Write Your BEST College Application Essay (#1)

Last year, I did a series of blogs called, “Twenty Five Ways to Make Your College Application Essay the Best Writing You’ve Ever Done.” The blogs included conceptual guidelines for writing an effective essay, as well as many technical writing tips. Longish title notwithstanding, response to the series was extremely positive. For this year, and at this early stage of the college application “season,” I’m going to abbreviate those pieces and incorporate them into a series of blogs called, “Writing Your Best College Application Essay.” While they are sort of the appetizer portion size of the previous series, I believe you will still find them tasty.

  1. Understand the Purpose of the Essay

When schools declare they want to know who an applicant is – beyond their GPA’s, standardized test scores, and three years of varsity tennis – they actually mean it. And, other than a face to face interview, an application essay is the best place to make that happen. That’s why, in writing their essays, students need to refrain from touting their accomplishments or trying to anticipate what Admission Directors want to hear. (https://www.dummies.com/education/college/understanding-your-audience-the-college-admissions-officers/) Instead, conceive and construct your essay to reveal as much of yourself as possible – your beliefs and dreams, your quirks, the pivotal moments in your life. Give the reader a clear idea of who you are and what kind of citizen you’ll be, once you arrive on campus. Not everyone wakes up in the morning wanting to tackle quantum physics. You are who you are. Own it.

  1. Write Something Only You Can Write

With the number of college applications increasing each year, there is, unavoidably, a great deal of repetition in the subject matter of essays. That’s why students need to distinguish themselves with the topics they choose, and write something only they can write. This does not mean they can’t write about universal experiences like “making the team” or “not making the team.” It only means they have to make the experience highly personal.

Of course, getting completely away from these familiar themes can be even better, and to accomplish this, students need to go deep into their experiences and find something that is specific to them. This could be a family situation (standing up to an older brother who refused to accept dad’s new wife), an unexpected encounter (teaching a mentally challenged child to play Bingo, when everyone else had given up on her), or a special activity (early morning rock climbing with a close group of friends).