Lindsey Conger, an independent college counselor at MoonPrep. A little laugh can be a relief to admissions associates who are knee-deep in earnest essays. To pull in the reader, Brian Galvin, chief academic officer for Varsity Tutors , recommends using humor or a semi-sensational statement. His example of an intriguing line? My life has never been the same. And this is the perfect amount of humor — two sentences.
Remember, the essay is meant as a tool to communicate the fullest and most compelling version of yourself. After a quick bit of humor, Galvin suggests transitioning into your interests. To make your college essay stand out, use compelling examples to illustrate your points.
Tell us how you felt and the impact the conversation had on you and the resident. To make a particular interest stand out in the context of a college essay, talk about how it aligns with your educational pursuits. Just be mindful of the fine line between sharing difficult experiences and painting yourself as a victim, which is less appealing to admissions officers.
Acknowledging a mistake you made can display emotional depth and vulnerability too. It would be easy to just talk about yourself, but to bring your essay to the next level, try to connect it to the world at large. Ask the question: What is an important and authentic context for my story? In a well-known example , one student framed her entire essay within the context of shopping at Costco, but managed to bring in physics concepts, made literary references and demonstrated her own personal growth.
These tips will help you write a college essay that stands out in a good way. So be sure to proofread your essay several times and ask for an extra set of eyes or two before hitting send. How did it affect or change you? This college essay tip is by Dean J, admissions officer and blogger from University of Virginia. The tip below is paraphrased from a post on the University of Virginia Admission blog. Consider these two hypothetical introductory paragraphs for a master's program in library science.
Since I was eleven I have known I wanted to be a librarian. Some of my best days were spent arranging and reading her books. Since then, I have wanted to be a librarian. Each graf was 45 words long and contained substantively the same information applicant has wanted to be a librarian since she was a young girl. But they are extraordinarily different essays, most strikingly because the former is generic where the latter is specific.
It was a real thing, which happened to a real person, told simply. There is nothing better than that. Most people prefer reading a good story over anything else. Worry less about providing as many details about you as possible and more about captivating the reader's attention inside of a great narrative.
I read a great essay this year where an applicant walked me through the steps of meditation and how your body responds to it. Loved it. Yes, I'll admit I'm a predisposed meditation fan. I actually use voice memos in my car when I have a really profound thought or a to do list I need to record , so find your happy place and start recording.
Make notes where and when you can so that you can capture those organic thoughts for later. This also means you should use words and phrases that you would actually use in everyday conversation. If you are someone who uses the word indubitably all the time, then by all means, go for it.
But if not, then maybe you should steer clear. The most meaningful essays are those where I feel like the student is sitting next to me, just talking to me. This college essay tip is by Kim Struglinski, admissions counselor from Vanderbilt University. Verbs jump, dance, fall, fail us. Nouns ground us, name me, define you. Teach them well and they will teach you too. Let them play, sing, or sob outside of yourself.
Give them as a gift to others. Try the imperative, think about your future tense, when you would have looked back to the imperfect that defines us and awaits us. Define, Describe, Dare. Have fun. This college essay tip is by Parke Muth , former associate dean of Admissions at the University of Virginia 28 years in the office and member of the Jefferson Scholars selection committee.
Keep the story focused on a discrete moment in time. By zeroing in on one particular aspect of what is, invariably, a long story, you may be better able to extract meaning from the story. So instead of talking generally about playing percussion in the orchestra, hone in on a huge cymbal crash marking the climax of the piece. Or instead of trying to condense that two-week backpacking trip into a couple of paragraphs, tell your reader about waking up in a cold tent with a skiff of snow on it.
Take a look, and start to formulate your plan. Brainstorm what you are going to tell us — focus on why you are interested in the major you chose. If you are choosing the Division of General Studies, tells us about your passions, your career goals, or the different paths you are interested in exploring. This college essay tip is by Hanah Teske, admissions counselor at the University of Illinois.
Imagine how the person reading your essay will feel. No one's idea of a good time is writing a college essay, I know. But if sitting down to write your essay feels like a chore, and you're bored by what you're saying, you can imagine how the person reading your essay will feel. On the other hand, if you're writing about something you love, something that excites you, something that you've thought deeply about, chances are I'm going to set down your application feeling excited, too—and feeling like I've gotten to know you.
