TIP #1: Write about something that you are passionate about. An emotional involvement will make all the difference.
Admissions officers read enough essays to tell when an essay is honest and when it’s fake. Make sure the experience or lesson learned that you write about is true even if it’s not verifiable. You will write a better essay that way. You also need to make sure that this topic is something that actually has some significance in your life. Don’t write about a distant relative passing away to prove your cultural diversity if that death had no real impact on your life. Also try and avoid cliché essay topics unless the impact on you was legitimate and your passion for that subject is undeniable (for example, writing about mission trips can sometimes seem like a cop out, essays written about moms are also usually over done but can be great if written properly).

TIP #2: Your essay needs to prove that your admittance would be mutually beneficial.
The rest of you application already lists your accomplishments, your grades, and your tests scores. A lot of this is leaning towards how you will help the school through some facet of your personality or past experience. It’s good to include how the school will help you grow and develop as a person, creating a positive feedback loop between your own personal success and the future success of the school. For example, in my application to an all women’s college, I wrote about my past feminist experience and how studying a subject normally dominated by the male population in a classroom of all women would continue to increase my own personal empowerment and so forth. This tip usually works better in essays that are school specific but can be used for generic essays as well.

TIP #3: Brag a lot and revise a lot.
A college application is literally bullet points of bragging. They want to admit you, you have to prove them right. Don’t come off as too cocky or pretentious but prove that you have been a valuable asset to the teams with whom you’ve worked and that you can do that again at their school. Also make sure you get as many eyes as possible on your paper before you apply with a final draft. College counselors, relatives, and English teachers are all good resources. It’s also good to get feedback besides red marks on a paper. Sure, the grammar is important and using appropriate vocabulary can be a great tool but it’s always good to ask how you come off in the essay. Personable, amicable, a cultural addition, a leader, and/or a supporter are all good words. Make sure your essay is specific and targeted enough to get these types of reactions.

Writing a college essay can be one of the most challenging parts of a college application, but remember that it can be one of the most important and rewarding. Start early and prepare rough draft after rough draft until you have an essay that represents you.

Photo Credit: Flazingo Photos
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