Those days in high school of handing in a quickly-written essay constructed at the last moment are over. You might have been able to score a good grade with little effort back then, but things will change in college! You can’t put in 10 percent of the required effort and still expect everything to come up roses.
The very first college essay that you’ll write is the one that will (hopefully) get you accepted into college in the first place: the application essay. It can make or break your college application – no pressure, though! Read on for tips on nailing this essay so you can gain acceptance to the college of your dreams.
—”What Makes You the Authority on Writing Successful College Essays?”
You may be wondering why you should even contemplate listening to me. After all, the internet is full of so-called experts that have no idea what they are talking about. I assure you, though, that you should listen to me for a few reasons.
For one, I have been in your shoes both in high school and college and have written hundreds and hundreds of essays. Some of them were very good (while others were absolutely terrible). I have also worked extensively as a journalist and editor for newspapers, and have been teaching creative writing at the college level for some time now.
If you take my college essay advice, I have no doubt that it should help you get into your college of choice, and also help with writing assignments in the future.
1. Create an Outline for Every Essay You Write
While writing an essay without an outline is quite doable, that doesn’t mean it’s easier — and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s more effective. An outline gives you an idea of the start, the body, and the closing of an essay. No need to get fancy and put in roman numerals or go overboard on the outline either – this is for your eyes only. Think of the outline as a guide to help keep your thoughts organized, but remember that it can be changed as you are actually writing the paper.
2. Grab the Reader’s Attention Early
You know the saying that you only have a few seconds to really make a great first impression on someone? The same can be said for your college application essay. You must consider the audience you are writing for. This reader has probably read hundreds, if not thousands of essays in the last year alone from hopeful high school seniors. If you haven’t grabbed the reader’s attention in the first two or three paragraphs, there is a very good chance that your essay will not stand out at all. If you bore the reader at the beginning, you will lose them — even if the rest of your essay is gold.
3. How Do You Reach Them in the First Few Paragraphs?
Some people can use their sense of humor to interest the reader, but if you’re not a comedian, don’t worry about it. Let your story speak for itself. Here is an example of a start to a college application essay:
“I heard just about every Brady Bunch joke possible growing up. Born the middle child of a family of eleven, my siblings and I have all experienced large family problems. Back in those days, my concerns were much simpler, like figuring out which hand-me-down clothes could still fit me and not be worn out in all the wrong places. Now I have a much bigger problem on my hands (and this is where you come in): What college would I like to attend and why?”
In this example, I included a very brief look into my life story and set up the transition to discuss why I think their college and I would be a good match.
4. Be Humble When Mentioning Your Accomplishments
There is a fine line between bragging and trying to sell yourself. We have all crossed this line at times in life. When you are trying to convince the college application board to take a chance on you, do so as humbly as possible. Instead of writing about how you lettered in four sports and had all A’s on your report card, give credit to others through your accomplishments. Write about how your parents helped you earn the grades you did. Speak about the hours of practice you endured with your talented coaches and how they were instrumental in your achievements. After all, there is no —I” in —team.”
5. Know the History of the College You Are Applying to
You can’t just tell the admissions officers that you are applying to their college because your friends are going there, too. If your parents or other relatives have attended that college in the past, you can definitely mention that it is a family tradition you would like to carry on. But try to impress them a bit with your knowledge of the school. If there are special areas of study associated with the school, mention why this is important to you. Perhaps there have been a few well-known graduates who have affected your life – write about who they are and why they are important to you. Try to make a personal connection with the history of the college and the college admission board may just listen.
6. Leave the Thesaurus Behind and Speak from the Heart
To put it bluntly, your vocabulary should not be similar to a fifth grader’s, but you also don’t want to sound like you used a thesaurus to write your entire college essay. Remember: sometimes the simplest words can have the biggest effect on someone. However, if you write this college essay the same way you write text messages to your friends, there is a very good chance it will go straight into the trash. This is your chance to open your soul to a person who could make or break whether you attend their college, so make it count.