How to Write an Admission Essay

Virtually every college with a competitive admissions process requires students to submit an essay. In some cases, the essay is limited to a question or prompt given by the university. Schools that use the common application require students to select from a predetermined list of questions. These can be found here. Then there are schools that allow you to select your own topic.

Whatever the case may be, you’ve simply got to hit it out of the park. If you don’t have the best grades or extracurricular activities, a well written essay could be your key to getting into a great school. Conversely, if you are a great student and phone in a mediocre essay, another student could get your spot. Keep reading to learn how to write an admissions essay.

Choosing an Interesting Topic

Topic selection is the first thing you will consider, and it is very important. You want to pick a topic that truly highlights who you are, and that  provides evidence that you are a good fit for the school you are applying to. If you have been given a topic or list of topics, pay attention to this section anyway. You probably have a lot of leeway, and the following steps will help you to identify the perfect topic.

  1. Start With a List of Life Events And Accomplishments
    Grab a pen and pencil. You’ll want to begin the process by writing out a list of important events in your life and  major accomplishments. The challenge is to pick the correct ones. Don’t add anything to your list that doesn’t meet one of the following criteria:
    • It Helped You Find a Lifelong Passion
    • You Learned What You Consider to be a Very Important Lesson
    • It Significantly Changed Your Worldview
    • You Learned Something About Yourself That You Never Knew Before
    • It Changed The Way That Others Viewed You
    • It Significantly Altered Your Relationship With Someone Important to You
    If you stick to this criteria, you improve the likelihood that your essay will make an impact.
  2. Now Write a List of The Character Traits You Want to Show
    This should be informed by two things. First, what is it about yourself that you are most eager to share, and what should you share that will have the most impact? Next, what do you believe the school needs to see in order to view you as someone who will be a good fit on campus.
  3. Create The Ideal University Student
    No, you should never lie on your essay or pretend to be someone you are not. In fact, if you feel like you must do this to get into a school, you should probably cross that school off your list.
    On the other hand, it is a good idea to know exactly what each school is looking for. Get online and do some research. Take a look at their alumni association. What characteristics do the most notable graduates have? Then, compile a master list of those traits. It might even  help to create a character description.
  4. Focus on What Makes You Stand Out
    As  you consider your options, remember that you want to stand out. Ask yourself if there are any options that will help you to show the admissions staff that you are unique, and would bring something special to campus.
  5. The Struggle is a Good Way to Get The Attention Your Essay Deserves
    Everybody loves a story of triumph over tragedy. If you have dealt with adversity, overcome a tough challenge, or otherwise found a way to succeed against the odds, you should consider using it as an essay topic, or choosing a topic that allows you to incorporate that story.
  6. Now Weave it All Together
    You now have all the elements in place to pick a great topic. You know exactly what the school is looking for, the story you want to share, and the traits that you want to highlight. Coming up with a topic or selecting the ideal essay question should now be a snap.
Key Points to Consider

Keep the following in mind while you are working on your essay:

  • Be kind to the admissions staff. Choose a font that is easy on the eyes and has no serifs.
  • Start with a powerful introduction. Ask a question, use a quote, or share an interesting statistic.
  • Be prepared to write more than one essay if you are applying to schools that have decidedly different cultures.
  • Start on your essay early. You want to have plenty of time to edit and revise.
Do and Don’t
  • Read your essay out loud. It’s the best way to know if it has the right tone.
  • Relentlessly check your spelling and grammar. Use grammarly and the Hemingway app.
  • Follow all instructions to the letter.
  • Get feedback from friends and family members
  • Treat it like a serious writing assignment. Take notes, write outlines, use an app to keep things organized.
  • Read sample essays online. Google ‘great application essays’
  • Fill your essay with colorful, descriptive writing.
  • Be cutesy in an attempt to be original.
  • Use an overly casual writing voice.
  • Try to fit everything into one essay. Stick to one major story.
  • Use a template. Your completed essay will be boring and unoriginal.
  • Wait until near graduation to get started.
  • Forget to save at least two copies of your completed essay to a flash drive or cloud storage.
Common Mistakes And How to Avoid Them

As you learn how to write a college admissions essay, be alert for these common mistakes:

  • You missed something in the instructions. Always read the school requirements carefully. Then leave time to double check when you are done.
  • Missing deadlines. Check with the school. You may still be able to submit your essay.
  • Not taking a class for college students to learn how to write application for admission in school. If you are a high school senior or attend a community college, talk to your guidance counselor or advisor. There may be classes or seminars to learn all about the admissions process.

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