Originally Posted: Oct 7, 2019
Last Updated: Jul 20, 2020
The college admission essay offers you the opportunity to refigure all the numbers of your college applications into a portrait of you. While many students have similar test scores, no two students have the same college admission essay. This essay is the space to not only impress admission counselors but to establish your identity and tell them who you are. Try not to think of your admission essay as a rhetorical argument but instead as a story of you. Framing your essay in such a way will help you write with the genuine, reflective context that admission counselors are looking for.
How to articulate your story
Before you can dive into your essay, you need to know a few things. You need to know what you’re writing about, the angel you want to take in telling your story, and how that topic is going to address your essay prompt. Here’s a look at what you need to consider before you start writing.
Express your passion
The way to best guarantee a strong admission essay is to choose a topic that’s important to you. Strong writing always has a voice, and admission officers are looking for that voice when assessing the effectiveness of your story. It’s readily apparent when a student is reaching to impress the reader with false interests or heroic accounts. It’s always better to be genuine about your beliefs and experiences, keeping your narrative simple and honest. Admission counselors will always be able to tell the difference. Though it’s essential to write about a topic you’re passionate about, it’s also best to strengthen your application with complexity. If the only time you spend outside the school choir and marching band is when you’re working in a music store, it might actually be detrimental to write about the time you earned first-chair as a flutist. Admission counselors want to explore your identity in your essay, not just read a reiteration of your résumé.
It’s also important to ensure that you’re not just recounting your experiences throughout your essay but reflecting on them. It’s not enough to list all the tasks you fulfilled during your internship abroad or the workout schedule you followed to make the varsity team. You must elaborate on what you learned from your experiences and how they came to change you. All your claims should be backed up by examples and vice versa. It’s your reception of and reaction to change that will reveal your personality in the way admission counselors are looking for.
To make sure your examples and message correlate, construct an outline to guide your points before writing any of them down in a proper format. Though most essays are broken down into an introduction, body, and conclusion, it’s okay to rearrange the traditional essay format for your own purposes. Uniqueness lies not only in the result of your experiences but in the way you reflect on them.
Address the prompt
Most importantly, a successful college essay must answer the question. All too often, students are too excited to share their stories that they forget to address the prompt. The prompt should be inserted into the story (without repeating it word for word) with examples connected directly to the questions it asks. By explaining how your experiences taught you important life lessons through the lens of the essay prompt, you’ll produce a narrative that any admission counselor would be happy to read.
Perfecting your story
Once you have a solid idea and plan for what you want to write about in your essay and how you’re going to write it, you need to fine tune in. Once you think you’re done there will be another section to tweak and more mistakes to find. Here’s what you need to know about perfecting your essay before you’re ready to submit it with your college applications.
It’s beneficial to ensure that nothing from your application is repeated in your essay. As you select a topic of your paper that reveals a part of you beyond your résumé, you should also avoid listing your accolades and accomplishments. The admission essay is not the place to move the counselors with feats that your application already does for you.
Write with your voice
Despite the pressure to impress admission counselors, it’s detrimental to rely on a thesaurus too much to elevate your vocabulary. When a writer establishes a voice, it can be obvious when that voice is compromised by embellished language. Though admission counselors want to read strong writing, they’re more interested in the introspection of a teenager experiencing life.
Funny people beware
You should also be careful with humor. Though admission counselors aren’t likely to forget the student who made them laugh, there’s a large chance that you and an admission counselor may not agree on what’s humorous due to age and education gaps. Such a discrepancy may trash what may otherwise be a strong essay.
The work after your essay is written is just as important as the work before and during the process. Write several drafts of your admission essay to make it the best it can be before submission. Reading aloud is useful for editing your work, marking mistakes in grammar and fluidity that are difficult to catch when reading to yourself. It’s beneficial to read your essay aloud to yourself but even more important to share it with others who can help you edit. Peer review is one of the most useful ways to improve your writing. Work with a teacher you’re close with—you’ll be under the guidance of somebody who’s not only informed about the fundamentals of writing but informed about the fundamentals of you. After all. you want your essay to be a reflection on your identity, not just your strong writing.
When all is said and done
When your essay is complete, it should be a solid display of evidence-based claims, proper grammar and spelling, and reflective introspection. It should dive into your identity and narrate to an admission counselor that you belong at their institution. It’s helpful to read other essays for guidance, but your final piece should be a reflection of who you are and who you want to be. It’s a story of growth through experience—an extension of yourself that carries more weight than numbers ever could.
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