How to Write a College Admissions EssayThe college admissions essay is a personal statement that puts your essay writing skills to the test. In writing a college admissions essay you'll combine narrative, persuasive, cause and effect, descriptive, and reflective essay forms into one cohesive self-portrait.
Although a large part of your essay will be autobiographical, the college admissions essay must do more than look at your past. The college admissions board wants to see that you have a well formed vision of where you are now and what you hope to accomplish in the future both during and beyond college.
Before you begin writing a college admissions essay, consider who will read it. College admissions boards read hundreds of essays each year, many that are almost carbon copies of the next. Your essay will need to stand out from the crowd and impress the admissions board with the unique individual that is you.
The most frequent criticism of college admissions essays is that the writer isn't specific in answering the individual questions asked, especially in tailoring his/her response to the school. You can find answers to the most frequently asked questions by answering a few questions about yourself.
- What is the most impressive characteristic of your personality?
- What is the most distinctive element of your life story?
- What about your life most influenced your choices and the goals you have set for your future.
- What influenced you to choose your field of interest? Why are you well suited to the course of study you have chosen?
- What are your real goals for the future? What milestones have you passed and what milestones must you pass in order to achieve your goals?
- Have you left anything out that might be relevant to your personal statement? Keep thinking of questions to answer that relate to your course of study, your goals, and the school(s) to which you are applying.
As you answer your questions, don't write descriptive paragraphs. Just write down the information. Your answers are evidence that you'll use in your responses to specific questions.
Your College Admissions Essay Topic
Like any essay, the introduction of your college admissions essay should introduce your topic and the main points that support your topic. Don't make the mistake of thinking your topic is either an overview or a long-winded dissertation on your life.
The college admissions board wants to see what events in your life led you to an interest in your course of study and what makes you believe that attending their school will best help you achieve your goals. The first paragraph should be the framework and set the scene for your entire college admissions essay.
Use each paragraph of the body to elaborate on a single point with statements that both support the point and relate to the essay topic.
Example: What is the most impressive characteristic of your personality?
Wrong answer: My sense of humor is my most impressive characteristic.
Wrong answer: I was always the class clown and frequently broke up the class with my antics.
Better answer (There are no real right answers!): A strong sense of humor helps me keep an optimistic viewpoint. Although I'm not an incurable optimist, humor also helps keeps problems in perspective. My sense of humor has often been an essential tool in finding the solution to a problem. (You might follow with an example of a problem that your sense of humor helped you solve.)
Remember: Tailor your college admissions essay to answer the specific questions asked. This is the most important thing you can do in writing a good college admissions essay.
Turn Obstacles to Your Advantage
Although we all probably would like to sweep past mistakes under the rug, in writing a college admissions essay it's essential to face them head on. However, just acknowledging mistakes isn't enough. For instance, if you have discrepancies in your academic record, do disclose them at some point in your personal statement. Also, explain them, not just with an excuse but with the reason for them. In addition, explain what you did or are doing to make corrections.
Have you made some “wrong choices” in your life that led you to change your path and were instrumental in setting your current goals?
Have you overcome some obstacle (physical, financial, social) that makes you a better candidate for your course of study?
Remember: Make whatever you write relevant to your course of study and your choice of school.
Know your school and be prepared to explain why you chose it with substantial, yet honest reasons.
- What about its program appeals to you?
- What does it offer that other schools do not?
- What are your expectations in choosing the school?
Conclude your college admissions essay by fashioning a summary that shows how “this” school is the logical choice. Of course, you'll check your essay for mechanical errors, but also check your essay to be sure that:
- All points relate to your topic
- All points are well supported
- All points lead to a logical conclusion – your application to “this” school!