How To Make Your College Essay Matter
Now that summer is here, I have all of my students working on their essays. We start now so that they don’t have to try to work through what is one of the more difficult writing assignments during the beginning of their senior year. In fact, if done right, they should all be done with their essays by mid-August.
Of course, it’s rarely easy to do it right and it does require some time and thought.
If you’re struggling with how to get your essay started, here’s a few things to consider:
1. Your essay is a personal statement, not an academic paper.
Don’t try to impress the reader with an over-the-top vocabulary. Savvy admission counselors who read hundreds of essays each year know what teenagers’ voices sound like. Yes, it’s okay to spruce up your language a bit, but don’t go into a PhD dissertation-worthy dialogue. It will come across as phony and that’s the last thing you want.
2. A strong essay will show how you connected to something and what you learned from it.
And sometimes these moments can be rather ordinary. One of the best essays I read last year was about scooping ice-cream and dealing with a temperamental soft-serve ice-cream machine and how it taught this student about working hard, discovering new ways to do things differently and the value of teamwork. The student was accepted early-decision to Brown and her essay was deemed to be rather heavenly.
3. Seek help.
If you’re stuck and just can’t come up with any ideas that get you excited, ask your friends or parents how they would describe you to someone. What adjectives would they use? What would they say about you? How would they characterize you and your best attributes or traits? Sometimes other people see things in us that we don’t see ourselves and it is these ideas that can open up your perspective on what to write about.
4. Don’t be afraid of talking about a failure.
Sometimes, we learn the greatest life lessons after having failed at something. Remember, it’s about how you learned from the failure, not the failure itself (see #2 again if this point does not sink in) that matters.
Ultimately, you want your essay to compliment the rest of your application and show that you are more than just a combination of grades and test scores. You want an admission counselor to learn something about you that they haven’t learned elsewhere when reviewing your transcript, test scores and activities. You want them to put down your essay and say, “I really like this kid. There’s a lot here and he or she would be an awesome addition to our college.”
So put in the time and effort to make sure that happens.
If you would like some assistance with your college search or financial aid process, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.