College Application Essay

Writing Your Essay

 There will be a prompt in the application if an essay is required. This can be anything from “Tell us something about yourself” to something off-the-wall that will enable the creative student to do his or her thing. Usually, prompts look something like this:

  • Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
  • Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
  • Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
  • Describe a character in fiction, an historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and describe that influence.
  • Topic of your choice.

Essays are important, so do not leave this piece until the night before you mail the package. Write it (three or four rough drafts is the norm for writing a good essay), set it aside, revise it, have someone else edit it, and then finalize it when you know it really reflects who you are. If you are short on ideas, one of these might help:

  • Do you participate in class? Think of a time when something you said sparked an interesting discussion.
  • Think of your best qualities: leadership, persistence, compassion, humor. Tell a story about a time when that quality exhibited itself in your life.
  • Do you excel in some extracurricular activity? Do you play the French horn? Do you tear up the soccer field? Do you write so beautifully that it brings tears to eyes of the reader? Tell an anecdote from your life concerning your talent.
  • Do you bring diversity to the (future) campus? If you have a different perspective to add to the student body at your hoped-for college, talk about it.
  • Was there a time in your life when you failed at something, and now, looking back, you can see how much you learned from your failure/mistake?
  • Did you gain insight after an experience, or after meeting someone special, that changed your outlook on a person, a group, or a situation? Talk about that personal growth. 

Essays: What to Do

  • Be original in your word choices and the way you present your ideas.
  • Personalize your essays. The admissions reader wants to know about you.
  • Avoid generalities.
  • Keep your essays short, and stay within the space provided whenever possible.
  • Have someone else read your essay and give suggestions. Your English teacher and counselors are good resources.
  • Write about something you really care about.

Essays: What Not To Do

  • Try to write a funny essay if you are not a good comic writer.
  • Repeat information from other parts of your application.
  • Use your essay to list things you have done.
  • Write about “last summer” unless it is really important to you.
  • Write your essay for the admissions reader. Write it for yourself, but make it interesting for the people evaluating your essays.



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