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The college admission essay is a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd—and show admission officers who you are. These essays can differ from school to school; some will require that you write about a specific topic or answer a question, while others are less structured. But colleges almost always let you share something personal about yourself that doesn’t happen anywhere else in your application. After all, it’s more than just an opportunity to show off your SAT vocabulary and grammar skills—it’s also something that will directly impact your chances of getting into the colleges you’re applying to. That’s why it’s essential to make sure you know how to write the perfect college admission essay!
Whether the essay topic is explicitly weird or not, writing it can be nerve-wracking for most students. If you’re struggling to develop ideas for your unique and engaging essay, we have some great tips that will help you get started (and finish).
Your high school teachers know what you’re capable of and have seen you succeed at various tasks. They might also have a good sense of what your interests are. If you’re struggling to think of a topic, consider asking your teachers for advice. They can give you ideas to spark your creativity and help you brainstorm and develop your essay topic. Admissions officers will also be reading your essay. Including a teacher in the acknowledgments section of your application is an excellent way to show that your appreciation for them goes beyond the classroom. Plus, your teacher might want to share your work with their colleagues, which could help you get even more visibility and personal connections.
As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the college admissions essay is a huge opportunity to highlight who you really are as a person. It’s not just a chance to show off your writing skills—it’s also an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the thousands of other students who might be applying to the same schools as you. Therefore, you should start thinking about your college essay as soon as you know you’ll need to write one. Especially if you have a more unusual topic in mind, it’s best to start as early as possible. That way, you have plenty of time to brainstorm ideas and select the one that’s best for you. It’s also a good idea to write multiple drafts of your essay. That might sound like a lot of extra work, but it’s an integral part of the process. Rewriting your essay will help you get out of your head and see it with fresh eyes. You might notice that sentence that doesn’t flow as well as it should or that awkward construction that could be fixed with a few tweaks. Going through multiple edits will also give you a better sense of how much you can squeeze into the word limit and help you avoid rambling on and on and on.
The hook is the first sentence of your essay. It grabs your reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading. As you’re brainstorming ideas, it’s important to keep this in mind. You want your essay to be as engaging as possible, and the hook is a great place to start. For example, you could start by asking a question or sharing an anecdote. You could also use a parallel or an analogy to catch your reader’s attention. Whatever you do, make sure it’s relevant to your topic and the college you’re applying to. Let’s break this down with one example. Say you’re planning to write about your love of sailing—a hobby that can be difficult for most people to understand. In your hook, you could start by asking, “What does sailing have to do with college?” Then, you could share an anecdote about sailing that illustrates a key point about your academic or personal goals.
Part of making your essay personal is choosing a topic that genuinely reflects you as a person. But it’s also important to avoid sounding too stiff or formal. Instead, try to let your personality shine through as much as possible. You might want to try writing it as you would speak to a friend, and that will help you let go of any nerves and allow you to be yourself. You can even try reading your essay aloud to see what it sounds like when spoken out loud. You might notice that certain sections sound awkward or don’t make sense when spoken aloud. That’s a great indication that something needs to be changed. There are a few ways to do this while keeping your essay professional and polished: you can write in the present tense, include plenty of details, or try using contractions.
This is a great time to build on the previous idea about being personal. Be as specific as possible when writing your essay. The admission officers won’t know you, so you have to help them understand what you’re like as a person and why you’d be an excellent fit for their school. You can do this by finding a specific event, experience, or person that has influenced you. Then, you can use that to explain your passion for a particular field of study or why you want to go to one specific college. Use plenty of details to help the reader picture what you’re describing to help them understand how that experience has shaped your life and how you’ll be an asset to their school.
This one can be tricky because you want to ensure that you’re not wandering off topic, but you also want to cover all the bases. You might want to start by reviewing the application requirements for the colleges you wish to apply to. These can help you understand what’s expected and what admissions officers want to read. They’ll also give you a good idea of the length requirements. If you have a standard-length essay, you’ll want to ensure that you stay within the required word count. This can help keep you on track and help you avoid a wandering piece. Remember that you don’t have to cover everything in one essay; you can write a different essay for each college, or you can use this to share some more general information about yourself.
Although proper grammar is probably the most obvious, you’d be surprised how many students ignore polishing the final draft. Colleges are looking for well-rounded students who can succeed in any environment. Part of that is ensuring you’re using the correct vocabulary and grammar, and it doesn’t mean that every word you use has to be super fancy, but it does mean that you need to make sure you’re using the best version of the word you can. For example, you could use “imply” instead of “infer” or “utilize” instead of “use” this doesn’t just sound more sophisticated—it’s also a good indication that you know the rules of grammar and can apply them to your essay.
Your college application essay is a huge opportunity to stand out, and it’s also a chance to show admissions officers who you are. That’s why it’s important to make sure your essay counts. For that to happen, you need to make sure that your essay is as engaging as possible. You can do this by being personal and specific, developing a hook and an engagement strategy, and making it as polished as possible.
Do you have more questions? We have answers! Book a FREE consultation with one of our certified college admissions consultants and get clarity in your college application.