How to Write a College Admission Essay that Gets You Noticed

Your college admission essay is your chance to let college admissions boards know who you are as an individual. You know that you are not just a collection of grades, an SAT score and a list of extracurricular activities, but the college selection board doesn’t know that. Besides your college admission essay that is all they see. Your college admission essay is your chance to be noticed and help you gain admittance to the school of your dreams.

Creativity and Originality in Your College Admission Essay

One of the biggest mistakes that students make when writing their college admission essay is that there is some particular formula they must follow, or that there are certain things which must be said. This is absolutely not the case. Your college admission essay is yours to write as you see fit.

Imagine you are a member of a college admissions board, who has to read through thousands of college admission essays. Are you going to want to read thousands of essays that begin “I should be admitted to your school because I am an excellent student, I have good grades and many extracurricular activities,” or something similar?

In order for your college admission essay to get you noticed, it has to be something that uniquely describes you, and it has to grab the reader from the first sentence. This will make the admissions board immediately interested in actually reading your essay, and thus interested in you.

Think about what best describes you. Remember, the admissions board already knows your grades and extracurricular activities, you don’t need to mention them again. They speak for themselves. This is your chance for you to make a strong impression of who you are and why you should be going to their school.

Don’t let yourself think that you have to follow certain patterns in your college admission essay. This is your essay, to do with as you see fit. It is a written expression of yourself, boiled down to a page or two. Originality and Creativity are the key.

The Importance of Style

Remember, this is not a school essay. There are no pre-determined patterns for writing a college admission essay. You may choose any theme that you wish, as well as any style of writing.

Let’s take an example of what we’re talking about here. Say that you want to discuss rock climbing, and how it describes you and the lessons that you have learned from it. This is a good topic. How are you going to start your essay on this topic? This is another crucial part: the first sentence.

“I like rock climbing.” Grammatically, this a perfectly acceptable sentence, but it doesn’t grab you. But what about something like “Life takes on a very different perspective when you are clutching tightly to a rock a hundred feet in the air.” This is a much better sentence that gets you interested and makes you want to read what is coming next.

Use the active rather than the passive voice. Avoid haves, shoulds, woulds, coulds, etc. This is not always a major issue, but it can make a difference. For example, if you are talking about what you want to do after college, avoid saying something like “I would like after college to work for NASA.” Instead say something more like “I want to work for NASA after finishing my education.” While it seems a small change, it makes a big difference when reading it.

While you might find a Thesaurus helpful in some cases, don’t overuse it. If a simple word works fine in a sentence, you don’t need to overdo it just to sound more intelligent. For example, if you are discussing the red door of your parents’ home, it is better to just call it the red door rather than calling it the vermillion door. It makes the point and doesn’t make the admissions board think that you are trying way too hard.

There is no “perfect style.” You want to find a style that fits you. While there are hints you can take here and there, there is no clear cut formula for how stylistically to write a winning college admission essay.

That said, you might want to use a style book such as Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. This will help you get a feel for better ways to write things to keep the reader’s interest and attention. You don’t have to necessarily follow it, but it makes a good reference to improve your writing.

Be Yourself

Remember when you are trying to find the proper style for your essay, and are trying to think of the topic and how you are going to write about it: be yourself. You are trying to show the admissions board who you are, you’re not trying to show them who you think they want you to be. This will always come off as fake and turn off the admissions board.

Be honest. Tell the truth about yourself. The more open you are in your essay, the better they will get to know you. The better they get to know you through your essay, the more likely they are to pick you. Remember, before reading your essay all you are is a name, a list of grades, extracurriculars and an SAT score. Everyone else that you’re competing with is the exact same way as well. This is your chance to stand above the rest.

Be real, and let the admissions board get a real look at you. Open yourself up. What is it about you that truly makes you you? What is that thing that makes you unique? What is the best way to put that out there? Maybe a story from your childhood, or something that you particularly remember from school, or anything about you that will show the board who you really are.

Remember, though, that you are competing with thousands of other prospective students in your essay. You might have a great story about your first day at school. But how many students are also going to have stories about their first day at school? This is not to say it is necessarily a bad topic, but you should try to go for things that are not going to be commonly discussed to make you particularly stand out.

Grammar and Spelling in Your College Admission Essay

Grammar and spelling are very important in your college admission essay. You may have a brilliantly written essay, but if it is filled with basic errors or even more complicated errors, it will negatively effect how the admissions board views you.

Grammatically speaking your college admission essay should be perfect. It should also contain no spelling errors.

Edit your essay, and edit it yourself. Don’t count on your computer to do it for you. Computers can be very useful in correcting grammar and spelling, but they are often wrong. For a basic example, take the word “there” (or “their” or “they’re”). All of these words sound the same, but they all have very different meanings. If you use the wrong word in the wrong place, is the computer going to be able to pick up on that? Most likely not.

Edit your college admission essay yourself, and even try to have other people edit it for you. This is a good idea not just grammatically, but to see how the entire essay reads and flows. Following advice from others is a great way to improve your essay and make it more readable. It is your essay, though, so don’t let yourself get to into the idea of writing what everyone else wants you to write, and concentrate on what you want to write.

College admission essays are very important, and they can be an excellent way for you to stand out to the admissions board. It is your one chance to let the board see you as an actual person. You want to show them who you are originally and honestly. This will make you get noticed by the admissions board and increase your chances of being admitted to the school you desire.

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