How to Write a College Admissions Essay

The 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.

Your First College Examination - Yourself
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.

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.

Looking at the questions above, if the question was "What is the most distinctive event of your life story?" Your answer might be that solving a particular problem was the most distinctive event and include how your most impressive characteristic, your sense of humor, helped you find the solution.

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.

Conclude Your Essay - The Logical Choice
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:
  1. All points relate to your topic
  2. All points are well supported
  3. All points lead to a logical conclusion - your application to "this" school!

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