Writing Your College Essay: The essay provides opportunity for you to show your individuality and creativity in your application. IT IS THE ONLY PART OF THE APPLICATION YOU HAVE FULL CONTROL OVER; TAKE ADVANTAGE! Colleges want to know what makes you special: being the organizer of a community service project, playing in a rock band, participating in a religious or political group, etc.
Colleges also want you to tell them about those parts of your personality and character that make you different from the rest of the applicant pool. The essay can add personality to a folder filled with paper and data. It is the most exciting and revealing piece of the application, so be prepared to spend a decent amount of time on it!
Check out these tips before you sit down to write your essay:
- Be yourself! Too many students make the mistake of attacking essays by asking themselves, “What does the admissions officer want to hear?” This leads to writing that sounds like many other essays and is devoid of any individual personality. Allow for parts of your character to emerge in your writing and be honest in your words. Do not try to be somebody who you are not.
- Avoid writing in strictly biographical facts. “I am a senior at BCCHS. I play basketball and am interested in studying biology…..” Remember that you have already given them a great deal of factual information in other portions of your application. The essay is an opportunity to elaborate on some of those facts. What do you enjoy about basketball? Why is biology of interest to you?
- Pick a topic of genuine interest. You should write about what really interests you. Admissions officers look for commitment, enthusiasm, and passion from applicants. These traits can only come through in your writing if you choose a subject that elicits emotion on your part.
- Do not feel that you must be perfect. Many good essays contain admissions of a candidate’s weaknesses as well as strengths. Strengths may seem all the more believable because of the honesty shown in the writing.
- Be aware of length limits. Colleges often impose limits on the length of an essay because of the volume of applications they receive. Essays that go well beyond the requested length are likely to annoy the reader and do more damage than good.
- Do not attempt to use essays that you have seen in books or on the Internet. Admissions officials have read the same books and are plugged into the same websites. It is illegal to plagiarize and will lead to an outright rejection, if not worse. Do NOT do it!
- Proofread, Proofread, Proofread! There is no excuse for any type of error in an essay of this importance. Grammar and spelling errors will detract from the message you are trying to convey. Let someone else (teacher, parent, older sibling) read your essay, both to review clarity and to catch any mistakes you might have missed. Also, read your essay out loud. This is a good way to catch mistakes and hear if something sounds funny or off.