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Feeling Jittery About College Application Essay? 16 Expert Tips to ‘Wow’ Your Admission Officers
The college admission season can be nerve-wracking for students because there are loads of things to consider. Which major to take up, which college to go to, finding about its scholarship system – all these can seem cumbersome. As these start taking a toll on you, the task of writing your college admission essay comes out from the dark corner straight in front of you in all its daunting (read: haunting) glory.
The college admission essay is the single most important piece of paper that can make or break your chances of cracking your way into a good university. Completely self-revelatory, this type of essay requires you to sum up your entire life in an engaging fashion in just a few hundred words. Besides, you even have to throw in a paragraph on why the faculty should choose you, all this while displaying your uniqueness in the write-up.
Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? Well, it is. But these pro tips are here to help you get from ‘denied’ to ‘accepted’ in a jiffy as well as tips for college application essay help.
1. Start your Essay with a Small Anecdote
Don’t rely on borrowed quotes from famous personalities. That is so clichéd. Give your essay a fresh start instead with a mini anecdote. Starting by telling a personal tale can help you get the attention of the admission officers right away. Just make sure that the anecdote you pick reveals your character and personality. Try selecting one from your memory book that had a transformative effect on your life and contributed to shaping the person you are today.
2. Get back to the prompt later
Begin with focusing on what you can offer to the faculty through your essay rather than following the prompt like the Bible. Once you are done writing about that deeply personal experience, go back to the prompt and see which one fits your write-up the best. Whichever does, mould your final essay around it. This makes the task of editing much easier, and you do not have to worry about fitting into the prompts right from the start. Instead, you get the freedom to express your true self which is really what admission officers are looking for.
3. Offer a slice of your life rather than the whole story
Summing up your entire life, down to every significant moment, in a couple of hundred words is next to impossible. Instead, focus on presenting one standout incident that displays the best side of you in the minutest of details. Don’t think about the word count right now. Just write what comes to you and remove the unnecessary details later. Doing this is vital as it prevents you from leaving out any important details that can give your essay a boost.
4. When writing, think of yourself as the admission officer
If you were a part of the admissions committee of any university, what kind of student would you want to be a part of your college? Would you like to see someone whose passion for learning and enthusiasm to succeed shines through his/her essay? Or would you take the one whose application essay is devoid of any emotion whatsoever? Keeping this point of view in mind is crucial as the university faculty is looking for students who are rearing to go and are forever-hungry to learn something new, transforming into successful and responsible students of the future. Be sure to embrace this spirit and let it shine in your essay.
5. Take your time and choose your topic wisely
One piece of valuable advice: take the same amount of time for choosing your topic as you’d take to writing your essay down. This is because the admissions committee will always remember the topic you’ve written on even if they forget the lessons presented or the details given. In fact, choosing a topic that is not common or popular can give you an edge above the rest. Most admission professors look for offbeat topics as those are the essays they enjoy reading and offer them a new perspective on the student they didn’t think of before.
6. Remember to avoid these common topics
Now that you know the kind of topics you must write on; you should also have an idea about the topics you should avoid. These are the topics you should steer clear of –
• A mission you undertook and performed well in
• A relative or any other person you admire and have learned from
• A camp trip you went for.
If you happen to work on any of the above topics, ensure that you give it an entirely different slant so that it turns out to be more compelling.
7. Your essay is not a term paper
You don’t have the liberty to stretch your essay into a term paper so be extra careful with the words you choose to put into it. Use brevity as a guiding principle while writing your essay. The central statement of your essay should be concise in nature and must be purely written in your words. At the same time, it should be informal and not written in the style of a school essay. Let your personality speak for itself in your essay.
8. Before you write, answer these questions
Ask yourself these questions. This will give you a clear direction for your essay –
• What about yourself makes you feel most proud? Is there a story behind it?
• What makes you different from or even similar to your family and friends?
• What does everybody like about you the most?
• Which day has been your best day ever yet?
• What is that one thing you’re exceptionally good at?
• What’s the dynamic in your family like and what role do you play?