Put a little pizazz in your essays by using different fonts, adding color, including foreign characters or by embedding media—links, pictures or illustrations. And how does this happen? Look for opportunities to upload essays onto applications as PDFs. This college essay tip is by Nancy Griesemer, University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University graduate and founder of College Explorations who has decades of experiencing counseling high schoolers on getting into college.
Think about any article you've read—how do you decide to read it? You read the first few sentences and then decide. The same goes for college essays. A strong lede journalist parlance for "lead" will place your reader in the "accept" mindset from the beginning of the essay. A weak lede will have your reader thinking "reject"—a mindset from which it's nearly impossible to recover.
This approach pushes kids to use examples to push their amazing qualities, provide some context, and end with hopes and dreams. So application essays are a unique way for applicants to share, reflect, and connect their values and goals with colleges. Admissions officers want students to share their power, their leadership, their initiative, their grit, their kindness—all through relatively recent stories.
Use your essays to empower your chances of acceptance, merit money, and scholarships. This college essay tip is by Dr. Rebecca Joseph, professor at California State University and founder of All College Application Essays , develops tools for making the college essay process faster and easier. To me, personal stuff is the information you usually keep to yourself, or your closest friends and family. So it can be challenging, even painful, to dig up and share.
Try anyway. When you open up about your feelings —especially in response to a low point—you are more likely to connect with your reader s. Because we've all been there. So don't overlook those moments or experiences that were awkward, uncomfortable or even embarrassing. Weirdly, including painful memories and what you learned from them! Chances are, you also shared a mini-story that was interesting, entertaining and memorable.
This college essay tip is by Janine Robinson, journalist, credentialed high school English teacher, and founder of Essay Hell , has spent the last decade coaching college-bound students on their college application essays. I believe everyone has a story worth telling. Sometimes the seemingly smallest moments lead us to the biggest breakthroughs. No one is expecting you to solve the issue of world peace with your essay.
Remember, this essay is about YOU. What makes you different from the thousands of other applicants and their essays? Be specific. Use vivid imagery. This college essay tip is by Myles Hunter, CEO of TutorMe , an online education platform that provides on-demand tutoring and online courses for thousands of students.
My parents would have much preferred that I write about sports or youth group, and I probably could have said something interesting about those, but I insisted on writing about a particular fish in the pet store I worked at—one that took much longer than the others to succumb when the whole tank system in the store became diseased. It was a macabre little composition, but it was about exactly what was on my mind at the time I was writing it. I think it gave whoever read it a pretty good view of my 17 year-old self.
I'll never know if I got in because of that weird essay or in spite of it, but it remains a point of pride that I did it my way. This college essay tip is by Mike McClenathan, founder of PwnTestPrep , which has a funny name but serious resources for helping high school students excel on the standardized tests.
Your admissions essay should go through several stages of revision. Ask your parents, teachers, high school counselors or friends for their eyes and edits. It should be people who know you best and want you to succeed. Take their constructive criticism in the spirit for which they intend—your benefit. The most obvious things make great topics. What do I mean? Colleges want to learn about who you are, what you value and how you will contribute to their community.
I had two students write about their vehicles—one wrote about the experience of purchasing their used truck and one wrote about how her car is an extension of who she is. We learned about their responsibility, creative thinking, teamwork and resilience in a fun and entertaining way.
Don't tell them a story you think they want, tell them what YOU want. Of course you want it to be a good read and stay on topic, but this is about showing admissions who you are. You don't want to get caught up in thinking too much about what they are expecting. Focus your thoughts on yourself and what you want to share. This college essay tip is by Ashley McNaughton, Bucknell University graduate and founder of ACM College Consulting , consults on applicants internationally and volunteers with high achieving, low income students through ScholarMatch.
A sneaky thing can happen as you set about writing your essay: you may find yourself guessing what a college admissions committee is looking for and writing to meet that made up criteria rather than standing firm in who you are and sharing your truest self. While you want to share your thoughts in the best possible light edit please! Show your depth. Be honest about what matters to you. Be thoughtful about the experiences you've had that have shaped who you've become.
