Writing a college application essay can be a scary assignment. What are colleges looking for? How can you showcase your skills and talents? With a little planning, patience and help, you can write an essay that helps you stand out from the crowd. I have created an easy guide to help you prepare and write your essay with minimal stress.
Read the Prompt
This may seem like an obvious step, but if you don’t read the prompt or question carefully you’re going to miss out on important details. Some schools will simply ask you why you want to attend their school. Think each question through carefully and jot down notes that can help you answer. For example. I would recommend listing a program or special features of the campus that you’re especially excited about. Find out how you can relate that program or campus feature to your goals and to your past successes. Perhaps your parent is an alumnus of the college, and that’s why you want to attend. For more complex questions or hypothetical questions about your goals, make lists of ideas before you start writing the essay.
Make sure that your answers are genuine and sincere. Let’s say they want to know about your leadership roles in school, but you didn’t play sports or join many clubs. Talk about experiences you’ve had within the classroom or even outside of school where you have lead. Never make up information and include it, because not only will it sound insincere, it could get you into some hot water. If you’re unsure of how to answer the question, ask a friend or family member to read the prompt and bounce ideas off of them. Make lists of your skills and talents and incorporate them into your answer.
Don’t Be Shy
It may seem counter intuitive to talk about yourself a lot in your essay, but letting the school know your strongest areas can help them learn about you and see that you have a real knowledge of your abilities and goals. Include the most important roles you participated in, leaving out things you didn’t participate much in and focusing on your leadership skills. When I wrote my essays, I wrote about two or three activities and relayed them back to the question. Be able to give yourself a glowing review, because if you hold back or don’t seem proud of your accomplishments, the college may not see your enthusiasm.
Format it Right
Formatting the letter correctly is almost as important as the content. Make sure you write it in the style of a business letter and ask for school letterhead if possible. Have your adviser check the formatting before you submit the letter. Unless the college allows you to put the essay in online, be prepared to mail it shortly after or with a paper application. Have a family member, adviser or teacher look over the essay for grammar and to make sure it sounds professional. I had several people double check my essay before I added it to my application.
Take care in writing your essay and give yourself enough time to really work on it before mailing it. I would suggest sending your application and essay in at least a month before the deadline, that way if you’re a week late, you still have a good cushion of time to make sure it arrives. Save a copy of your essay as you could use it later as a resource for writing a resume. And just try to relax-the hardest part is yet to come, waiting to hear if you got accepted.