Admission Tip #4: Writing your essay

Hi Everyone! I hope you all had a relaxing Thanksgiving break.  It has been awhile since my last admission tip post.  As I prepare to read applications for the early action deadline, which is December 1 , I thought I would write a post that focuses on the essay portion of your application.

When I applied to college, I remember this was the most stressful part of the application for me.  How do I write about myself in just 500 words?  Where do I start?  What would impress the admissions staff reading my application?   If you are still working on your personal statement, perhaps you might find the following tips to be helpful:

1.    Please read the question.

After reading many essays from applicants who I think glossed over the question or did not read it, I think it would be a good idea to remind everyone to read the question.  Some schools you apply to may not be part of the Common Application, so you definitely want to make sure you do not submit the same essay you would for the Common Application.  If you are going to apply to a school that uses the Common Application, make sure to read all 6 options.  Before writing a response to the question, take a minute to analyze the question.  What is the question asking?  For example,  if it asks you to evaluate an experience, make sure that you “evaluate” rather than tell your readers about an experience.

2.    Write and re-write.

When writing your essay, I recommend writing a first draft and then re-write a second draft.  It was difficult for me to adhere to the 500 word limit.  As a result, I wrote a first draft and then went through my essay and deleted sentences that I thought were not necessary in answering the question.  I kept going back to my essay and re-read it several times to find places where I could shorten my sentences.  This will also help your essay become more succinct.

3.    Proofread!

Before submitting your application, make sure to proofread your essay for grammatical and spelling errors.  Although the spell check feature on Word is very helpful in catching errors, it does not always catch all mistakes.  I read my essay aloud and that helped me catch more errors.  You can even ask a friend, teacher, or sibling to serve as a second pair of eyes.  However, make sure that this person is only proofreading your essay for grammatical and spelling errors.  Their job is not to rewrite your essay.  In many cases, it is apparent if the essay was written by you or by someone else.

4.    Ask yourself: Did I answer the question?

As you write your essay, ask yourself if you answered the question.  It is easy for a writer to go off on tangents or not answer the question.  One thing that worked well for me was I wrote my essay using a Word document and included the question at the top of the page.  As I wrote my response, I went back to the question to see if I answered it completely and to the best of my ability.

5.    Write about something that is meaningful to you, not about a story that will impress readers.

Essays where applicants have taken the time to come up with a meaningful response are more favorable than essays where applicants tried to impress readers with their achievements.

Good luck!