College Essay Application Tips
Admissions officers have to read an unbelievable number of college essays, most of which are forgettable. Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves. Others write about a subject that they don't care about, but that they think will impress admissions officers.
College Essay Application Tips
A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.
Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.
Admissions officers also want to see that the student can give a direct answer while sticking to a comprehensive narrative. When writing college essays, consider the point you want to make and develop a fleshed-out response that fits the prompt. Avoid force-fitting prewritten pieces. Approach every personal essay prompt as if it's your first.
Also, avoid stressing about trying to write what you think colleges want to see. Learning how to draft a good essay for college is about showcasing who you are. Stay true to your voice. Keep in mind that authenticity is more important than anything else.
A personal essay for college applications is an opportunity for admission admissions panels to get more insight into who you are and what you have to offer. It's often the most personal component of the application, going beyond grades and standardized test scores. Essays usually have open-ended prompts, allowing you to flex your writing skills and make a personal statement.
Learning how to write a successful essay for college is crucial. This essay's exact weight on your chances of acceptance varies from one school to the next. But it's an element of your application that all admissions teams consider. Your essay could be the thing that gets you off a waiting list or gives you a competitive edge over other applicants.
Knowing what to include in a college essay is half the battle. Admissions teams look for many things, but the most influential are authenticity, writing ability, character details, and positive traits. The purpose of the essay is to shed light on your background and gain perspective on your real-world experiences.
Because you'll want to tailor each application to each school, expect to write multiple personal essays. Advisers typically recommend starting these pieces during the summer before your senior year of high school. This will give you ample time to concentrate on writing a college essay before you're hit with schoolwork.
Good topics when writing college essays include personal achievements, meaningful lessons, life-changing challenges, and situations that fostered personal growth. It's best to avoid anything too intimate or controversial. You want to open up, but it's not a good idea to go overboard or alienate members of the admissions panel.
Read the prompt and essay instructions thoroughly to learn how to start off a college essay. Some colleges provide guidance about formatting. If not, the best course of action is to stick with a college standard like the MLA format.
As a college with a long tradition of emphasizing writing and speaking as cornerstone values, we like to say that students come to Hamilton to find their voice. In our admission process, we seek students who embody that aspiration and demonstrate that potential in their application essays and short-answers, and their communication with us.
Each year, about half of our applicants submit their application in the last few days before the deadline. Even our ED early birds seem to know how to procrastinate. So as our November 1 ED deadline approaches, I thought I'd write to you, future applicants everywhere, and give you four easy tips for a great college essay. Here we go!
1. It's time to be a little self-centered: Despite the often bad rap, I find seniors in high school have a hard time being self-centered when it comes to writing their college essays. Often your instinct is to write about something else - an experience, another person, a favorite activity - rather than your personality, passions, or quirks. This makes sense; your writing experience up until this point has consisted of essays on books you've read or concepts you've learned. But now we need you to look inward. Fight the urge to focus on your athletic practice schedule, the grandparent you admire, or the community service experience from last summer. You may use these people or experiences as launching pads to discuss yourself, but that is all they should be. What kind of teammate are you? Is grandpa the reason you've always got a harmonica in your purse? Did the service trip spark a deep interest in a specific social issue that now drives your academic study? These are better areas of focus than the sport, grandparent, or trip themselves.
2. It's all about detail: As I see it, you have two options when exploring a topic in your college essay: go broad or go deep. Let me give an example: in writing about your budding interest in art history, you could write that you've always loved visiting museums, and how your art history course in high school solidified the interest. Then you could list your favorite artists. That's going broad. OR, you could geek out about Edward Hopper. You could write about his lonely, minimalist paintings and how they make you feel, and you could tell the reader that you've always admired his talent for telling a whole story with only a few seemingly unimportant characters. You could write about your own storytelling and how it is inspired by Hopper. That's going deep. One is better than the other (I'll give you a hint: it's the second one). By focusing on details, you set yourself apart; many people love museums and could list some artists that they like. Not many have taken the time to geek out about Edward Hopper on paper.
4. Show your essay to two people, and no more: Often the worst thing that can happen to a college essay is editing. Of course editing is important (spell check people), but when you have many different people giving you feedback, you often lose your voice in all the changes. You're hidden behind perfect grammar, sterile language, and phrases thrown in because "it's what admissions officers want to hear." Let me demystify something for you: I hate the things you write because "it's what admissions officers want to hear." They're boring. And forced. And misguided. Sometimes you need to disregard the conventions of English essay writing to make sure your tone and style are prominent. Then show your essays to two people - one who is a strong writer, and one who knows you really well (they can tell you if your essay is genuinely YOU). After that, I beg of you, stop.
Admission officers want to get past the facts of your application to discern your capacity for critical thinking. How do you process information about yourself and the world around you? What do you care about? Which experiences have defined you? Your essay should reveal how and why have they shaped you.
Not all colleges require an admissions essay, but for those that do, what you say about yourself can set you apart from other applicants. The personal information you include in your essay makes you more than just a compilation of test scores and transcripts. You become a unique individual with skills and talents to contribute to a college community.
