Almost all colleges and universities require a personal statement or college essay. Writing a strong essay that conveys something unique about you can sometimes be a challenge, but it is often this component of a student’s application that can make the difference between being on the edge and getting an actual acceptance. The essay (and short answer questions) are the only part of a student application that allows admissions counselors to hear from the applicant themselves. This is the time to shine. It’s your chance to set yourself apart from other applicants and to provide information to the university that you can’t relay through a transcript or resume.
Here are some great resources that may help you write that winning essay:
From CBS News, “Ten Topics to Avoid in a College Admission Essay”:
From Johns Hopkins, “Essays that Worked”:
A Blog by Huffington Post, “College Application Essays”
From USA Today, “9 Essay Writing Tips to Wow College Admissions Officers”
Some great advice from Kurt Vonnegut’s “How to Write with Style”:
– Find a subject you care about
– Do not ramble, though
– Keep it simple
– Have guts to cut
– Sound like yourself
– Say what you mean
– Pity the readers
Click HERE for the full version of “How to Write with Style” by Kurt Vonnegut.
What did your English Department have to say?
Mr. Hommel: “Avoid contractions and second person point of view. They should also focus on “showing,” rather than telling, with descriptive writing that incorporates the senses.”
Ms. Mitchell: “College Essay writing should be objective. The first-person point of view is usually not acceptable. Students should use tools like Grammarly and spell check before they turn in a paper. All papers must be double spaced, size 12 font, and the default font should always be Times New Roman, unless otherwise specified. Students should never be vague or assume that the reader is knowledgeable about the topic. Therefore, examples should be used to further clarify what the writer is trying to convey.”
What do Admissions Counselors think? Ms. Gaudette asked local Admissions Counselors what they look for in Admissions Essays:
An admissions counselor from Villanova said: “When I read an essay, there are two things I’m trying to assess. Number one should go without saying – your ability to write. Do you know your grammar rules? Can you spell? Can you organize your sentences and paragraphs into an order that makes sense? The second thing is what you say about yourself – your story. Ultimately, we should be able to see how your story will fit into and add to Villanova’s story.”
An admissions counselor from The George Washington University said: “My favorite essays to read are ones written by students who are clearly passionate about the topic. You don’t have to write an essay that tells a sob story or a redemption moment. Instead, tell us about something you love – music, hobbies, family, sports, a club, a project you worked on – anything that you feel is important to you. Tell your story about what you love, why, and how that affects the way you see yourself, your schoolwork, and the world. Your voice will shine through because it’s a story you enjoy telling.”
Admissions counselors at the Catholic University of America shared: “On the technical side, we look to see that students have fully answered the prompt and used correct spelling and punctuation. We also look to see that they thoughtfully answered the question and used details so as not to seem like a form of essay. There’s no right or wrong answer that we’re looking for – more so that they fully completed it.”
The Admissions Counselor from The University of Maryland said: “The best advice I can give for writing a college essay is to write about something you’re passionate about and to help your personality shine through your words. The essay is the only portion of the application where admission counselors will get to “hear the student’s voice.” Therefore, it is important for students to effectively show parts of themselves that cannot be gleaned through other parts of the application.”
The Assistant Director for Admission and Student Life at Seattle University School of Law said: “The strongest personal statements show the reader you are ready for success in college. The reader should finish the application with a sense of who you are, the experiences you have had while in high school, what you learned from those experiences, and hopefully how those experiences are going to help you be successful in college.”
Planning to Use the CommonApp? The 2020-2021 Essay Prompts have been released! See this website for more information!