The Essay

writing an essay

The essays are perhaps the most stressful part of the college application for students: What should I write about? What do the colleges want? How can I make my essay stand out?

Some of the best advice comes directly from admissions offices.  After all, they’re the ones who are reading the essays.  Here are a few links that I think are useful.  I’ve highlighted one or a few points; check out the links for complete lists. Note that the advice to “Be Yourself” is at or near the top of each list. This is the most valuable advice of all.

From Carleton: Essay Tips

View it as an opportunity

The essay is one of the few things that you’ve got complete control over in the application process, especially by the time you’re in your senior year. You’ve already earned most of your grades; you’ve already made most of your impressions on teachers; and chances are, you’ve already found a set of activities you’re interested in continuing. So when you write the essay, view it as something more than just a page to fill up with writing. View it as a chance to tell the admissions committee about who you are as a person.

From Lehigh: Tips on Writing Your College Essay

Remember your audience.

The person that reads your essay will not be 18. Don’t write as if you’re writing to your friends. Don’t use slang. Things like “BTW” and “thanx” are not appropriate. Most admissions counselors are in their 20s and 30s, but remember your essay might also be read by a Dean or Director. This person could be in their 40s, 50s or 60s. Try to select a topic that will appeal to the masses.

From Oberlin: My advice on the college essay

Write about what interests you.

Don’t try to think about what the admissions counselor may want to hear, because that may not be what you actually want to write about, and the result could be a well written essay that’s boring to read because it was probably boring for you to write.

And, I do want to end by pointing out that the essay, while important, is not the be-all and end-all of the application. It is one piece of many that we use to put together a picture of you.

And from Bates: Writing Your Essay

Don’t Stress Out!

Enjoy the process of reflecting on and writing about one aspect of your life that is meaningful to you. Believe that most admission officers will enjoy reading your story.