One part of the college application process is crafting a personal essay. Studies have shown that after your GPA, personal essays are what colleges consider most when looking at your application. Thus, it is important that you dedicate time and effort into writing your essay. However, this can seem daunting, and you may not know where to begin. So, here are some tips on how to write a good college essay:
What is a College Essay?
- A college essay is a 250-650 word piece, detailing your background, identity, experiences, or likewise that may provide admissions officers with more context on your character and the type of student you may be on their campus. Unlike your GPA or test scores, this essay is extremely personal to you, and gives more insight on who you are as a person. The essay is a way of personifying you, not comparing you to a numerical value, like the other factors.
When should I start writing?
- Writing a college essay can consume a lot of time and energy, so it is essential to start early. Most resources suggest starting in the summer before your senior year, and having a final draft before the first day of senior year. This may seem awfully early at first, but it is important you save time to write the numerous supplemental essays you are bound to have to write. Most colleges have at least one supplemental essay that is personal to that specific school. Supplemental essays are shorter than the main essay; however, you will most likely have to write several, so allotting yourself time is a must.
What are the prompts like?
- Though the prompts on the CommonApp change from year to year, the general idea is always the same. The prompts tend to be overarching, allowing applicants to write about anything they feel especially tied to.
- Some examples include:
~ Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
~ The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
~ Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
~ Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
~ Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
~ Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
~ Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
What should I write about?
- It is important to write about something you are passionate about. No admissions officer wants to read a 650 word essay about a topic the applicant is clearly not interested in. Your passion will resonate through your essay, so keep that in mind.
- Avoiding overly sad, angry, or negative essay topics is highly recommended, as the purpose of the essay is to demonstrate what kind of characteristics you will bring to a campus. Colleges do not want to see students have a negative outlook on the world, so it is vital that if your topic leans more towards the gloomy side, you end the essay with a more uplifting tone.
- In a similar vein, colleges like to see your growth potential. Oftentimes, parents or teachers will tell students to avoid experiences with failure. However, students who detail their failures, but also describe how they grew from those experiences and move past their setbacks are more impressive to colleges, as these types of attitudes prove to colleges that these students can learn to float in difficult environments.
- It is suggested that students stray from listing their extracurriculars in their essays. College essays are a separate facet of the application, which allows colleges to learn more about you. They already have access to your extracurriculars, so the essay portion is your time to reveal something new about yourself.
Writing college essays may seem challenging at first, but taking the process step-by-step will certainly ease the process. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm, draft, edit, and rewrite. It will all be worth it in the end!