One of the scariest parts of applying for college is, hands down, the essay section. While you can show off your talents and skills in your actual application, showing who you are as a person in essay form can be much more challenging. If you’re stuck trying to come up with the perfect answer or don’t know what you should or shouldn’t include, here are eight essential tips for writing the perfect college admissions essay.
Let’s get this one out of the way right now. The biggest mistake any applicant can make is not proofreading an essay before submitting it. Even if you think you’re the most amazing writer out there and have aced all your high school papers, you need to review what you wrote. The best way to avoid clumsy mistakes is to have someone you trust look it over with a red pen until it’s perfect.
#2 Follow All Instructions on Length
Another rookie mistake applicants make is writing too much or too little. And when your essay is in the sea of thousands of others, having the wrong word count stands out in all the wrong ways. Writing too little says you don’t have anything to say. Writing too much can make you sound pompous.
#3 Be Descriptive
Most likely, your writing prompt will be about you. Unlike research papers, you should be as personal and descriptive as you can. Talk about the colors of the ocean the first time you saw it or describe your mom’s face the time you made her proud of you. Don’t be afraid of adjectives.
#4 Don’t Over-Write
You want to sound smart, right? Of course! However, you want to avoid saying something in twenty words when it could be said in four. Those big vocab words are great to use as well, but be sure you’re using them correctly and that they fit with the flow and language of the rest of the essay.
#5 Avoid Cliched Storytelling
Writing prompts like Describe your biggest challenge can seem easy. But these types of assignments can be deceptive because they lead a lot of uncreative students to write about the same thing! Instead of writing about that project you were stuck on, pick a story that shows off your personality and how that time made you the person you are today. Talk about the topic with your parents or friends till you come up with something that is both unique and that you can write passionately about.
#6 Be Funny and Warm
Unless your topic is serious, you can show off your humorous side in an admissions essay. The trick is to balance it right. This is where a friendly editor can give you a second opinion to make sure your jokes or stories are in good taste and fit in with the rest of the piece.
#7 Don’t Recycle
It can be really tempting to reuse the essay you wrote for the last college if the prompt is similar, but this would only hurt you. Make sure you personalize your essay for the college, and re-read the prompt’s details over and over again in case you miss a detail you didn’t notice before.
#8 Clearly Start and End Your Essay
Ensuring your readers see an introduction, body, and conclusion is one of the most basic rules of writing. In the intro, state the prompt over again in your own words like you would a thesis statement, and then rework it in the conclusion. The body should have paragraphs with at least three sentences in each, and be sure to not only use simple sentences. To make it easier on yourself, trying outlining in order to organize your thoughts concisely.