So many students want and expect themselves to produce pure, uninhibited brilliance the first time their fingers hit the keys, but that is almost never the way good essay writing works.
I can tell a lot about a person from his or her application essay; it’s the most current snapshot of who you are as a person. I’m going to be completely honest with you: Your application essay cannot overshadow years of poor grades and test scores, and in this case, your essay may never find itself in front of the admissions committee. That’s exactly who your essay should be about: you. Now, keep in mind that creativity and a bit of humor are nice.
Think about it: Most of the items you submit to the colleges or universities you’re applying to showcase talents that you have developed over a long period of time. At the same time, you shouldn’t downplay the importance of the essay either. This is your chance to paint a picture of who you are. Professionals on admissions committees have the daunting task of reading thousands of application essays per year, and it can get a bit tedious after a while.
Parents and students often ask us for our most valuable Common Application essay tips, so our savvy team of advisors compiled a list of simple, effective tricks to use as guidelines while you navigate the tricky waters of college essay writing. Now ask yourself- are any of these stories representative of my larger, most valuable qualities?
Think small: When writing the Common Application essay, too many students feel compelled to try and squeeze their entire life story into 650 words. Have you read something recently that blew your mind?
Don’t edit yourself before you allow your creativity to warm up and pour onto the page.
Never judge your writing until you have a few paragraphs written down first. We’re content and grammar snobs, so we find clichés to be extra unappealing, but we also have enough confidence in your creativity to know that you can do better. It’s all in the details: What is the difference between these two sentences? My favorite activities included fishing and cooking my daily catch. My friends and I woke up early every morning to catch bass on Lake Michigan, cooking our spoils with herbs picked from a local farm.Some students achieve entertainment value by being controversial. Some are able to describe events in such detail that a reader simply must get to the end of the essay.No matter what tactics you end up using, your goal should be effortless and compelling readability. Brand yourself: In order for your essay to be truly effective, a reader should be able to summarize your subject in a simple sentence.For example, at The University of Tampa, the question, “How do you feel about the month of February?” rarely results in a boring application essay and can go in numerous directions. Go out on a limb and take a stab at the question that helps you paint a unique and compelling self-portrait. “In 10th grade, I became a hooker.” Yes, this is the actual first line of an application essay we received a few years ago and something I never imagined I would see while reading an admissions essay. Immediately I was stunned trying to think of the events that must have lead up to this moment and how this student was going to swing this into a positive light. What I didn’t know at the time was that a “hooker” was actually the name of a position on a rugby team.You accomplish this self-branding by choosing a creative topic (or a creative twist on a common topic), and writing about it with enough detail to burn an image of yourself in the reader’s brain.When it comes down to you and another similarly qualified candidate, you want an admissions officer to be able to stand up with your application in his/her hand and say, “I like the girl who performed trapeze in the circus,” or “How about the girl who saved her grandfather’s life?Talking about your family’s adoption of a three-legged dog and how your pet’s perseverance and quirky attitude influenced the way you live your life, will make a better essay than a super general diatribe on why you like dogs, for example.If you find yourself getting lost while writing, ask: what am I trying to say about myself, and am I using a specific, compelling example to tell my story? Write first, edit later: When it comes to writing, we are almost always our own worst critics.As an applicant, you want your essay to shine a bright light in the face of that oft-bored reader.No matter what your subject, serious, uplifting, sentimental or pithy, your essay should aim to entertain.