Top 4 Tips for Writing the Perfect College Admissions Essay Oct 12, 2012
You've finally done it: you've decided to go to college or university and take the steps necessary to get a high-paying career once you graduate. Whether you're fresh out of high school or returning from an extended leave of scholarly endeavours, you still have a hurdle to jump before you can run that final stretch: the dreaded college admissions essay
It leaves many prospective students shaking in their (usually) proverbial boots. You've got to find a way to stand out from the surging crowd of incoming students who are looking to go into the classes and fields you want to enter, and that's a pretty intimidating thought for most people. So what can you do to highlight your bid for entry? Below are the top 4 tips for catching the admissions officers' eye in the right way.
Edit and Proof Read your Work
This seems like a pretty obvious one to most potential students, especially those who have worked in a professional field or are just fresh out of their 12th grade English classes. After all, nobody wants to read an essay that has been strung together with run-on sentences and terrible, terrible grammar, right? To really catch the schools attention, though, you'll need to go a little further than just simple spell check. The software in most writing programs, though quite advanced, can still fail - after all, it's only as good at checking your work as you are at writing it.
Beyond basic errors like misplacing letters and throwing the wrong "their" in, you need to explore more elegant and subtle areas such as style and flow. The writing should have a certain rhythm to it when it's read either aloud or in your head. Sentences should fit together much like puzzle pieces, with each paragraph connecting seamlessly to keep the readers' attention. Awkward pauses caused by needless punctuation or jumbled thoughts can be a huge detriment to the final product, so if something seems off, go back and fix it! The all-too-common mistake
of overused punctuation, especially, is the bane of potentially good documents. Comma parties (an overabundance of commas that make the reader pause needlessly through sentences that should honestly just be shortened) should be avoided at all costs!
Don't Over Write
The bare-minimum for most admissions essays is around 250 words. Less than this and it's nearly impossible to get your point across, but going much further past 700 words in an essay with no upper limit will leave your reader bored, and may leave your work unread. Write enough to make the points you need to, but don't dawdle on and draw it out for the sake of having the longest essay in the pile! The last thing the school wants is someone who will waste their time, so a clear, concise essay
is absolutely critical.
Style me Accepted
The formatting of your work is one of the most important things you can possibly hope to perfect. It really can't be stressed enough that the layout and overall presentation can be the difference between a cursory glance and an in-depth reading of your thoughts and opinions on the essay topic. A huge wall of text, unadorned by the beautiful inventions known as paragraphs, is not only visually unappealing, but incredibly difficult to read. If an admissions officer has to bring out the straight edge to keep track of where they are in your essay, they definitely won't take the time to do so and your work will likely end up in the trash. After spending hours crafting the perfect essay, this is probably the last thing you want!
Newspapers and magazines break their work up into short, easy to digest sections to help the reader move along from point a, to point b, and so on and so forth. It works to draw someone into the writing, and makes it seem a little less daunting than line after line of text. Since the admissions officers have piles of essays to read each day, it's fairly important to your admittance that reading your work doesn't seem like a chore to them!
Don't be a Stranger
Whether it's a standard topic pertaining to the field that interests you or an off-the-wall idea that forces you to really think and put things into perspective with yourself and the way you work, your personality and thoughts should shine through in the essay you present to your school. College is a social activity, and it can be very important to quite a few schools that you understand how social dynamics work. Describe clubs and activities that are supportive of your points, and give your opinion (if it's requested) honestly, rather than embellishing things. If you're required to write about your experience in clubs and after school activities, don't tell white lies about being the club president, be honest. Not everyone can be the star of their high school experience, and post-secondary schools don't expect you to be both the MVP on your football team and the captain of the chess team.
Add details to your essay. Give the characters names, or tell stories that are factual and that support the point you're making. Express yourself (while maintaining an air of professionalism) to demonstrate that you can use your critical thinking skills proficiently and in real-world situations. The whole point of a college essay isn't to see just what you think, but how well you think. Remember that "wall of text" thing above? The same effect (losing reader interest, for those with short attention spans) can and will happen if you don't know how to write in a captivating way.
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Even if you're not the best writer
out there, a small description can go a long way towards making your essay more appealing than the last 400 that the admissions officer read. Setting the scene, even if only slightly, also has the advantage of showing that you're either observant of your surroundings or good at captivating those you're speaking to, which has real-world applications in a huge variety of fields (have you ever sat through a class or work meeting with a teacher so dull and uncharismatic that you almost fell asleep?).