Essay Tips for College Applications
- Share a Moment
- Think Small
- Follow the Instructions
- Take a Break Before Proofreading and Correcting
The primary rule of effective writing is to develop your work in three parts: introduction, body and conclusion. College application essay tips are self-explanatory, but creative storytelling is one of the oldest academic skills that can raise your prospects of getting accepted. How you present yourself reveals what test scores and grades can’t.
Write to Convey Real Information
The principal of essay-writing is to convey real information that readers can digest, even if the words generate heartburn. Write real information instead of what you think admissions officers want to hear. Five tips to keep your writing real, attract attention and impress admissions officers include:
1. Share a Moment
Use an anecdote to share a real moment in your life to captivate your audience in the same way that you get attention from friends. Be specific to bring your story to life. Instead of saying “I love hiking in the mountains,” provide a personal touch by saying “I was determined to conquer Mount Abracadabra before my senior year. Nearing the top, my foot slipped on scree, and I tumbled 20 feet and broke one metacarpal. I plan to return next summer, so count on getting a student who’s seen the view from Abracadabra’s summit.” This story conveys the author’s love of hiking in the mountains, perseverance and confidence while turning failure into an asset.
2. Think Small
USA Today recommends keeping your essay’s topic small and tightly focused. Admissions officers only spend about five minutes on each applicant’s essay, and it’s just one tool in their decision-making process. Trying too hard to impress or cramming too much biographical information into an essay won’t impress college admissions staff who get tired of reading about students trying to save the rain forest, winning state championships and building houses for the homeless. Admissions essays should focus on topics that concern typical 17-year-olds and not grandiose dreams. Stick to writing about your real hobbies, favorite writers, musicians, video games and artists and other topics that matter to you.
3. Follow the Instructions
Following the instructions seems obvious, but it’s amazing how many students don’t read or respond to the fine print. The same essay can’t be used for every college because each school carefully crafts a unique set of instructions for specific reasons to help in the decision-making process. These directions might seem similar or generic, but there are often big differences in what’s requested. You won’t impress an admissions officer with the wittiest recounting of your summer vacation if the application asks for what you’d like to do on your ideal vacation.
Admissions officers who are confined to their desk and forced to read thousands of applications, grow bored and jaded while reading about increasingly accomplished students, many of whom lie and exaggerate about their skills and achievements. Then a breath of fresh air arrives in the form of an essay that’s funny, interesting, sentimental or just entertaining. You can entertain by adding humor, controversy or sentimental, nostalgic or unusual insights.
5. Take a Break Before Proofreading and Correcting
Although waiting to proofread seems unreasonable, it clears the narrative from your mind so that you can proofread and understand what you’ve written from a fresh perspective. That’s when you’ll find errors of omission that your brain tends to fill-in automatically or discover that your words don’t convey what you meant to say. You can also get other people to read your work and offer suggestions. Never rely solely on automatic spelling and grammar checkers.
Abrupt endings can turn a good essay into an unsatisfactory experience. Your college application essay should always have a recognizable conclusion that summarizes what you’ve written without repeating the same phrases. The five writing tips apply not only to writing college application essays but also to producing assignments for college course work.
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