Writing a Great College Essay
How to create an essay that reflects your best self.
Stella Santa Ana, Student Contributor
January 08, 2018
Writing a good college essay is perhaps one of the most essential skills you should gain when applying for college. When you submit an application, you’re basically trying to convince a complete stranger that you have what it takes to go to their school.
Yet what do you give them? A few years’ worth of grades, test scores, and a $50 application fee. That’s what makes the college essay so important.
These allow you to show admission counselors the side of you that isn’t visible from your transcript or ACT score report. In fact, they may even be able to tell more about who you are.
Here are a few tips that should help you create an outstanding essay.
1. Be original.
Colleges want to know about you. Therefore, their essay topics will most likely ask you something about yourself. The key to writing a good essay is to understand that these admission counselors aren’t looking for just a unique or interesting response – they’re looking for something original.
For example, if an essay prompt asks you to write about something you did over the summer, you could write about that pretty cool trip you and your family took to Disneyland.
However, if you really want to wow your essay reader, you could write about something you did that wasn’t as “fun” but still had an impact on you. Instead of writing about roller coasters and getting sunburned, you could write about how volunteering at the animal shelter gave you a brand new perspective on life and ignited a passion for animal rights within you.
An original topic may not be the most exciting, but as long as you write about how it affected you personally, this will make your essay stand out among the rest.
2. Write about you.
Growing up, we’ve been taught that essays are supposed to be formal and that they should hardly ever be written in the first person. College essays are not like that. College essays are about you and you only. That’s why you can include as much first person narrative as you want, as long as you’re getting your point across.
What makes a college essay impactful is one that is personal to the person who wrote it. While it may seem a bit weird to write about yourself when you’re so used to just writing about facts, remember that your essay reader wants to know about you.
If an essay prompt asks you what you like to do about your free time, don’t write that you like to swim because it’s a great form of aerobic exercise. Write that you like to swim because you can recall your happiest memories when you were in the pool, swimming with your friends.
A big factor colleges consider is who you are as a person, and essays are the primary place you can demonstrate that.
3. Enlist the help of others.
As it should be with any essay, have others proofread yours. Not only will they point out grammatical errors (or awe in your brilliance), they’ll bring a new perspective to the table.
A friend of mine recently asked me to go over her supplements she was sending off to an Ivy League school. One of her essays was a response to a prompt in which she had to write a letter to a future roommate. It was a brilliant essay – it was funny and showcased her interests…yet something about it was missing. After discussing it, we both realized what it was missing – and that was the conclusion, the tying up all the loose ends. My friend finally concluded the essay by discussing how she believed creating meaningful relationships was what she was most looking forward to in college, and that she was very excited to meet her new roommate. The essay was now complete.
By having others look at your essays, they’ll bring new ideas that you may not have considered. These fresh insights will not only make your essays stronger and more impactful, but they’ll showcase who you are a little bit better. Chances are, whoever you have read your essay will know a little about you themselves – and this could make your essay a bit more unique and original.
4. Follow the guidelines!
Most, if not all, essay prompts come with some sort of guideline. It could either be a word count or the prompt itself. Don’t get too caught up in the excitement of writing a killer essay and forget to read these requirements. They’re just as important as the actual essay!
You wouldn’t want to write a beautiful essay that’s fifty words over the word count and jeopardize your admission would you? Pay close attention to the requirements and what the essay is asking for. Your essay will be all the better.
Overall, your essay should reflect your best answer to the prompt – with your own unique twist, that shows off how awesome you are. When colleges create their essay prompts, they have an idea of what kind of responses they should be getting. By answering something that they may not have imagined, this will make your essay stand out from the rest.
Remember to be original, write about you, enlist the help of others and follow the guidelines, you’ll be writing amazing essays in no time!
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