The Common App essay gives colleges the opportunity to learn more about you as a person and what's important to you. You should use this space to tell your story and reveal different facets of your personality.
The application form provides you with a box in which to type your essay; however, it's strongly recommended that you compose your essay in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or another word processor before copying and pasting your final draft into this box.
The Common App essay is a key part of your college application. According to a 2019 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 56.4% of colleges surveyed considered the personal statement moderately or considerably important. Highly selective institutions tended to place more emphasis on the essay.
"Applying to a hyper-selective college with mediocre or uneven grades and a fabulous essay will likely not get you into that college, [whereas] applying to a hyper-selective college with top grades and scores, outstanding extracurriculars, and a mediocre essay could sink your application," she said.
Admissions officers, higher education administrators, education consultants, and college admissions advisors like Benedict have many tricks for approaching the Common App essay. Here are some of their biggest tips.
Tyler Epps is an editor for BestColleges. He writes and edits content about higher education, specializing in degree planning and college rankings. He is passionate about helping students prepare for college and navigate their educational journey. He holds a BSBA in management and a minor in human resources from Appalachian State University. He also has a background in online research and writing.","image":"https:\/\/res.cloudinary.com\/highereducation\/images\/c_fill,g_face,f_auto,q_auto,h_60,w_60\/v1659637439\/BestColleges.com\/Tyler-Epps_1331150706\/Tyler-Epps_1331150706.jpeg?_i=AA","link":"https:\/\/www.bestcolleges.com\/contributors\/tyler-epps\/","linkedin":"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/tyler-epps-690a01106\/","twitter":"","web":"","career":"","subject":"","categories":["name":"Editor","slug":"editor","name":"Writer","slug":"writer"],"interviews":,"events":}],"date":"January 18, 2022","content":"Applying to college? Discover seven tips for writing a college essay that can help you gain admission to your top school.","id":14442},"link":"https:\/\/www.bestcolleges.com\/resources\/college-application-essays\/","image":"https:\/\/res.cloudinary.com\/highereducation\/images\/v1642619623\/BestColleges.com\/BC_Resources_College-Planning_College-Apllication-Essays_1.19.22_FTR_v2\/BC_Resources_College-Planning_College-Apllication-Essays_1.19.22_FTR_v2.jpg","title":"How to Write a College Application Essay: A Complete Guide","author":["id":12089,"name":"Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.","description":"Juliann Scholl, Ph.D., was a tenured professor at Texas Tech University for several years, where she taught undergraduates and graduate students and served as a graduate admissions director. She also worked as a social scientist for the CDC. Juliann currently enjoys writing about higher education, health and medicine, crisis communication, travel, business, finance, and lifestyle.\r\n\r\nJuliann holds a Ph.D. in communication studies from the University of Oklahoma. She also has an MA from the University of Alabama and a BA from the University of Nebraska.","image":"https:\/\/res.cloudinary.com\/highereducation\/images\/c_fill,g_face,f_auto,q_auto,h_60,w_60\/v1659637629\/BestColleges.com\/Juliann_Scholl_12213146f8\/Juliann_Scholl_12213146f8.png?_i=AA","link":"https:\/\/www.bestcolleges.com\/contributors\/juliann-scholl\/","linkedin":"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/juliann-scholl-0730639\/","twitter":"","web":"","career":"","subject":"Higher education, health and medicine, crisis communication, travel, business, finance, lifestyle","categories":["name":"Writer","slug":"writer"],"interviews":,"events":],"date":"November 7, 2022","content":"The college application essay is a key part of the admissions process. Learn how to write a personal statement for college, including what to avoid.","id":2201,"link":"https:\/\/www.bestcolleges.com\/business\/mba\/common-mba-essay-questions\/","image":"https:\/\/res.cloudinary.com\/highereducation\/image\/upload\/f_auto,fl_lossy,q_auto\/v1\/BestColleges.com\/cards\/BC_default.jpg","title":"Common MBA Essay Questions and How to Tackle Them","author":["id":12153,"name":"Stefanie Grodman","description":"Former tutor Stefanie Grodman has a bachelor's degree in English from Muhlenberg College. She enjoys researching and writing about a variety of topics including education, sustainability, politics, and the arts.","image":"https:\/\/res.cloudinary.com\/highereducation\/images\/c_fill,g_face,f_auto,q_auto,h_60,w_60\/v1659637662\/BestColleges.com\/Stefanie_Grodman_12188debb8\/Stefanie_Grodman_12188debb8.jpeg?_i=AA","link":"https:\/\/www.bestcolleges.com\/contributors\/stefanie-grodman\/","linkedin":"https:\/\/www.linkedin.com\/in\/stefaniegrodman\/","twitter":"","web":"","career":"","subject":"Education, sustainability, politics, the arts","categories":["name":"Writer","slug":"writer"],"interviews":,"events":],"date":"April 25, 2022","content":"The MBA admission essay can be a crucial part of your application. Explore common prompts and essay samples so you can stand out.","id":9863]; Explore More College Resources View all by Staff Writers February 9, 2023 How to Write a Body Paragraph for a College Essay by Staff Writers February 18, 2021 College Application Deadlines for Fall 2023 Admission by Staff Writers September 1, 2021 BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.