(This is the second of two articles about writing effective college admission application essays. Part one, “Help with the College Admission Application Essay: The New Common Application for College Admission,” was a blog post dated 9-27-13. )
The “Effective College Application Essay Writing Tips” below offer assistance with writing responses to all types of college admission application essay prompts, whether a prompt for The Common Application, a specific university’s supplemental essay to The Common Application, or any other type of admissions essay.
The purpose of any type of admissions essay is to candidly present the applicant as a captivating, distinguished, well-rounded individual that exists beyond the strict confines of the general application: What is unique and impressive about this applicant as an individual? What potential does this applicant possess to positively impact the school and society? How has and can this individual made a difference in the lives of others?
Specific writing tips for delivering an effective college application essay:
- Maintain a single focus: Do not try to cram all of your academic and extracurricular achievements into 650 words! Rather, focus on one specific time or event that reveals transformation, evolution, and/ or change. Make this particular experience come alive for your reader. The application itself will list all of your achievements. Your essay should not read as a list of accomplishments.
- “Show” a story, don’t “tell” it: Use strong, action verbs and specific details to present a personal journey or experience that comes to life off of the paper. Don’t make the mistake of simply “telling” a story that lacks emotion, transformation, and self-assessment. Paint a vivid picture with your words so that your feelings and personal revelations are real and interesting to read. Example: Instead of “The disappointment made me sad, but I refused to cry,” write, “Clutching my award for third place, my mind raced through all of the details I had forgotten to include in my performance. Stage-fright had erased hours upon hours of practice. Tears hidden behind a concealing smile, I knew that when I finally reached the comforting privacy of my bedroom later that afternoon, I would let my disappointment and heartache finally surface.”
- Reveal your personality: It is important for the reader to gain a sense of your personality and uniqueness. Although your essay should be thoughtful and well-written, it should also capture you as an individual. Show emotion so that you evoke understanding and/ or empathy from your reader. After all, the most favorable characters in literature are the ones with which we can identify. Your essay should not overdo humor or sadness, but an occasional smile or tear on behalf of the reader can be very effective and memorable. It is important to reveal yourself as a human being that has learned through life and experience, someone that has stopped to think and can impact other individuals and the community. How can you make a difference in the lives of others?
- Be strong: It is one thing to learn from a mistake and develop into a better person. However, it is another thing to complain or make excuses for shortcomings. The essay is a place to show personal strength and self-evolution, not to explain away mistakes or lack accountability. Take charge, but remember to do it without bragging or boasting.
- Proofread, and proofread again! After you read through your essay several times, have someone else read through it to check for errors in spelling, grammar, usage, and punctuation. Does the essay flow and read through with organization? The presentation of your essay must represent a polished, detail-oriented applicant that takes his or her work seriously. Good resources to use at this point are an older sibling or parent with strong writing skills or a teacher. Of course, All About Writing is also here to help!
Since good writing is good writing, no matter what the prompt or writing project at hand, these pointers can also prove helpful with any type of writing students encounter.
Remember, All About Writing is here to help with both the prewriting and editing of your college application essay; however, we promote integrity and independence on behalf of the student and will not write your essay for you! It is critical that content genuinely comes from and reflects the student, as that is the point of weighting the essay so heavily in the admissions process.
If you are struggling with brainstorming ideas, organizing your thoughts, or structuring your essay, call us to get started. When you are finished with the rough draft of your essay, we can then work together to polish it to perfection!
Learn more about All About Writing and owner Christa Riddle at www.allaboutwritingconsulting.com. Remember, with All About Writing, writing help is just a call or click away! Call us today to schedule your free consultation and get your project underway. We are here to assist with any phase of the project.
-by Christa Riddle