College Admission Essay Writing: Tips from 12 Experts

College Admission Essay Writing: Tips from 12 Experts

High school seniors who embark on the complicated road of applying to an academic institution learn quickly that the majority of academic institutions require that students submit a college application essay along with their application.  Some universities even require more than one report; however additional reports might be optional.  The good news is that the university consideration process is generally completed while students still have the advantage of having their high school instructors, counselors, and mentors available to critique their college application essays.  No student is expected to go it alone.

College application essays are generally creations that ask prospective students to explore a particular event in their lives, a goal they would like to achieve, or the reason they would like to study at the university they are applying to.  Some universities will direct the college application essay by giving applicants the topic on which they are to write.  But, even a topic such as "how I spent my summer vacation" invites more thought for a college application than it did as a high school freshman.

When a college application essay invites students to write about their summer vacation, the university wants more than merely an itinerary of what the student actually did during his or her summer vacation.  The student who fails to delve properly into the subject matter is likely to have his or her application summarily rejected.  What the university wants to know is what the student did during their summer vacation that mattered, not literally the activities they participated in.  Of course, there is the rare student who can make a trip to Disneyland read like well-written literature, but, for the most part, the university is looking for something that sets the student apart from the thousands of other submissions that university recruiters will have to sift through.

Many learners pay little attention to the university consideration article.  They are convinced that it is merely a way for university recruiters to make sure that they can read, write, and follow instructions.  And, in a way, they are right.  It goes without saying that the student who fails to pay attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation is not likely to have his or her college application land in the "accepted" pile.

However, the college application essay is more about differentiation than anything else.  The universities that student's apply to are bound to receive applications from thousands of qualified applicants every year.  There has to be some way to evaluate students on qualifications other than grade point average and extracurricular activities.  The student who finds a way to use his or her college application essay to make himself or herself stand out in the eyes of the educational institution recruiters is the student who is most likely to receive acceptance letters to one or more of the universities of his or her choice.

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Viewpoint of Author #2
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An admission essay is different from the type of essay a student would write for a class because it is both personal and persuasive.  Unlike most academic essays, which discourage the inclusion of the writer's personal life, the goal of admission essays is to both effectively describe the applicant so that he or she is memorable/unique and persuade the institution that the applicant is worthy of admission.  

There are two general types of admission essays.  The first type is written in response to a specific prompt or question set forth by the institution.  The second is a document in which the applicant is instructed to describe his or her reasons for wishing to attend the institution or program and explain why he or she is qualified.  These essays will look different in final form; however, there are two imperatives when writing either type: (1) it must be flawless in its presentation and (2) it must set the applicant apart from other applicants.  

First, some advice regarding presentation.  Remember that the person reading the article is likely reading dozens or even hundreds of admission essays from similarly qualified applicants.  That means that little mistakes matter, and can accumulate to hurt the overall score.  Grammar, spelling, and formatting should be perfect.  Enlist the assistance of a friend, teacher, or writing center to check over the report during various phases of the writing process.  

If the article is in response to a specific prompt issued by the institution, be sure to adequately address every aspect of that prompt or question.  Failing to touch on all parts of the prompt will make the applicant appear careless.  If the article is a general report detailing the applicant's desire and qualifications for admission to the program, it should equally address both of those points.  

Now, a few words regarding the second admission essay imperative.  Remember again that person is reading dozens or hundreds of essays.  If that reader is going to remember an applicant, that applicant must distinguish him- or herself from other applicants.  Whether it is an admission essay for college, graduate school, law school, or a specific program within such an institution, admission essays are likely the only component of an application that allows the individual to be more than his or her grades and distinctions.  The admission essay is the opportunity for the applicant to emerge as an individual rather than a pile of transcripts and recommendations.  In the effort of being unique, be honest, sincere, and candid.  Don't state the obvious.  If the admission essay is for medical school, the applicant should not write an entire essay about wanting to go to medical school because he or she wants to help others.  Hopefully, all medical school applicants want to go to medical school because they want to help others.  Dig deeper than that, and be sincere and honest.  Being real will make an essay stand out.

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Viewpoint of Author #3
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An entrance essay is a short text composed to convince an institution of a student's qualifications for entry into that institution.  Most often, an entrance essay is part of a student's application for college or graduate school, and is one of several factors considered by an admissions committee when determining who will be admitted.  For that reason, an entrance essay needs to be unique and memorable in order to distinguish the applicant from other applicants.  

An entrance report is different from most academic writing because it is personal and it is typically required to be brief.  Many report assignments will have a word count requirement, but usually that requirement is a minimum.  Entrance essays often have a maximum word requirement—meaning they cannot go over a certain word count.  

Entrance reports should summarize the reasons why the applicant is qualified for entry into that institution and develop that individual as a well-rounded person.  They should highlight the applicant's achievements and attributes, but also be genuine and well-rounded by suggesting room for growth and how entry into that institution may assist in that growth.  

An entrance report should not simply assert the applicant's wish to attend the institution, but explain why.  It should mention the names of professors, programs, or other distinguishing aspects of the institution that attract the applicant, and suggest reasons why these unique aspects are appealing.  This demonstrates that the applicant has a genuine enthusiasm for the institution.  

