Selling yourself to Colleges Tips for Writing Winning Essays

Writing college admission essays can be daunting, time-consuming, and just plain frustrating. If you’re applying to the college of your dreams, you might get so nervous and anxious that you suddenly get writer’s block, you can’t think of any unique, outstanding qualities that you may have, and you just can’t think. But, if you take the time to relax, really think about who you are and why this college (or that one) is right for you, you’ll have very little trouble writing amazing admission essays.

READ AND REREAD THE QUESTIONS
Always make sure you answer the questions. That is the first rule of thumb. Then, incorporate who you are and your special qualities in that basic essay. College admission essay questions are quite broad, and they generally start out with a quote or an event which is significant to most people. Take these questions as starting points for your essay. Always choose your essay question wisely. Many people try to answer ones that seem “easy,” but every question demands an extensive answer.

CONVEY “UNIQUE”
Admissions officers of colleges and universities everywhere are looking for “unique” individuals. How do you show them that you’re one-of-a-kind? Admissions essays are supposed to illustrate or illuminate some part of your life, or you as an individual, that can somehow contribute to the dignity and honor of the college. For instance, questions that ask how someone has affected you don’t necessarily mean “describe how someone has affected your life.” It can also be taken to mean “describe how you can affect others and use the college to your advantage.”

BE SPECIFIC
The essay questions don’t ask you to write an autobiography. Students should actually focus on one aspect of their life, or one experience, that has motivated them or changed them for the better. Even experiences that don’t seem too profound can be used. Don’t make up things like, “My grandmother died and so I was forced to do so and so…” because it doesn’t get you anywhere. Instead, even one insignificant aspect of your life, such as the first time you moved to another house or getting eyeglasses, can be just as special as the “bigger” events.

STYLE
Style doesn’t have to be your downfall when writing these essays. In fact, showing your unique writing style is best. Just because you’re writing an essay for a college doesn’t mean that you have to write like a Ph.D student. Allow your creative juices to flow and your essay will naturally reflect your individual style.

WHAT TO WRITE
This is all up to you. Give yourself time to think about what your life has been like. Pretend that you’ve been asked to write an autobiography of yourself that might be published nationwide. Think of a chapter in that autobiography, a chapter devoted to one specific event, idea, or consequence of your actions. How has that event or idea changed your way of thinking about yourself, others, or the world, now? Do you regret that event or is keeping it essential to you as an individual? Make a list of all possible ideas, slowly fleshing out the details. After a week or two, you should be able to figure out which one has brought back or resurfaced the most memories for you, and if it still affects you today.

ORGANIZATION
Don’t be tempted to follow the basic five-paragraph essay, because this shouldn’t be formatted like that. Write as you naturally would without the boundaries. When you have a new idea, start a new paragraph.

CHECK AND DOUBLE-CHECK
Write your first paragraph or so and present this draft to your parents, teachers, peers, or anyone else who can provide you with valuable feedback. You should definitely present it to people who may have known you when the event or idea that you’re writing about happened. This way you can have outside information that you may decide to include in the essay. Once you’ve gotten your feedback, rewrite if needed and continue to finish the essay. Present this draft to the same reviewers, and revise as needed. Always read your essay aloud before printing or sending the final draft. If you were an admissions officer, would you consider admitting the student who wrote this essay?

Take these tips to heart, and trust somebody who applied to seven universities and lived to tell the tale of her college application process! Relax and take some time to reflect upon yourself.