10 Tips on Writing a Great College Essay to Supplement Your Mediocre GPA and SAT Scores

So you’re a Junior in High School, and this fall comes the dreaded college application season. You really don’t want to stay at home and go to the JC because your ex is going there and you cannot stand the thought of another two years.
You know that you could have studied more, but it’s too late. Your grades are inscribed into your book of life and you are forced to live forever with your lettered imperfections. You have one angle left – your entrance essay.

1) Be specific. Most colleges will give you something really generic, leaving the hard part up to you. The secret? Respond with something really specific. In fact, as a great strategy – the more generic the question, the more specific your answer. The admissions board is comprised of real people, working their 9-5 job, thinking of what to cook for dinner, trying to pay the rent. The last thing they want is “My name is Sue and I love School. All I have ever wanted was to go to College University since I was two. It is a great feeling to think I could go to college.” Horrible grammar aside, your admissions counselor will cry out of boredom. Try something a little more interesting. Instead of telling us what, tell us why.

2) Be bold instead of passive. Instead of “My name is Sue and I think I’m cute.” Tell them, “My name is Sue, I have been told by my five of close relatives that I am cute.” This is still a really bad example for something to put in your essay, but at least you are quantifying, being specific, and avoiding passivity.

3) Don’t repeat what’s on your application. If your application asks for clubs and you list “Hay is for Horses Club, Hello Kitty Sticker Club president and Magnets aren’t only for Science Nerds,” don’t start your essay with, “In high school I was a member of ….. Hay, Hello, Magnets.” This is redundant, and your admissions board already has this information. Only add it as it’s relevant to your essay.

4) Don’t make excuses unless they’re good. No one wants a whiner. “I can’t even tell you how many colds I got during fall of 2005. But I’m a trooper! I still persevered and managed a 2.3.” First of all, don’t ever use the phrase “I can’t even tell you” because a. you can tell them b. can’t even is slang c. can’t is a conjunction which should also be avoided. Secondly, by telling them you had colds, they will not pity you at all. They will see right through your excuses. And, there are much better reasons for your grades slipping. So, only give excuses if they’re good. Oh, and don’t compliment yourself too much. “But I’m a trooper!” is a little self-indulgent. And finally, don’t remind them you had a 2.3, you don’t need to draw attention to your GPA unless it’s a 4.5.

5) Find what excites you and write about that. If it’s chocolate, tell them about how your time was consumed taste testing, and how you plan to start a chocolate club in college. If it’s music, tell them you went to concerts to study rock stars because you hope to be one some day. When you succeed, your college succeeds. Tell them about your dreams.

6) Use creativity anywhere you can. This doesn’t have to be a hamburger essay. You can think of this as a creative writing assignment, as long as it doesn’t get too abstract.

7) Be specific about each school. If you’re applying to a culinary program, tell them why you pick their culinary program. Tell them you love to eat and love the resources near the college.

8) Try your best to pick a major even if other articles/friends/family disagree with me. While you can enter “undeclared” to most places, declaring something can work in your favor if other areas of your application are lacking. Declaring something purposeful can make you stand out to the admissions board.

9) Get one Teacher and one friend to proof read your essay. Unfortunately, there are plenty of graduating seniors who haven’t written an essay in their life, including their college essay. This doesn’t mean someone else should write your essay – don’t let them re-write anything. But, they might catch careless grammatical and spelling errors that you overlooked.

10) Have fun! Think of your essay as a video game. Your goal is to get to the next level. It can be challenging, but it’s a huge accomplishment when you get there. Don’t get too torn up about it. You can always write an appeal letter, transfer schools later, or give up on education for a year and travel around the world. Good luck!

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