You’ve graduated from high school and are excited for the next stage of your life–higher education. You’ve chosen colleges and universities that speak to your dreams and checked to be sure some of your friends are attending the same schools.
These last couple of months you’ve been handling your business, haven’t you? You’ve asked everyone you knew for recommendation letters, sent out transcripts, and wrangled the FAFSA.
Everything’s going great, but one part of the process still flashes red lights in your mind and fills you with anxiety–the college admissions essay.
What should you say? How can you stand out among the other young, hopeful applicants?
For most high school students, sending their personal statement paired down into a couple of hundred words is stressful. Maybe the prompt isn’t grabbing you, perhaps you’re struggling to express how much you want to get accepted to your favorite college or university in such a small amount of words, or maybe you don’t think you’re the best writer.
The truth is, writing the college applications essay is stressful. Nevertheless, you can do it. Here are eight tips to help you glow like the star you are.
1. Start Early
Popular advice from colleges is to begin your application early. Following this advice will give you enough time to write the best essay you can, so you can show the colleges why you are the best applicant.
Writing your admission essay can be scary, but if you wait until the last minute, you won’t have enough time to make it your best, and this could hurt your chances.
So, start early.
2. Tell a Story
You’re not applying for jobs, yet, so don’t write a resume. College admissions officers may spend a lot or a little amount of time reading your essay, but no matter how much time they give your essay, you’ll want to keep them engaged.
Focus on one event in your life and tell a story that hooks them and makes them want to read more. Jump into the action and pull them into the story. Show them that you can communicate effectively.
When you are writing your “college admissions story,” focus on what skills and lessons you learned from this specific experience. Whether you tell a big or small life event, show the admissions committee how you changed because of this event.
Always make sure you have a clear main point that has a beginning and an end.
– Starting your story with the prompt.
– Beginning with a definition.
– Making your story too long.
One great tip is to ask someone you trust to read your introduction and then tell you what they think your essay will be about.
3. Be Honest
While you may be tempted, like other seniors before you, to highlight the most monumental events in your life, it’s best just to be yourself. If significant events have happened in your life, you may want to write about those, but avoid inventing experiences.
Directors of college admissions have read thousands of essays. They want the truth. They want to know who you are. Most of them would prefer your everyday experiences.
4. Avoid Large Words
It’s understandable. You crammed hundreds of SAT words into your head, and so now you may think it’s an excellent time to use them. However, don’t do this. Admissions committees don’t want to hear some pasted-on voice that uses huge words to sound smarter. No, they want to hear your voice.
5. Create Multiple Drafts
Just like you wouldn’t hand in your essay for a prestigious prize without proofreading it, don’t skip over proofreading your college admissions essay.
Spelling, grammar, and typos are okay in the rough draft, but they shouldn’t be in your final draft.
You are applying to colleges. Not only do they want to know you can communicate through words they also want to know you can focus on the details.
– Use spell-check.
– Let someone proofread your essay for the mistakes your spell-check will miss.
– Ask someone who knows you well if your essay sounds like you
6. Customize Your College Application Essay for Each School
This step is crucial. You know what it feels like when you get a canned response from someone? Bad, right? It feels awful knowing that someone replaced the previous person’s name with yours and then sent it out.
Don’t do that to any of the colleges or universities you are applying to. Customize your essay to each school. Research the activities, groups, and experiences of each college that excite you and put those in your essay.
The college admissions officers will appreciate your effort.
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