Five Point Strategy
For Writing Standout
College Application Essays
Be Yourself. When you are applying for admission to colleges and universities, it’s important to both fit in and standout. You fit in by having SAT scores, GPA’s, class ranking, activities and community service work that is similar to the other applicants. You standout by showing who you truly are in your essays. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Application Readers Want To See YOU Jump Off The Page And Into Their Hearts And Minds. Application readers want to see who you are, know who you are, and make an emotional connection to you when they read your essays. If they put your application down after reading your essays and can’t stop thinking about you, you’ve done your job well.
What Is YOUR Story? Application readers get bored reading the same story over and over and over again. Believe me, I know, because I used to read applications when I worked at The Wharton Executive MBA Program. It’s obvious when an applicant writes an essay they think the admissions people want to read, or when an applicant writes an essay that their parents think they should write. These are exactly the kinds of essays that sink your application to the bottom of the pile. Writing the essay/the story that only YOU can write will make that application float to the top.
When Writing The Story Of YOUR Life, Don’t Give The Pen To Anyone Else. It’s tempting to take the easy way out and get someone else to write your essays. There are a lot of educational consultants who will write your essays for you. Guess what? They are writing those same essays for every other applicant they work with. Colleges see right through those essays and give your application a quick trip to the NO pile. You are the only person who can write the story of your life. Don’t trust anyone else but yourself to do it.
A Standout Essay Moves You From The ‘Maybe’ Pile Into The ‘Definitely Yes’ Pile. When all the applications are in, the colleges and universities quickly come up with three piles: ‘Definite YES,’ which is quite small; ‘Definite NO,’ which is larger; and ‘Maybe,’ which is, by far, the largest of all. The ONLY way to get yourself from the ‘Maybe’ pile into the ‘Definite Yes’ pile is by writing a standout essay.
Five Point Strategy
For how NOT to Write a Standout
Don’t write what you think the admissions people want to hear. These are exactly the kinds of essays that turn application readers off and make them put your application at the bottom of the pile. What kind of essays are these? Essays where you talk about how wonderful you are, how perfect your life is, essays that make you seem one-dimensional. Admissions officers want to read essays where you are saying something you want them to know about yourself, essays that show your full humanity.
Don’t let your parents tell you what to write! If you write an essay that your parents think you should write and not an essay that you want to write, it will come off as flat and uninteresting, or in a word: boring. Admissions people see right through these essays. The colleges are admitting you, not your parents.
Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation and spelling on your first draft. You don’t have be totally correct or write a polished essay on your first go. Just write about the subject you want to write about and let it flow. There will be plenty of time to do subsequent drafts.
Don’t answer a specific question from the Common Application when you start out. In the beginning just write about something you’re passionate about. You can mold what you’ve written into an answer for a particular question after the first draft.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Essays take time to gel. Sometimes you need to write many drafts until you’re satisfied. It’s also important to put your essays aside for a week or so after you think you’re finished and come back to them with fresh eyes to see if there’s anything you want to change. If you wait until the last minute you won’t give yourself the best chance of getting accepted.