Tips for writing a successful college application essay
So you’re nearing graduation from high school, you’ve painstakingly selected potential future colleges, and you’ve endured the application process. But there’s one final obstacle before you submit your college application: the application essay. Writing can be a daunting task, especially when it feels like your future is on the line. An essay not only has the power to display your academic achievements, but it can also express your voice and individuality. Your application essay can give you the upper hand among equally qualified applicants and improve your chances of being accepted into your college of choice. Here are some tips to help you survive the application essay.
Choose your topic wisely
Before you begin, think about the purpose of the college application essay. Why does admissions require a preview of your writing? Colleges use this essay to assess your critical thinking skills, determine your writing abilities, and to distinguish you among all the other applicants. Can you write clearly and coherently? Are you able to fully develop your ideas within the parameters? Is there something unique about you that your application couldn’t reflect? Choose the topic that will best demonstrate all these criteria to the college.
Write it all out
The hardest part of writing is getting started. Don’t worry about making your essay good yet – just get all your words on the page first. Writing is rewriting, and once you have all your ideas out there, then you can focus on refining your essay. I know how tempting it can be to edit as you go, but it’s a lot harder to revise an essay if you don’t have one to begin with. I like to keep in mind this quote from young adult novelist Shannon Hale: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
Keep it clear and concise
Admissions has to read a lot of these. You’ll want to hook them with a solid intro, and keep them engaged, so don’t lose them with a wordy, long-winded body. Avoid being vague or obscure, and make sure you clearly answer the question the prompt is asking – your essay needs to show that you can adeptly and succinctly present your argument, fully develop your ideas, and adhere to the word requirement.
There are thousands of applicants whose test scores and accomplishments are just as impressive as yours. What can you do to distinguish yourself from the rest? The application essay serves to showcase everything you couldn’t put in your application, so use your essay to show the college who you are and what makes you a unique addition to their school. Your beliefs, your experiences, your values – dig deep and find the thing that’s meaningful to you, the thing that makes you you, and express that.
Drop the mic
So you grabbed admissions’ attention, and you kept them engaged throughout a well-crafted and coherent essay – don’t go out with a whimper. A weak conclusion has the danger of making your essay a forgettable one, despite its strengths. Avoid going that route, especially if you had them swayed until the very end. Find that perfect mic-drop conclusion that will make your essay, and you, memorable.
When you finish your essay, read it aloud. Have someone else read it. Refine it until it’s clear, engaging, and reflective of who you are. While it’s important that your essay showcases your abilities, don’t worry about making it perfect – it just has to represent you, and what you can offer to the college that nobody else can. And you have a lot to offer – build your castle and show them that.