College Application Essays - What to Say
Though you may be the most brilliant, witty, and charismatic individual we have never met, it is crucial to make wise selections about the content that will make up your college application essays. Imagine that you were asked to describe a significant incident in your life, and you opted to discuss the death of your goldfish Sandy. While Sandy's passing may have marked your passage into adulthood, it would be difficult for even the greatest writer to overcome such a morbid and seemingly juvenile topic. Pet fish are definitely noteworthy, but it is likely that more than one admissions officer would find this piece on the corny end of the spectrum.
In the great majority of application folders, you will find a specific list of application essay questions or prompts that the admissions staff hopes will reveal insights into your character and personality. While they are often faced with numbers to describe your high school and standardized test performance, the application essays are one area in which you have free reign - and words - to present yourself as an individual. Consider the application essay as something of a long-distance first conversation, yet you have been given the onus of making all the insights and doing all the talking - about yourself.
Some counselors suggest spending up to two weeks preparing to write your application essays, but we recognize that many visitors to this site will not want to devote such an extended period of time. By your reading this page, however, we can tell that you desire to present yourself well in your application essays. The following suggestions will help you to begin crafting your essays.
Before doing anything else
Before beginning to write, it behooves you to weigh the topic choices that you have received. In some cases, universities will ask each applicant to react to the same topic. When you do have a choice, however, it is easy to become flustered at not feeling comfortable with any of the topics or finding more than one topic that you'd like to pursue. In the case that more than one topic exists, we encourage you to jot down a one-sentence summary of potential responses to each given topic. For example, in order to cover the prompt, "Describe an interest or activity that has been particularly meaningful to you," you might write: "Participating in the model rocketry competition through Science Bowl encouraged me to investigate jet propulsion on my own." These one-sentence summaries will help you to evaluate the potential essays that you might write without having to fret about the details of each possibility. If done well, you will already have established the makings of your thesis and introduction.
You should also select essay topics that will highlight your strengths as an individual and allow you to write essays with positive tone. People who sound like winners in honest writing are almost always are winners in actuality, and college admissions officers want to accept winners. You are a winner and a great individual; just show that to the admissions officers!
After you have selected a topic
Tantamount to any strong essay presentation is a clear, logical train of thought. Without clear connections between the statements that you make, even an essay that reveals your individuality will seem both confusing and unhelpful.
We suggest that you construct an outline that answers:
What you hope to highlight in the essay?
What specific examples support your essay's main point?
Which example is strongest? Weakest? As a note, the strongest examples should be reserved for the latter part of the essay, as readers will most remember what you have said last.
What am I revealing about my personality to the reader?
How am I presenting myself? Like I introduce myself to a respected adult?
Show your outline to an unbiased source. From the outline and a small explanation from you, this source should be able to grasp the general flow of the essay that you hope to write. By clarifying this flow, you will avoid losing the reader on the way to making your points.
Putting fingers to keyboard
Having established a flow for the essay, follow the guidelines that you have established. Clarify and explain when possible, without wasting words along the way. Assume little and offer much. Please make use of our style references in order to polish what you'd like to say. Tie together your statements with strong transitions. Carefully read your introduction and conclusion and see that they support and clarify the body of your essay; an off-topic introduction or rogue conclusion can nullify all the good accomplished in the body.