• How has your family altered/shaped your perception of the world?
These questions will also help you remember the important aspects of your life and gather information about them from your mind-space.
9. Keep it to the point
Loads of universities will ask you to state your reason for choosing this particular university in your essay. You have to handle this question smartly and not just give the same old replies such as ‘this university is renowned for being the best’ or that ‘this university has a good teacher to student ratio.’ Do your homework and study the university. Ask yourself what are the things you like about it. Then devise your answer based on these reasons, backed by specific examples.
10. Notice what you’ve written while you’re writing
Picture this: the admission officer is working late, it’s a busy time, and yours is one of the last few essays he’s going to read for the day. He comes to your essay and gently drifts off to sleep because it is just not engaging enough. A horrifying scenario, isn’t it?
Prevent yourself from it by noticing what you’re writing. Do you find what you’ve written interesting? Is your topic fun? Is your writing flowing naturally? If the answer to even one of these questions is no, go back and change certain aspects of what you’ve written. Keep in mind that if you’re bored while writing your essay, the reader of it will be bored while reading it.
11. Stick to the instructions provided
While writing the initial draft, it is okay to ignore most of the instructions given. But when submitting the final copy, you have to make sure that you essay fits perfectly into the guidelines provided. There’s a reason why universities set strict guidelines, and disobeying them can show that you either don’t care much about rules or have a tough time following them. Either way, that’s not an impression you want to create. However, that doesn’t mean the content of your essay should be centered on what matters to the admission committee. The content should focus on what’s important to you, only that it should be written within the boundaries of the instructions laid down by the college.
12. Try staying within the range of the maximum permissible word limit
Don’t get overjoyed if you’ve managed to say all that was required within 150-200 words or so. While lucidity is important, sticking to the word count is equally paramount. Usually around 600-650 words is the limit. So if your content is too short, that means you’re missing out on vital information and need to add more matter to submit a holistic essay. On the other hand, if you’re crossing the word count, you need to chop it down and remove all the unnecessary bits and pieces. Choosing the right essay topic can help you achieve the ideal word count easily without compromising on details that enrich your essay. This topic can be anything, and you don’t have to be afraid if it’s emotional or funny or dramatic.
13. Make use of your essay to convey to convey things about you the application cannot
It’s almost impossible for all colleges to perform a background check on each applicant individually. These colleges can only rely on the information you give them, and the report card from school or your application form barely says anything about you at all. This is the reason why you should use your application to introduce yourself beyond the formalities, beyond the basic information they already know through your forms.
14. Know the purpose behind an application essay
It might often perplex you as to why you have to put in so much time and effort in writing this essay and why it holds enough power to decide the course of your future. Well, the rationale of this exercise is rather simple. The colleges/universities want to see what your writing style is like and how well you can express yourself. They also want know about the kind of person you are, and whether you’ll fit into the principles they uphold as an institution. Your communication skills are tested too. Besides, most colleges are looking for students who have the ability to learn from their life experiences and make a difference in the world around them. Whether the student has leadership qualities or not or embraces team spirit is also analyzed through this mode. Your essay is the only medium that can reveal all of this about you.
15. Don’t try too hard
So many tips can have you thinking that you have to try hard to ace your essay and that you have to break your back to even marginally impress the admission committee. Breathe. Stop trying so hard. It’s only going to come off as fake. There’s no need to look for fancier words on a thesaurus or to change your background information to make yourself look good. What is needed is a certain amount of self-awareness and honesty. The college faculty just wants you to be yourself. You can read up some of the essays that got selected for inspiration. If you’re still not confident enough, ask a member of your family to read it for you. Take their feedback in a constructive manner and see what all you can change but use your discretion and don’t change everything on the basis of the criticism.
16. Edit, Proofread, Wrap up
Once you’re done with the final draft, give it a good read and see if there’s still some editing left to do. If there is, get done with it and then proofread to ensure there are no spelling or grammar errors in your copy. And now you’re done. You can go ahead and drop in the final copy at your preferred college. You’ve successfully progressed from being nervous while writing your essay to writing it like a pro.
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