It is essay-writing season and students everywhere are staring at blank computer screens wondering what in the world to say. Here are some tips to get you started:
Keep Your Focus Small
Most college essays are 500 words maximum, yet many students try to cram their entire lives into this tiny space. Your essay should not be a resume in prose. College admissions officers have your activity list elsewhere. If you’ve done a good job with your marketing strategy, your counselor letter and each recommendation letter will flesh out part of your story, so no need to repeat it in an essay. You will be much more successful if you narrow your writing to a specific incident or a tight theme woven throughout.
Keep It Personal
The whole reason you are asked to write an essay is for admissions officers to get to know you. Therefore, it is imperative that your essay stay focused on you, even if you are talking about a favorite book or your hero. This isn’t a book report or a biography, it is an insightful look into how outside influences have impacted your life. Bottom line, your reader needs to come away from your essay with a better knowledge of who you are and how you think.
Avoid the Predictable
You would be surprised how similar (and predictable) many college essays are. Desks in admissions offices are filled essays detailing winning or losing the big game, being scared during your first attempt at the unknown, your summer vacation, your favorite things, your idea to change the world, the death of your favorite pet . . . Stay away from these killer topics.
Write the Essay Only You Can Write
If you want to be successful, pick a topic that only you can address. Often very simple topics, handled well, make incredible essays that help you stand out from the crowd. Think of it this way. The essay is the one chance you have to “talk” with the college admissions officer. It is the only way they have of getting to know the real you and enjoy your company. Make the most of it!
Write to Touch the Emotions
I always tell my clients to make me laugh or make me cry, but don’t bore me!!! A boring essay is fatal if you are applying to a competitive college. The most successful essays will connect with the reader on a deep level. They can delight the intellect with a new way of looking at something. They can tell a good story and make the reader experience it. They can cause the reader to laugh out loud or sit with tears streaming down their face. Your essay should leave your reader with a gift and make their day better because they spent some time getting to know you.