Tips for Writing Your College
Youre about to write one of the most important
essays of your life. Dont panic. The subject
is one you know very wellyourself. Youre
an interesting person and its time you show those
college admissions officers just how interesting and
unique you are.
After all, thats what theyre looking for.
They want to know something about you thats not
indicated by your resume, your SAT score, your grade-point
average, academic awards, or any other document you
include elsewhere in your application package. They
want a focused, well-organized essay that helps them
get to know a bit about your character and personality,
what drives you, and what excites you. Make them like
Of course, you have only a limited amount of words
to do all this, which is good and bad. Good because
you need to write only a few hundred words; bad because
youve got to get your point across in just those
Its important to view the essay as an opportunity
rather than a chore. Its really not so hard once
you know whats expected of you. To make an impression,
your essay must stand out from the crowd and elicit
an emotional response from the reader. Here are some
tips that will help you prepare a memorable essay that
will get read.
Write as you speak.
The purpose of the essay is to show the admissions committee
the real you, why you think and act the way you do,
and what motivates you. So dont write as if you
are someone else, use stilted language, or gloss over
how you really feel. Be authentic, not superficial.
Use a relaxed, conversational style.
Too many essays use the same tired themes. For example,
instead of showing yourself as a victim, focus on how
you overcame the situation. Youre not running
for Miss America, so avoid presenting your solutions
to world peace and hunger. Remember that what bores
you pretty much bores others. As youre writing
and revising, continually ask yourself if you would
be interested in reading your essay.
Show genuine enthusiasm.
Nothing draws a reader more than writing thats
invigorating. When choosing your topics, pick what genuinely
excites you. Your enthusiasm will show through.
Create some mystery.
Begin with an introduction that surprises your readers
and makes them want to read past the first paragraph.
For example, if youre an avid volunteer for the
Appalachian Trail Club and youve chosen to talk
about your latest trip, you could start with a description
of the sights and sounds as you move about the forest
Rather than describing everything youve done with
your life, give a full description of one or two items
or events. The magic is in the details.
Use active verbs.
Action verbs makes your essay much more lively than
passive voice, which comes across as cold and detached.
For example, My Botany teacher recommended me
for a semester of study at Longwood Gardens in Kennett
Square, Pennsylvania is much better than I
was recommended for
a semester of study at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square,
Pennsylvania, by my Botany teacher.
Use short sentences and simple words.
According to a recent study at Stanford University,
individuals who use complicated language are viewed
as less intelligent than individuals who use simpler,
more concise language. You want your readers to understand
your essay. If you use obscure terms needlessly, they
wont be impressed.