Admission Essay Tips – How To Write An Effective College Application Essay

You and your parents may have begun meeting with your guidance counselor to compile a list of your “reach” schools, “safety” schools, as well those at which you stand a fairly decent, if uncertain, chance of gaining acceptance. When it comes to choosing the right college, your counselor brings years of expertise and knowledge to the process. However, when it comes to helping you write your essay, most guidance counselors fall back on standard, generic advice. It makes sense – while they know what colleges are looking for, they are not experts at marketing; as a result, a lot of their advice is re-cycled and trite. Since guidance counselors are neither professional writers nor marketing gurus, it is surprising that they are comfortable with coaching the essay writing process. Students who want to differentiate themselves from the competition for that coveted place on the “Accepted” list need to present themselves authentically. With the right help, you can tap into the responses that reveal who you are to the Admissions Committee, that distinguish you as the unique person you are, and do so in an interesting – and error-free style. The key is not to tell the Admissions Committee what you think they want to hear, but rather to tell them what matters to you. There are few better examples of how speaking honestly will serve you better than being disingenuous. When you begin to gather your thoughts, write down your honest reasons for applying to this school. Think about the person you really admire – or things that represent true obstacles to you. Don’t try to impress. Your aim is to develop a narrative about yourself that you will share with the Admissions Committee – one that will stick in their minds because it reveals a singular, complex and interesting candidate – YOU.

College Admissions Essays

Admissions Committees read hundreds, if not thousands of essay applications each year, many from students just as qualified as you. You won’t get their attention by writing the same, predictable content that every other student submits. Your high school guidance counselor or college advisor is your best source for choosing the right program for you, but generating ideas for the college admission essay is not his or her core competency. At Essay Excellence, Lynda’s focus is on helping you find your voice and expressing who you are in a clear, succinct narrative. The essays on every application are a form of marketing – you have to sell yourself to the Admissions Committee. Lynda’s background in marketing, as well as over 20 years as a professional writer makes Essay Excellence the source for the help you need to differentiate yourself.

The Word Count Limit: What to Leave Out of Your College Application Essay

The Word Count Limit: What to Leave Out of Your College Application Essay Posted on November 3, 2011 by Lynda You’ve participated in a lot of activities and you’ve achieved a lot, and with good reason, you are proud. However, most students misunderstand the significance of letting the Admissions Committee know the extent of their involvements. The past few days, students bordering on the hysterical, have emailed me with essays that far exceeded the word count limit, begging for help in reducing words without sacrificing meaning. It’s rarely difficult to accomplish that. The reason is that students feel compelled to include the names – complete names, no less! – of every scholarship, extracurricular, dance recital, and so on, in their attempt to demonstrate who they are. All that accomplishes, of course, is to document what you’ve done, rather than revealing much about what makes you tick. There’s space elsewhere in your application to list all this sort of thing. Instead of documenting the various tutoring programs you participated in, or the many orchestras you played in, or theatre groups you were a member of, talk specifically about what the activity itself meant to you – what you learned about yourself and about others as a result of your participation. What will impress the Admissions Committee is not the scope of your involvements, but rather the scope of your passion for it and personal growth from having participated.

Why the Personal Statement Matters

My inbox has been filled with emails from students around the world asking for help with the personal statement on their college applications. Most students are at a loss when it comes to finding the right topic – one that successfully markets their candidacy for a spot at the college of their choice. Part of the problem is that students are trolling the Internet in search of other students’ essays, and as a result, they are writing about the same trite subjects that other students are writing about. That strategy will insure that they fail at distinguishing themselves from other students. Equally problematic is that by studying other personal statements for clues about what to write, students are failing at the most important point of the personal statement, which is to provide an authentic narrative about themselves. Don’t get stuck on trying to be profound when you talk about an experience you’ve had that influenced you deeply. Most 17 year olds haven’t had very dramatic lives (thank goodness!) and may feel as though nothing worth writing about has happened to them. However, it’s not the experience itself that is significant; it’s how you responded to it that reveals your character, motivation and complexity, and those are traits that the Admissions Committee wants to hear about. You may have discovered the Free Writing technique in school. When you free write, you simply free associate thoughts without any concern about sentence structure, theme or even why you are writing. It’s a form of meditation where you write down the random thoughts that come through your mind instead of letting them drift away. As ideas start to come (and it will take more than a few minutes to get the creative juices flowing, so don’t get worried if you draw a blank at first), write or type words or phrases that pop into your head. the more you write, the more ideas will occur to you. Somewhere in those ideas is a concept that reveals what really matters to you, and that will form the basis of your personal statement.

