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5 Easy Steps to Mastering Your International Admission Essays

You've completed applications, requested transcripts, and asked for letters of recommendation. There's only one admission hurdle left: the dreaded essay.

Each year, the college admission essay requirement causes students more stress than any other portion of the college application. What should I write? How will it be utilized and scrutinized in the admission process? What will make me stand out? These and many other questions run through students’ minds as they prepare their personal statements. Here are five pieces of advice to be mindful of as you complete your essay to give you your best chance at being admitted.

1. Let your essay provide a voice for your application

College admission offices review applications in pursuit of students who are a good match for the institution. From the other documents you have submitted, colleges can determine where you stand in terms of academics like GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, etc., but just as necessary,  is who you are. What things are important to you? What experiences will you bring to the campus community? What is your personality like? All these types of questions can and should be addressed in the essay. Colleges are interested in your story not just your marks when making an admission decision. Allow your essay to convey who you are as a person. Whether it is telling the story of a family vacation or your involvement in community service projects, the essay should capture a glimpse of who you are and what you value. The essay also provides a venue for you to explain in your own words why you want to study in the United States.

Related: How to Use Your Writing Toolbox for a Rich Admission Essay

2. Answer the prompt

Colleges give essay topics for a reason, and they want you to be on target in your response. To write an effective essay, you must properly address the prompt. If you decide to write about a current event, explain why the topic is relevant to you—don’t just report the event. If you write about an influential character, you must illustrate how they have made an impact on your life—don’t just give their biography. Also, research the institution and its mission when formulating your essay. For example, if you're asked to describe what your relationship might be like with the institution’s faculty, find out who they are and what research projects they have undertaken. This will not only provide you with a better sense of the opportunities available at the school but your essay will also establish your interest in and understanding of the university. Schools that are mission driven often ask students to address a topic that will provide the college with a sense of the student’s understanding of the mission as well as a commitment to it.

3. Make time to edit and revise

The essay is an important factor in the admission decision. At many institutions, it ranks third in importance behind only your transcript and test scores. It deserves your time and attentiveness in its creation. Set aside time to review and revise your essay. Allow others to provide comments and feedback. This is sure to enhance your essay. Admission committees recognize hard work, just as well as they can tell if the essay was written the night before the deadline. While the application process can be a time-consuming and stressful undertaking, the preparation and planning you devote to your essay can only make it better. Rest assured, that effort will be noticed.

Related: Top Tips for Writing and Editing Your University Apps

4. Check your grammar

In this day of texting and DMs, it's easy to forget that your college essay is a formal document showcasing your desire to attend the university. Never underestimate the value of proper grammar and spelling. Editorial mistakes may cast a negative light, creating an impression of you as an applicant that you do not want to make. Spend some time and allow one of your teachers or parents to read your essay and suggest changes. This extra effort can provide great benefits, like the identification of misplaced punctuation, confusing passages, or misused synonyms.

5. Pay attention to where you're submitting

The devil is in the details. This is especially true when submitting your essay. Each year, admission counselors receive essays from students intended for other schools. This may seem like a minor mistake, but it can make a significant impression on the committee. If you are writing institution-specific essays, pay attention and make sure the correct essay is submitted to each school. Also, before writing an essay that includes school-specific references, determine if the application program you're using is for one universal essay or individual submissions. Some programs only allow one essay to be submitted to all schools, and if this is the case, you may wish to send in your essays by some other means. 

Related: Expert Tips for Finalizing the US Admission Process

Mastering the application essay is an indispensable step for international students looking to secure admission to American universities. With these five easy steps, you can craft a compelling and authentic essay that effectively showcases your unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations. Make sure you edit, seek feedback, and adhere to guidelines so your application essay serves as a powerful tool to convey your academic readiness, character, and potential contributions to your schools of interest—not a reason to turn you away.

Sometimes the best way to understand how to write a good essay is to read one! You can start with all these in Volume I of our Successful Application Essays series. 

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