With the intense competition for entry into America’s top schools, the college application essay is more important than ever. Although most students dread this assignment, it is the best way to distinguish yourself from other candidates, let the school get to know you, and add a personal touch to your application. Winning admission is about more than just GPA, class rank, and SAT scores. Universities are looking to build a student body with diverse talents, personality, and character. There is no better way to showcase these qualities than the college essay.
The first step in writing a winning essay to understand what admission boards are really looking for. Many students mistakenly believe that there is a correct answer to the essay question–that colleges are expecting the student to espouse a particular point of view. However, the exact opposite is usually true. It is not so much what you say, but how you say it that matters. Is the writing original? Is the thesis well developed and logically supported? Is the writing grammatically correct and stylistically pleasing? These are the questions the essay reader is likely to have foremost in his/her mind.
Every aspect of the essay will say something important about you. Show that you are an orderly and conscientious student by submitting a neatly typed (or a laser printer generated) document that exactly follows the essay requirements. Do not go over any limits placed on length or write on any topic that does not fit the assignment question or prompt. In general, it is best to keep your essay brief and to the point. Remember, it is not about how much you right, but how well you write. At all costs you must avoid appearing long-winded or superficial in your thesis. Readers can quickly spot an essay that was written simply to fulfill an admission requirement. Present a point of view that you truly believe in, and the sincerity and relevance of your thesis will come through.
Do not be afraid to inject some humor or personal information into your essay. Of course, be careful not to go overboard. You want the reader to know something of your personality, but a vulgar joke or admitting something that should be kept private can make the reader rather uncomfortable. Just be sure to keep everything in good taste, and that overall the essay demonstrates your seriousness as a student.
Instead of fearing the essay, consider it a great opportunity. This is your chance to show that your “A” in English was no fluke. Or even better, a well-crafted essay may help compensate for a disappointing score on the SAT verbal section. Most important, this is your best chance to distinguish yourself from the hundreds of other applications you are competing against for that exclusive spot in the college of your choice.