11 Things Students Should Include In Their College Application Essay

A college application essay may be as short as 150 words, but those words can mean the difference between a “maybe” and a “yes” when it comes to getting admitted. The essays tell the admissions committee how and why one student is different from all the others. You want to be the student that stands out.

While there is no exact formula for the perfect admission essay, here are some tips to consider when trying to make a lasting impression on someone who reads 50 to 100 essays a day:

  1. Write about yourself. The admissions committee is looking to learn about you—your achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your passions, your personality, your values, and your character. If you are asked to write about an influential person, the college wants to know his or her influence on you. Whatever topic you choose to center your essay around, make sure you shine through.
  2. Focus on one facet of yourself. Admissions committees are looking for an in-depth essay. Pick one project, one activity, or one passion. Cover too many topics in your essay, and you’ll end up with a list. The magic is in the details.
  3. Tell a good story. Demonstrate how you are compassionate—don’t just tell readers you are. If you had a difficulty, don’t give the admissions committee a list of complaints. Tell them how you overcame them.
  4. Keep it real. If you speak from the heart, it will show, and your essay will flow more easily. Choosing something you’ve experienced will also give you the vivid and specific details needed in your essay.
  5. Present yourself in the best light. Always think about what information you want colleges to know and use when evaluating your application. Don’t share anything that doesn’t make you sound good, unless you absolutely have to and you can turn it around to show the positive.
  6. Include information not elsewhere in your application. Admissions officers want to learn something about you from your essay that they can’t learn from reading the other sections of your application.
  7. Leverage your native culture, traditions, and experiences. If you’re an international applicant, Native American, or otherwise non-traditional student, don’t try to “Americanize” or “mainstream” your application. Schools are looking for diversity. The goal is to stand out and not appear to be like all the other applicants.
  8. Research what you write.  If you’re asked to write why you want to attend a certain college or program, do your research. Colleges will see if you just read the first paragraph of a webpage or if you really looked. When citing a desire to participate in a certain club or program, make sure you can actually participate in it. For example, don’t write about wanting to be part of a program only for grad students; save this for your graduate school application.
  9. Tell the truth. If a university finds out you lied on an application or essay you will get rejected, almost guaranteed. Plagiarism is always wrong, and schools are getting better at detecting it.
  10. Diversify your vocabulary. Don’t repeat the same words over and over. For example, the word “completed” has many good synonyms including “concluded” and “ended.” However, don’t use words that are super fancy either, just for the sake of using them. It’s best to write in your own voice and be conversational. Avoid using slang, scientific phrases, uncommon foreign phrases, other hard-to-decipher language and profanity.
  11. Check your grammar and spelling. You can write conversationally, but the grammar and spelling still need to be correct. And don’t solely rely on your computer’s spell-checker. Often times, the wrong word (spelled correctly) can slip by.

After you have written your essay, show it to someone who can give you objective feedback. Sometimes you can get too close to the essay and be unable to see it clearly. Other people can often tell if there isn’t enough being revealed, if your essay rambles, if the humor is falling flat, or if you’re not making the impression you’d want to. Remember, this essay is going to someone who doesn’t know you and is going to be making a big decision based on what they’ll learn from it!

For help with your college essay or college guidance, visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 954 414-9986.