Getting into College is Harder for You than it was for your Parents ​

An article by James Atlas in today’s New York Times describes how “the competition for places in the upper tier of higher education is a lot tougher than it was in the 1960s and `70s, when having good grades and SAT scores in the high1200s was generally sufficient to get you into a respectable college.” Clearly, as today’s students are all too aware, this is no longer true. Atlas writes about what he refers to as “Super People,” those students who come from advantaged homes and whose parents are able and willing to pay for SAT tutoring as well as to send them on interesting summer programs that provide plenty of subject matter for a fascinating personal statement when they apply to college. But what about otherwise capable students whose parents can’t afford SAT tutoring, or who must spend their summers stocking inventory at Walmart, or babysitting because they need the income? Must they set their expectations lower than the student who spent his summer helping to build a school in rural Thailand? The article includes a quote from a former administrator at The University of Denver who believes that “only those families who can help their students be more competitive will have students who can get into elite institutions.” This suggests that America is no longer a meritocracy, and I, for one, don’t buy it. Colleges and graduate programs are interested in the kind of person who are, not in the experiences that your parents bought you. They want interesting young people who are capable of the rigors of their institution, who can demonstrate their ability to grow and learn. Regardless of how advantaged an upbringing you’ve had (or not), the ability to write a personal statement that demonstrates your potential is something that you can do if you think about what you really learned from your experiences. If you spent the summer stacking cartons are Walmart, maybe that made you more interested in labor relations, or in the marketability of sustainable products. Perhaps babysitting gave you insight into different learning styles. The point is, every experience teaches you something about yourself and your resolve. Let the Admissions Commitee learn about who you are, and the unique contributions you can make to the college community.

What Person has had a Significant Influence on You? How to Answer That? ​

Many of you will use the Common Application as your primary method for applying to a variety of colleges. It’s fairly easy to navigate until you get to the essay choices. As you read through the topic choices, you’re wondering, of course, which topic will produce the best essay – the one that will market you as a candidate of choice for the school you hope to attend. Any of the topics can trigger a great essay; the trick is deciding which topic inspires you to reveal what is special about you. Today, let’s talk about responding to this popular topic: “What person has had a significant influence on you, and why?” How can you answer this honestly, interestingly, and, most important, in a way that demonstrates that you are a good fit for the school? My first piece of advice is to avoid clever gimmicks and pretensions, and answer as honestly as you can. Many students pick this topic because they are truly inspired by a friend or family member who has overcome a disability or other obstacle in order to prevail. The problem is that so many people say the exact same thing. However, if the influence of someone you know has truly had a significant effect on you, try to tap into why, and write about that, rather than the obstacle itself. Falling back on “my brother’s perseverance in the face of his dyslexia has inspired me to view my own obstacles as things that can be surmounted through hard work,” is trite and may turn off the Admissions Committee. Instead of trotting out a list of role models in your life and writing about your desire to emulate them, consider focusing on one of your personal flaws, and talk about how the person who influences you most makes you more aware of this flaw. Self-knowledge – and the willingness to grow and learn about oneself is a sign of maturity that Admissions Commitee members will be interested in learning about you.

The Personal Essay: Let Your Authentic Self Shine Through​

It is well worth your while to submit a personal statement that reflects what is unique about yourself. Put yourself in the shoes of any member of the Admissions Committee; week after week of personal statements from students who share similar GPAs, SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT, GMAT or GRE scores, not to mention similar goals and motivations for attending the same school. The more competitive the school, the more similarities among the applicants, and the greater difficulty in differentiating yourself. The Personal Statement has become increasingly important over time. An article in The New York Times (1/7/2011) cites an impressive stat from a 2009 survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling: 26% of admissions officers deemed the personal statement of “considerable importance” in deciding who gets in, compared with only 14% in 1993. For those of you considering the more exclusive schools, be aware that the personal statement give it more weight than even your GPA! There’s only one way to approach this daunting task, and that is to create your own narrative about who you are and what makes you the unique individual you are. Think about one thing that really matters to you, and don’t try to impress the Committee with filler activities or pretending to admire some historical figure you could care less about. Some of the best essays are about little things – insignificant events that tell the reader who you are.

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