Writing essay for college admission

The first step in the storytelling process starts with a simple question: what unique traits and characteristics do you want to share with the admissions officer or scholarship committee member? Ultimately, an effective story should reveal to the reader something important about who you are.

How To Write — And Not Write — A College Essay – Coalition Help Center

In order to do this, try brainstorming the traits and characteristics that are most essential to your identity. Your next step is to think about particular moments when you exhibited those traits. This approach lays the foundation for developing stories to use in both your personal statement and supplemental essays. Generally, these essays will require between and words and are intentionally broad.

In fact, both the Common App and Coalition Application allow you to submit an essay on a topic of your choosing.

This is actually a very good thing for you as an applicant, because you are free to write about almost anything. First you should decide which prompt you will be responding to. We recommend reviewing all of the possible topics to see if something catches your eye. If not, you can always choose the option to submit an essay on a topic of your choosing. Once you have chosen your prompt, you will want to think about a personal story that aligns with the chosen prompt.

Remember, the goal of the personal statement is to show the reader your unique character and traits. We know that it can be tempting to try to cram as many accomplishments as possible into your essay in order to impress admissions officers. However, this is a missed opportunity, because they will likely already know all of these things from the activities section of your application.

So, instead, focus on sharing new insights about you as an individual. Finally, it is worth mentioning that your personal statement will be shared with all of the colleges that you are applying to with the Common App or Coalition Application. There should not be any college-specific information in your essay—you can save that for supplemental essays. Supplemental essays are a vital part of college admissions: they allow individual colleges and universities to ask very specific questions that are important to them as an institution.

Most students put a ton of effort into their personal statement, neglecting their supplements in the process. Supplemental essay prompts are given to you directly by the colleges to which you are applying. They may concern a broad range of topics, but most fall neatly into one of 6 main categories:. This is your chance to tell your story or at least part of it. The best way to tell your story is to write a personal, thoughtful essay about something that has meaning for you. Be honest and genuine, and your unique qualities will shine through. 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. You don't need to have started your own business or have spent the summer hiking the Appalachian Trail. Colleges are simply looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will add something to the first-year class.

It could be an experience, a person, a book—anything that has had an impact on your life. Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the summer they spent in Rome. When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary.

How to Rock Your College Essay Personal Statement

Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you. A student who can make an admissions officer laugh never gets lost in the shuffle. But beware. What you think is funny and what an adult working in a college thinks is funny are probably different. We caution against one-liners, limericks and anything off—color.

Templates can give you a good starting point for your college admissions essay. You can browse the Internet to find templates and sample essays to help your ideas begin to take shape. Templates can also help you get an idea of how to create a solid college admission essay format. For example, you may want to include a heading with the name and address of the person who will be receiving your letter. However, don't rely on templates too strongly. The template is there as an aid to your creativity, not a restriction.

Use the sample college admission essay template as a scaffolding to build the rest of your essay around, rather than a fence to keep your thoughts contained. College admissions officers see hundreds of essays every year, and you do yourself no favors if you adhere slavishly to a template that the officers have seen before. Depart from the sample essay for college admission whenever you feel that it would improve your essay.

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Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

Before you begin to write, brainstorm some ideas. Most likely, the university gave you a prompt or a choice of prompts to write about. Take your time to carefully consider each prompt. If you feel yourself drawn to a particular prompt, think about why you're being drawn to it. Reflect on your life to find any personal anecdotes that work well with that prompt. Even if one prompt draws your attention, however, spend some time thinking about at least a few of the other choices. Sometimes, deeper reflection can help you find an even better subject to write about than your first impulse.

Use outlines, word clouds or free association to help you come up with material for each of the different prompts. Unlike the rest of your application, which consists largely of objective facts like grades and test scores, your application essay allows you to truly showcase what makes you unique as a student and a person. Use your own voice and your own stories to illustrate why you would be an asset to the school.


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Don't fall into the trap of sanitizing your speech and your opinions for risk of offending an admissions officer. Although you do need to use proper spelling and grammar, your college essay is a perfect place for creative metaphors, witty turns of phrase and humor. Using words in your essay that you don't typically use in your daily conversations can sound awkward and forced. Words have nuance to them, and simply inserting a word from the thesaurus is a great way to destroy that nuance.

10 Things You Should NEVER Write in Your College Essay

Thesaurus abuse is a lazy and easily spotted trick, and seasoned admissions officers will see right through it. If you feel that you're overusing a particular word, think of alternatives on your own without consulting a thesaurus; using words that you're familiar with will help you avoid misusing them. Your college essay should reflect your authentic speaking voice, but that doesn't mean that you can write it like a lengthy text message. There's simply no excuse for any major grammatical or spelling errors on your essay.