Updated: Oct 21, 2019
You’ve taken the classes, you’ve sat for the tests, you’ve compiled a list of stellar extracurriculars. But what will really help you to shine among a sea of aspiring students? Your admissions essay.
The college admissions essay is arguably the most significant way that you, as an applicant, can jump off the page, make your voice heard, and stand out as the dynamic young scholar that you are. Your admissions essay acts as a portal that allows you to magically materialize in the office of your admissions officer and tell your story as if you two were old friends. It is a powerful tool in making an impression and earning a spot at your dream school. But how do you write an essay that accomplishes this feat?
Use Your Authentic Voice
A strong admissions essay should communicate who you are beyond your grades and test scores. That means you should write with voice--to create a window to your heart and soul. Every person has a unique way of not only speaking but seeing and interacting with the world. Many students try to sound smart rather than sounding like themselves. A sense of personality, perspective, and self-awareness is what’s most interesting to an admissions committee. Talking the way you talk, sharing your values, insights, and sense of humor all help to create a sense of voice. If you are unsure if you are adequately communicating your voice through your essay, imagine that your best friends or family members were reading through a stack of 100 nameless essays. They should be able, without a doubt, to identify yours if you are writing with your authentic voice because it just sounds like you.
Tell the truth
Don’t stretch (or invent) the details of your life experiences. You don't have to have had an earth-shattering experience to get into the school of your dreams. The topic is not as important as what you have to say about it. The strength of your essay comes not from the experience you choose to share, but how you can reflect on how that experience has shaped you. What did you learn? How were you changed? Being genuine and candid in your writing draws your reader in and creates a connection. Don’t write what you think the admissions officer wants to hear, be honest and let the essay serve as a snapshot into how your mind works.
It’s All in the Details
A vague essay is a boring essay. Details are what give your essay spice and personality. The more vivid and specific details you use, the more your writing will come to life. You want to show the reader what you mean instead of telling them. For example, if you are describing an embarrassing moment, instead of writing, "I was so embarrassed”. You could write, “I felt a hot rush of blood beginning to rise in my cheeks and the searing stares of everyone in the room”. Try to paint a picture in your reader’s mind and have fun with it. Good writing goes a long way and will be remembered by the admissions committee, which is exactly what you want!
Although the process of drafting your admissions essay may be daunting, the more you imbue it with your insights, values, personality the more you will shine. You have carefully chosen a handful of schools that you believe are the right fit for you. The more you can reveal who you are and what makes you unique, the better chance that the school will see that you are a perfect match!