Oh, the dreaded college admissions essay. Everyone, it seems, has the same question: What do I write about?
Suddenly, it’s hard to imagine anything that makes you stand out. But, of course, there is an essay topic
out there for everyone.
Often, students hear stories of essays about the week spent volunteering in Africa or a class that was especially challenging. These are common essays, students are told, that will not make you stand out unless they are Shakespearean in scope and quality.
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In all likelihood, the essay of an eighteen-year-old will not rival the Bard and so students fear that their essay topic
won’t be original enough to make up for imperfect writing.
The truth is that students will not find their essay topic overnight. Very seldom is it that a student can sift through every obstacle they've faced, consider every achievement they've attained and come up with a single experience they want to extend into an entire essay.
Your essay should represent who you are as an applicant, what you’ve been through and your potential as a college student. Through your essay, colleges can see your personality, an element of the application process that does not come out in your SAT scores or grades.
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Starting as far as possible from your application deadline, it is advisable to speak to whoever you can about your topic.
What’s your strongest personality trait that should come across in the essay? What are qualities you want to avoid emphasizing?
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For example, throwing tasteful jokes or anecdotes in can show you have a sense of humor. However, making fun of yourself can make a reader think you “lack self-confidence” instead of the intended goal of coming across as “humble” or “witty.”
The best way to check if a perspective, point or topic is appropriate is to have multiple people read the essay.
On the other hand, having too many people review the essay could cloak your voice, which is the main reason for writing the essay
. Whatever you change or adjust in the essay, remember that it is your
essay and should sound like it. The number of people who read the essay
should be low, maybe five people and should only include the opinions of those that you trust.
Perhaps a parent is the first person to ask. A parent has known you since the day you were born and will be able to tell you if the essay sounds uniquely yours
Then, a teacher or instructor can make sure that you seem professional and that your writing is impressive
. Other resources, such as other family members, friends or additional teachers, can be useful as well.
Some students utilize tutors to edit and revise their essays
. For those with the funding to do so, this can be a very worthwhile investment, as long as the sessions are used wisely. But, keep in mind that hiring a tutor does not mean that your essay
will necessarily be any better than another candidate’s essay. With enough work
and dedication, any college application essay
can be stellar.
At the Brown
information session, the speaker stated that the best admissions essay
that he had ever read was about whether the writer was more of a nacho or a Dorito. While this is not the traditional topic for a college essay
, it still impressed the reader enough to be his favorite essay of his career.
However your essay reads, make sure to edit and revise
until there are absolutely no grammar
or spelling mistakes
. Obviously, this is a given, and any successful high school student will have learned to do this with every paper.
Overall, the essay is a student’s chance to show their personality and add a personal touch to the application.
Coupled with adequate SAT scores and grades, an admissions essay
can make or break an application, in many cases. Make sure to put in the time and effort
, because it may mean the difference between a letter of rejection or an admission invitation to the university of your dreams.
Still stumped? Check out these sample essay questions, which can help you think about your life experiences, goals and what makes you unique. Perhaps they'll inspire you to think of a great college essay topic!