Considering the fact that the admission essay may be a determining factor on a college application, it is worth the time to learn how to do it right. After all, you don’t want to spend all your time putting together a great application and fail on the essay. Here are a few things to writing an admission essay.
Read through the specific requirements of the school
Different schools have different requirements for the admission essay. Before you begin, read through the specific requirements of the school and make sure you understand them. If there is a question to be answered, you want to make sure you fully answer it.
This article is a part of
“Admission Essay Guide”
Want more essay writing advice?
Read Admission Essays eBook
It’s important to take your time when deciding what to write about for your essay. Take at least one to two weeks to brainstorm for essay ideas. Following your brainstorming session, you’ll probably find a subject that you had not considered. Remember that brainstorming is a development of ideas, so don’t rule out any during this stage. Below are some questions you can ask yourself during this brainstorming session.
- First, what are some of your major accomplishments? Keep in mind, some of the best answers to this question aren’t necessarily accomplishments for which you have been recognized.
- Why do you consider a certain accomplishment an accomplishment?
- Do you have any skill, quality or attribute that distinguishes you from others, and how did you develop this attribute?
- Are there any works of art, movies or books that have influenced your life in a particularly meaningful way?
- Looking back on your life, what has been a particularly difficult time and how did your perspective on life change because of it?
- Have you struggled with something and eventually succeeded? What do you think made you successful?
- On the flip side, have you ever struggled for something and ultimately failed? What was your response to this failure?
- If you had a choice to do anything in the world, what would you be doing and why?
- If you had a choice to spend time with anyone alive or dead, who would you choose?
- Have you ever experienced an epiphany? What helped open your eyes to something you were overlooking before?
- What do you believe is your strongest personality trait?
- Do you adhere to a specific personality or maintain strong beliefs?
- How would others, such as your friends, describe you?
- Have you done anything outside the classroom that demonstrates qualities that are often sought after by universities? Which one of these qualities is the most important to you?
- What do you think are the most important community or extracurricular activities and why did you choose to join these activities? Why did you continue to contribute to these activities?
- What are your dreams and future plans? If you were to look back in your life in thirty years, what do you think it would take to consider your life as successful? What are accomplishments important to you, and how does this university fit in with your plans for the future?
- Lastly, how will attending your chosen university help you meet your goals? How will an education help to meet your needs and help you lead a fulfilling life?
If asking yourself the above questions do not give you enough cohesive ideas, you can ask for help from friends, parents, and colleagues. They can provide you with information such as your top five personality traits. After they have provided you with a list, ask them why they chose those personality traits. As you discover an image of your personality, start to ponder life experiences that can illustrate these particular traits.
Another brainstorming point is to consider your childhood. What events in your childhood inspired the life and interests that you have today? These are important to consider as they are often defining points of your life.
Brainstorming can also include a session of reading sample admissions essays. Do an online search to find websites that include archives of free admissions essays such as this site.
Read more Common app essay articles:
- ADMISSION TERMS GLOSSARY
- COMMON APPLICATION ESSAY: WHAT IS IT, AND WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH IT?
- HOW TO SELECT UNIVERSITIES TO APPLY TO
Choose your topic
After your brainstorming session, you should have some ideas on the elements you can include in your college application essay, such as life experiences, goals, diversifying features, research experiences, and nonacademic accomplishments. By now, you should have an idea of what kind of impression you want to leave with the admission department.
Next, you’ll need to tackle the problem of the admissions essay which is to consider the topics that will let you synthesize your important personal experiences and characteristics into a coherent essay that will address your desire to attend a specific institution. Remember that while some essays allow a wide array of topic selection, some require you to answer specific questions.
Before you choose a topic, ask yourself a few questions. First, have you chosen a topic that describes a something personal in your life with which you can provide clear, personal experiences to support the details?
Ask yourself if the topic will repeat information that is already listed on your application. If this is the case, then choose a different topic. Do not mention test scores or GPA.
Are you able to provide clear, supporting paragraphs for your essay topic? If you can’t provide concrete examples to support your topic, then you should probably choose something else.
Can you discuss a topic while fully answering the questions that have been asked of you? Are you able to elaborate and address the points specified in the word limit? Are you able to keep the reader’s interest from the very beginning of the essay?
Next, consider if your topic is overdone. To determine this, browse through sample essays. While many topics are overdone, a new twist or unique answer to a well-known topic can have a big payoff.
Think about the impression your topic will make. Will the admissions officer remember your topic the next day, and what do you want your lasting impression to be?
While choosing a topic, try to focus on your personal qualities. If you are telling a story about a particularly hard time in your life, you want to address your personal qualities instead of telling the story of the hardship. You’ll want to show how this hardship made you a better person in the long run.
Schools love the idea of diversity and every school wants to increase theirs. Because of this, many applicants are tempted to write about their qualities that can bring diversity to the school. However, this must be done carefully as you still need to impress the admissions office. Simply stating what makes you different will not set you apart. Showing the ability to demonstrate how you overcame any stigma, demonstrating interests, personal qualities and motivations is wise. Make sure to include how your diversity will contribute to the campus as a whole.
Aim to make a good impression by showcasing your strengths instead. Above all, be honest.
Before you start writing, one of the most important things you can do is to make an outline. A structure should be imposed around your ideas or else your essay will be ineffective and rambling. The outline itself should make sense by itself. In fact, the ideas should flow logically in the order that you have listed them. As you keep writing and adding content around main points, these words that are added should reinforce and support the logic of the outline. A great outline should also include an insightful image or thought. Ensure that the remainder of your outline reinforces this conclusion.
Paragraphs in the body should consist of experiences, events, and activities that have been organized in either order of importance or chronological order. In some essays, unfortunately, the order of the paragraphs seems to be randomly chosen. The best outlines should make it clear that one point follows another. All points should connect to the next and each category should be linked to a thesis or introduction. Each sub-category should be linked, in some way, to the main category. While making your outline, you will be able to see if there are any holes in your essay.
- Answer the question – If you are unable to answer the question, you will not gain entrance to any institution.
- Don’t overuse a thesaurus in your essay. This means to stay away from big words that are unnecessary.
- Do use clear imagery and vivid prose.
- Be honest – Colleges can uncover any form of plagiarism. Don’t risk your college career by choosing to plagiarize.
- Proofread it – Before you send your essay off, make sure you read it one more time. Run a spell check if you are using a computer and even try reading the essay out loud if it helps you catch things that you may have missed.
- Ensure it’s accurate – It may be easy to treat an online application as you would an email. However, don’t use informal email language, abbreviations, and incorrect capitalization. You want to make sure your essay represents your best.
- Keep in focus – This will give you the chance to tell admission officers why they should admit you. Don’t list all your achievements, use your essay creatively to help the admission officers get to know you.
- Be authentic – For the best impact, use your own voice. Don’t rely on ideas or phrases that have been used many times.
- Get a second opinion – Even famous novelists have people read over their manuscripts before they head to the publisher. Find someone who can give you solid advice on how to make your application better.
- Ensure your structure is effective (intro, body paragraphs, conclusion) – Relatively speaking, you have few words to make an impression. Make sure that your information is organized in an effective way for the admissions office to take notice.
- Character counts – Find what makes you unique and use this to your advantage. Note how you will contribute to life on campus. What is your commitment to service?