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Write the Perfect College Essay

Isaiah Smith, Staff

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Every year high school seniors rush to get their college applications in by the deadline, hoping to get into their dream university. Unfortunately, many of these students will find out one of the trickiest speed bumps they will face during this process is the writing of their college essays. So how is one to look at tackling this requirement to boost their chances of getting in the college they want? Here is some insight to help you write the best college essay you can.

Right off the bat, the first thing you need to know before writing your essay is that you should focus on making it yours. According to John Hopkins University’s website, the college essay is a chance to tell the admission committee, who want to see how you actually think about your background and goals for the future are, something mere test scores can’t do. Be honest and write as the person you are and not the person you think professors want to see, or even worse having someone else write your essay for you.

This is a notion that CHS college counselor Lauren Weston shares.

“With your college essay, I think the thing that’s most important is that it’s authentic to you, so that it is kind of a story or experience no matter how big or small. It’s something that is really meaningful for you that paints a picture of who you are to the college admissions counselor,” she explained.

The best strategy a student could use would be to let the first draft flow. Students should be careful not to include a lot of “fluff,” as Ms. Weston would explain. A lot of times, students only have so many words to work with, so instead of worrying about making the first draft perfect, students should just start by getting the ideas flowing and down on the paper or screen.

To develop your essay, you should try to break it down into three parts that look something like this.

  1. Introduction: A single paragraph that introduces your essay and sets a main idea that really grabs the reader in.
  2. Body: Several paragraphs explaining the main idea and giving personal examples from your life.
  3. Conclusion: One last paragraph that summarizes your main points and ends the essay, leaving the reader on a good note.

After you get started writing, one thing you should avoid is trying to speak in ways that don’t sound like yourself. According to Road2College.com, a common mistake from applicants is trying to use lengthy and/or complicated language in hopes of sounding more “intellectual.” Doing so will only end up making your essay more difficult to understand.

“Some of the things you should try to avoid are trying to speak in ways that don’t sound like yourself. You want to keep it really conversational, and make sure it is in your tone of voice. You don’t want to try and sound like someone you’re not because they will pick up on that right away,” Ms. Weston explained.

Make sure you’re writing in proper English (e.g. no text terms), but keep in mind the admissions officers have to read through hundreds or even thousands of essays, so you want yours to be not forgettable–but you still should be straightforward and your writing should be clear to read.

In addition, you should use humor with caution. It is okay to use elements of humor in your essay, but keep in mind “that being funny is tough,” according to The Princeton Review. What you find funny and what an adult working in a college might find funny are probably very different, so if you’re using humor in your essay it would be best to have someone else read over it and make sure they really pick up on it.  It’s better to make one of your friend’s cringe at your poor joke telling skills than it is for the person deciding whether or not you’re getting into your dream school.

When it comes to college essays, most schools will give you a prompt to follow, or even a few prompts to select from if you’re working through Common Application. These prompts are set in place to help direct you on what colleges are looking for in your essay. Even with the guidelines set by the college’s admission committee, students might think they haven’t had anything huge happen to them that’s worth writing about, but that is completely alright.

Just because you haven’t had a “life changing” experience doesn’t mean the college doesn’t want to hear from you. Most of the time universities are just looking for a reflection and an experience you’ve had no matter how small. All the admission committee wants to know is your response to this experience even if it’s something small like your dog running away. What did you learn from your experience, how did it affect you, why is it such a big memory that stands out in your life? So even if you have to pick a topic that seems pretty mundane all you have to say is “This is how it affected me” and “This if how I grew from it” because that’s the main things colleges are looking for you.

Now you’ve written your essay out and made your points, how do you know it’s done? Depending on how good of a writer you are, knowing when you’ve finished and should finally submit your essay is the hardest part of the whole process. Students should take a step back and ask, “Have I put 100% of what I know into this essay?” and  “Did I meet the prompt set by the admissions office?” Others can be, “Did I keep a main idea through out my paragraphs?” and “Did I give my story and explain its effect on me in detail?”

If you can answer “Yes” to all of these questions, it’s safe to say your essay’s ready. Stay on the safe side: it’s important to have your essay proofread by at least two or three people.

“Once you’ve had it proofread by at least two people that’s it. Be done with it, you have to set a time limit for yourself to be like okay I’m done, rhis is it,” (class) Lauren (last name).

Ms. Weston has some advice for seniors writing different essays to more than one college.

“Another mistake students make is that they will try to write one essay and send it to each school. For some schools that would be okay; however, if it’s a school like Towson that only has an application to their school and they have their own prompt, they will know if you’ve tried to rework your essay to get to their prompt,” she explained. “So whatever schools you are applying to, make sure you are following their prompt. That may mean that you have to write 3, 4, 5 essays; however, it’s going to be better for your application in the long run.”

Writing your college essay might seem to be a very tricky and tedious, but by making sure you keep these tips in mind, you’ll improve your chances of being accepted into whatever college of you choose. Just remember to keep the ideas flowing, tell your story, get it proofread, and, most importantly, make sure you make it your own.

Isaiah Smith, Staff

I. Smith

10 grade(sophomore) at CHS

In my first year journalism

Ms. Coates 3A

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