How to Write a College Admission Essay
Your key to getting into college.
Many colleges and universities require a college admission essay as part of their admission application, and scholarship applications often include one or more essays in addition to such objective information as grades and test scores. The typical question asks you to share personal information-allowing the selection committee to get to know you-such as your plans or goals, an important event in your life, your philosophy and/or beliefs, or your financial situation. Writing this college admission essay is an opportunity for you to stand out among the applicants and to prove you’re the most deserving candidate. Be sure to keep certain things in mind as you write this essay:
- Consider exactly what the question asks. Then list some relevant main ideas; use this list as an informal outline for your essay.
- Don’t write a “generic” essay that could pass for one that any other applicant could have written. Everything in the essay should reveal something about YOU and your unique situation. Any reader of your essay should feel as if he or she knows you personally.
- Remember that committee members are seeking the applicant who fits the mission of their institution and is worthy of their award. Tailor your college admission essay topic with their perspective in mind, and work to convince them that you’re the right candidate.
- If you have trouble thinking of ideas, be resourceful. Ask people who know you well what they would say about you. If someone has written a letter of recommendation for you, re-read it. Which accomplishments listed on your resume might interest the committee?
- Don’t simply repeat information that is already on your application form or in your resume. Your essay should include specific incidents and concrete examples.
- Don’t use long words and obscure vocabulary simply to impress the committee; doing so will come across as artificial and showy.
- Follow guidelines regarding such things as font size and essay length. Sometimes a typed essay is required; other times, you are required to hand-write it. Sometimes it should be on the application form; other times, it must be on a separate piece of paper. No matter how good your college admission essay is, failure to follow instructions will make a negative impression and may actually disqualify you.
- The appearance of your essay is important. Spell all words correctly; follow grammar and punctuation rules; and keep your paper neat. The committee may not meet you personally; this essay may be the sole basis for their selection. A messy paper or an essay full of errors will cause them to see you as uncaring or unqualified, despite the inaccuracy of this judgment.
- Save your essay! There is nothing wrong with using the same ideas — and occasionally even the same college admission essay — for several applications. Each time, make revisions so that the essay topic responds specifically to the question(s). Although you have used it for other applications, the committee should not be able to tell that this essay wasn’t originally written as a response to their question.
This article was written by Sally Wood, a freelance writer and editor from Marionville, Missouri. She worked as a high school counselor in the Aurora R-VIII School District in Aurora, Missouri, from 1980-2000.