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How To Write the Perfect College Admissions Essay

Updated on January 6, 2011

The essay portion of the application for a college or university is your one pick-me-up. Your grades might not be straight A's, and you may not have the best ACT score, but if your essay wows the college admission staff, you have a great chance of getting in. Many people are convinced that there is no chance of their essay actually being read after they send in their college application. Of course, nobody can be sure of the answer to this, but I think it's safe to say that the more difficult it is to get into a certain college, the more likely they'll read your essay. To be safe, though, you should always make sure your essay is perfect. That means no typos or grammatical mistakes should be anywhere in the essay when you hit that submit button! But there is a lot more to writing an impressive admissions essay, and I've narrowed it down for you.

1) Spend a good amount of time thinking over the topic you will use.  Don't write your essay on a spur-of-the-moment idea -- chances are, you'll probably end up thinking of something better and write a brand new one. If you're writing the essay that you use on the Common Application, or any other application that lets you write about a topic of your choice, you can literally write about anything you want. But, the thing is, you're only allowed to do this if you can do it well. I've read college admissions essays (successful ones, that is) that we're about the most random things, like taking a shower, that were incredible because the author really knew how to write. 

Basically, make it interesting. So interesting, that even a college admissions advisor will like it, even though it's 3:30 and you're the one hundredth application he's evaluated today. Don't just talk about some experience you had, talk about how that experience changed your life and affected the person you are today. Add interesting details, and even a little humor. When it comes to essays, you want to be as entertaining as you are impressive.

2) Pay close attention to your language. Of course, don't have any spelling errors. That's a given. But there is more to grammar than you may think; besides, you're only a senior in high school, and you haven't learned every single mechanic of grammar. When you're finished take it to the English teach with the best reputation at your school and have him or her look it over. You never know if the person who will read your essay majored in English in college. 

While you're in the process of composing, take note to good essay writing strategies. Regardless of how good your English is and how interesting your story is, your essay will not flow properly unless you take these steps. Here are some helpful hints to look at while you are writing:

  • Try not to repeat the same adjective, verb, or noun more than twice in the entire essay. It gets too repetitive. You should be using a thesaurus actively.
  • If you have a few long sentences in a row, make the next sentence short. Otherwise, the essay will drag. 
  • DO NOT overload the paper with questions (to the reader) or exclamatory sentences. Use, at most, two of each. 
  • Make use of other types of punctuation, such as the semicolon and dashes.

3) Make your conclusion leave an impression. This is always the hardest part of the essay, but it's important to make sure yours is incredible. It's the last thing the admissions' staff will read, so it must be good. Inside it should be the effect that the content of essay had on you. For example, if you're writing about your love for bird-watching, your conclusion should talk about how spending so much time being silent and observing nature has made you feel connected to it and somehow changed you for the better. It should leave the reader thinking "Wow, this person really has a unique quality." 

I hope these tips have helped! If you are planning on writing an essay, comment the subject and some details, and I'll give you tips that are more specific!
Also, you can refer to an interview I had with Roy Peter Clark, renowned writer, about writing a good essay for a college application.


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