Your college application essays are definitely an important part of the college application process. They serve as an effective way to communicate your uniqueness to admissions officers and show how passionate you are about their school. Some colleges will have specific prompts they want you to answer. Others will ask you to describe your story. Whatever the topic, be yourself, speak in your voice, and don’t try to cram in a bunch of words from the thesaurus. Here are some more tips for crafting a STELLAR essay:
1. Start early
First, plot out all the different essays you need to write and each of their deadlines. We recommend doing this in the spring of your junior year or the summer before your senior year. This will give you plenty of time to think through the prompts and brainstorm writing points!
2. Create an outline
Take the prompt (the question asked) of each essay and break down its parts. Think about why admissions officials ask certain questions and what they hope to learn about you from your answer. Next, pair personal stories or experiences that illustrate your answers. Don’t worry about polishing your ideas from the get-go; just get down all your thoughts and potential ideas! One way to organize your outline: write your thesis, and then bullet point a clear beginning, middle, and end.
3. Read some examples
Some colleges will publish essay examples on their website. See if the college you’re applying to does this, and if so, check them out! It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for what that college identifies as exemplary work and a strong application. If you can’t find any information on schools’ websites, search online for “sample college essays,” for examples. (But please do NOT plagiarize them!)
4. Address what’s NOT on your transcript
Think of your essay like an in-person interview. As you write your essay, imagine you’re sitting in the room with the admissions counselors. They already have your transcript and resume. The question the reader is hoping to answer through your essay is, “what else should I know?” That’s what you should keep in mind as you’re forming your essay. How can you expand upon the information presented in other parts of your application? Which traits and facts would you like to bring to light?
5. The deeper you go, the better
For your anecdotes, focus on specific details to flesh out the scene. You won’t have enough space to tell your entire life story, so focus on a few examples to bring your essay to life! Don’t worry if you feel your topic isn’t anything revolutionary. Many admissions officers will appreciate your thought process turning something ordinary into a learning lesson. Remember, as long as you are giving your best writing skills and doing your best to show admissions officers who you are, you are on the right track!
6. Have a few people review it
After you’ve finished a draft of your essay, have someone you trust (a parent, counselor, or teacher) review it. Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Be sure to limit the number reviewers to one or two people, because too many voices may muddle yours!
With these tips, you are on your ways to writing outstanding college application essays that you feel proud of! If you’re having trouble brainstorming, check out these ways to conquer writer’s block!