top ten tips

Top Ten Tips | Critical Aspects of the College Admissions Essay

1. The essay portion of the undergraduate college application is an opportunity to present something fresh and new about yourself. In other words, consider the essay as an invitation to put some icing on the cake.

2. Writing is a process, a series of drafts. You must be prepared to relentlessly edit, refine, and finesse your essay.

3. Select the essay question or topic that provides you with an opportunity to write about something that you want to feature about yourself – an experience, a personality trait, or ideology that is especially representative of who you are and your academic aspirations.

4. Aim for a narrative that shows you in a positive but “real” light. In other words, try to avoid sounding shamelessly arrogant. Find a way to balance pride and modesty.

5. Word choice matters, of course. Sure, your essay should include some interesting and sophisticated vocabulary. But don’t overdo it. Sometimes, a simple sentence is more effective than one that is overly complex. Read your essay aloud again and again and again! Make sure you sound authentic. Use your best, natural voice.

6. Don’t forget to answer the essay question.

7. It is critical that the opening paragraph of your essay grab hold of the reader’s interest. Some people refer to this all-important feature as a “hook" or "interest-grabber." Remember, admissions counselors are confronted by stacks and stacks of applications and personal essays. Write about something that will capture their interest and make them want to read your essay through to the end.

8. Like the opening paragraph, the closing paragraph is very important. Use this paragraph to make a point or resolve the problem laid out in the body of your essay. Say something that resonates with meaning or emotion.

9. College admissions essays almost always spell out very specific word or character counts. Clearly, the folks in the undergraduate admissions office embrace the “less is more” motto. Keep this in mind when editing your essay. Whittle away at your draft, picking and choosing the very best and most essential parts. In other words, consider the word count and make your words count!

10. After you edit your essay, ask your parents and teachers to edit it as well. Getting plenty of feedback on your essay is invaluable.