Tips For Writing An Outstanding Essay

Every part of your college application is important. However, when faced with a sea of exceptional applicants, it is an outstanding essay that can tip the balance and solidify your place at the college you desire. Don’t let the anxiety over writing the essay make you procrastinate. Time is your friend, it gives you the opportunity to write multiple drafts, hone your language and ensure your essay is in your own voice.

According to Jeff Brenzel, who was Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University, it is important to choose a topic that will highlight you. Tell a personal story that shows a creative approach. This is the time to shine a light on all the areas that are not covered in other parts of the application. Remember to keep the focus narrow and personal. If you try to cover too many topics, you risk turning the essay into a resume. You want to make sure the reader can learn about who you are. It is easier to do this if you write about something that is important to you and has had an impact on your life.

On a similar note, be honest. Do not embellish your achievements or accomplishments. It is fine to be the treasurer of a club instead of the president. It is your experience that counts.

As you write, do not simply recount an event. Reflect on what you learned and how it changed you, then describe it to the reader. Be careful not to repeat yourself. The information in your essay should not contradict other parts of your application. Do not list awards or discuss test scores here.

In a Tip Sheet article for The New York Times, Martha C. Merril, who was Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Connecticut College, offered her perspective on what she looks for in an application essay. “Consider a mundane topic. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make the best essays. Some of my favorites have included essays that reflect on the daily subway ride to school, or what the family goldfish observed from the fishbowl perched on the family kitchen table. It doesn’t have to be a life-changing event to be interesting and informative.”

Once you have written your essay, remember to proofread, edit and get a second, third or even fourth opinion from a few trusted people. One of the easiest ways to stand out is to have correct spelling and grammar. In your edit, ask yourself if the way the essay is organized makes sense. Can anything be clearer? Can anything be cut?

Hopefully these tips will help you approach your application essay with more confidence. You can write an outstanding essay that showcases your personality and helps you stand out to admissions officers.

by Kurt van Aswegen

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