Be your brilliant self. And trust that your perfect-fit college will see you for who truly you are and say "Yes! This is exactly who we've been looking for. Admission officers can spot parent content immediately. The quickest way for a student to be denied admission is to allow a parent to write or edit with their own words.
Parents can advise, encourage, and offer a second set of eyes, but they should never add their own words to a student's essay. This college essay tip is by Suzanne Shaffer is a college prep expert, blogger, and author who manages the website Parenting for College. Don't just write about your resume, recommendations, and high school transcripts. Admissions officers want to know about you, your personality and emotions. For example, let them know what hobbies, interests, or passions you have.
Do you excel in athletics or art? Let them know why you excel in those areas. It's so important to just be yourself and write in a manner that lets your personality shine through. This college essay tip is by College Basic Team. Find a way to showcase yourself without bragging. Being confident is key, but you don't want to come across as boasting. Next, let them know how college will help you achieve your long-term goals. Help them connect the dots and let them know you are there for a reason.
This will not only help you stand out from other applicants, but it will also prepare you for the college interview ahead of time as well. As a former college admissions officer, I read thousands of essays—good and bad. The essays that made the best impressions on me were the essays that were real. The students did not use fluff, big words, or try to write an essay they thought admission decisions makers wanted to read. The essays that impressed me the most were not academic essays, but personal statements that allowed me to get to know the reader.
I was always more likely to admit or advocate for a student who was real and allowed me to get to know them in their essay. So start instead with:. Skip the moral-of-the-story conclusions, too. Warm-up strategy: Read the first two sentences and last two sentences in a few of your favorite novels.
Did you spot any throat-clearing or moral-of-the-story endings? Probably not! Don't read the Common Application prompts. If you already have, erase them from memory and write the story you want colleges to hear. The truth is, admission reviewers rarely know—or care—which prompt you are responding to. They are curious to discover what you choose to show them about who you are, what you value, and why.
Even the most fluid writers are often stifled by fitting their narrative neatly into a category and the essay quickly loses authentic voice. Write freely and choose a prompt later. Spoiler alert It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design. This college essay tip is by Brennan Barnard, director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N. After you're done writing, read your essay, re-read it a little later, and have someone else read it too, like a teacher or friend—they may find typos that your eyes were just too tired to see.
Colleges are looking for students who can express their thoughts clearly and accurately, and polishing your essay shows that you care about producing high-quality, college-level work. Plus, multiple errors could lower your chances of admission. So take the extra time and edit! Take the pressure off and try free-writing to limber up. If you are having trouble coming up with what it is you want to convey or finding the perfect story to convey who you are, use prompts such as:.
I suggest handwriting versus typing on a keyboard for 20 minutes. Don't worry about making it perfect, and don't worry about what you are going to write about. Think about getting yourself into a meditative state for 20 minutes and just write from the heart.
To get myself in a meditative state, I spend 60 seconds set an alarm drawing a spiral. Never let the pen come off the page, and just keep drawing around and around until the alarm goes off. Then, start writing. It might feel you didn't write anything worthwhile, but my experience is that there is usually a diamond in the rough in there Do this exercise for days straight, then read out loud what you have written to a trusted source a parent?
Don't expect a masterpiece from this exercise though stranger things have happened. The goal is to discover the kernel of any idea that can blossom into your college essay—a story that will convey your message, or clarity about what message you want to convey.
Here is a picture of the spiral, in case you have trouble visualizing:. Adding feelings to your essays can be much more powerful than just listing your achievements. It allows reviewers to connect with you and understand your personality and what drives you. In particular, be open to showing vulnerability. Nobody expects you to be perfect and acknowledging times in which you have felt nervous or scared shows maturity and self-awareness. This college essay tip is by Charles Maynard, Oxford and Stanford University Graduate and founder of Going Merry , which is a one-stop shop for applying to college scholarships.
Be genuine and authentic. Your essay should be a true representation of who you are as a person—admissions officers want to read essays that are meaningful, thoughtful, and consistent with the rest of the application.
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