5 Tips for Writing a Stellar College Application Essay
Writing a personal statement or college application essay can be stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. The purpose of most college admissions essays is for college admissions officers to get to know you better, beyond your test scores and GPA.
Use these tips to create the best essays possible.
1. Talk about how and why, not what.
Most college applications already have you list the “what” (as in what you’ve done in high school, what your GPA is, etc.), so on your essay you need to tell how and why you did what you did, or how you become interested in your intended college major, or why you think the experiences you had and your future goals make you a good fit for the college.
2. Answer the prompt questions.
You’d be amazed how many students don’t answer each school’s specific essay prompt questions. Just by paying attention to the actual question and answering the specific question (rather than using some cookie-cutter response that doesn’t relate to that school), you’ll make your essay stand out in a good way.
3. Be creative
. Get creative with what you write. For example, start your essay with an anecdote and not just “I’m interested in XYZ university because …” or “I want to major in political science because …” Or, if you’ve taken a creative writing class, use what you learned to create a unique narrative.
4. Don’t overshare.
Sometimes students just put TMI in their essays. For example, a Yale University applicant (who didn’t get in) wrote about a moment when she peed her pants when staying after class to get help from a teacher. Consider if what you’re writing about would be something you’d tell your friends, your mom and your grandma.
Remember: you’re not trying to shock the admissions officials—you’re trying to impress them by showing them who you truly are. To do that, you want to use a true-life experience, but if it could come across as gross or inappropriate, you may want to reconsider your topic.
5. Don’t worry too much about word count.
In most cases, college admissions officials don’t have time to sit around counting the words in your essay, so if you are under or over the word limit by a few words, it’s usually fine. However, don’t write a full-page, five-paragraph essay when only 250 words are requested. And if 1,000 words are requested, write more than just a couple of sentences.