If the article is in response to a specific prompt issued by the institution, the applicant should adequately address every aspect of that prompt or question.  Failing to touch on all parts of the prompt will make the applicant appear careless.  If the article is a general report detailing the applicant's desire and qualifications for admission to the program, it should equally address both of those points.

The entrance essay is likely the only component of an application that allows the individual to express his or her individualism.  Therefore, the applicant should attempt to depict him or herself as he or she really is by being candid and sincere.  

Finally, entrance reports should be 100% error-free.  Little mistakes matter, and can accumulate to hurt the overall score.  Grammar, spelling, and formatting should be checked and rechecked to ensure the report reflects a professional and conscientious pupil.  

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Viewpoint of Author #4
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When learning how to write an application essay, you must leave a good impression.  Regardless of what you are applying for, the chances are good that you will be facing a great deal of competition.  At major universities such as Stanford, the admissions officers generally read 16,000 or more application essays per year.  Therefore, it is particularly important that you find a way to make yourself more appealing than the other applicants.

When writing application essays, it is important to remember that you are trying to share a little piece of yourself with the reader.  Therefore, you need to take steps to avoid being artificial or gimmicky.  Rather, try your best to let the "real you" shine through with your application article.

First of all, don't try to be overly creative with the format of your article.  Although it may seem like a good idea to fold your application essay into origami in order to get yourself noticed, these shenanigans will only serve to annoy the admissions officer.  Simply write the assignment on a plain piece of paper and pretend that your audience is someone that you know well, such as a favorite aunt or uncle, rather than someone who holds the power to determine your future.

Since you are trying to help the admissions officer understand who you are, be honest as you write your application article.  At the same time, exercise caution when attempting to interject humor into your application essay, as the person reading your application may not share your sense of humor.  Simply tell a story about something that happened in your life, such as a personal failure or triumph or something that happened to you while volunteering or on the job.  The best application essays are personal but not sentimental.

One common mistake made when writing application essays is the tendency to brag or be boastful.  Although it may seem like a good idea to describe all of your accomplishments, this makes for an ineffective application essay and ends up sounding more like a resume than a good story.  

You should also avoid having someone else write your essay, as this will be easy for the admissions officer to spot.  The "voice" of your report should sound like it is being written by someone of your age group.  Similarly, avoid using online samples of application essays as a framework for your article.  Although these can be used to help inspire you, writing one that is formulaic will fail to catch the essence of who you really are.

When you do tell your story, try to be as descriptive as possible.  You can use the thesaurus to help you come up with descriptive words, but avoid using one to help you come up with big words that sound impressive.  Rather than trying to sound like a genius, you should work at painting a vivid image in the mind of the reader.  In this way, you will leave a lasting impression that will help you get your foot in the door.

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Viewpoint of Author #5
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An admissions essay is a form of personal writing used to positively persuade an institution regarding an applicant's qualifications for entry into that institution.  It differs from typical essays in that it has only one audience—the admissions committee of that institution—and only one purpose—to persuade that committee to admit the applicant.  Many writers struggle with admissions essays because they are a form of writing not taught or practiced in school, and for that reason, many writers compose admissions articles that fail to convince institutions of their merits.  Following are a few guidelines to keep in mind when composing an admissions essay for any type of institution or program.

Be familiar with the institution.  Mention the names of professors, programs, or other distinguishing aspects of the institution, and suggest reasons why these unique aspects are appealing.  This demonstrates that the applicant has a genuine enthusiasm for the institution and is familiar with its programs and accomplishments.

Point out achievements and experiences that the institution would find particularly valuable.  For instance, if the admissions essay is addressed to a university with a strong renewable energy initiative, the applicant might draw attention to his involvement with environmental clubs or organizations.  

Attempt to be genuine and well-rounded by pointing out accomplishments but suggesting room for growth.  Admissions reports should not be merely a list of accolades.  Most people strive to do great things or achieve in some way because of past failure.  Therefore, an applicant should be sincere and honest about her desire for improvement in a certain area and how that institution might assist in that development.

Do not risk appearing unprofessional by complaining about another institution or program, a grade received, or any other personal grievance.  The general tone of the article should be positive and reflective, even about negative experiences.  

If there is part of an application that needs explanation—for instance a "C" on a transcript amid a host of "A's," use a portion of that essay to address it.  The admissions essay is the applicant's chance to both introduce herself, explain her qualifications for admission, and, if need be, explain or defend some of the less impressive parts of her transcript.

Finally—admissions reports should never be written the day they are due.  Allow time for multiple drafts, and have a friend, teacher, or writing center look over the final copy.  A fresh set of eyes is an invaluable writing resource.

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Viewpoint of Author #6
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When writing a college entrance essay, you must remember that you are trying to achieve major goals with your paper: you are trying to gain admittance to the college of your choice while also showing the college admission officer that you are more than just another face in a crowd.  Of course, the topics of the college essay can be quite varied and the type of paper requested can vary from one institution to the next.  Therefore, there are no hard fast rules when it comes to the mechanics of writing a college article.

In addition to the basics of good writing, such as using proper grammar and punctuation, as well as well-constructed sentences and paragraphs, there are many other things you should consider when writing a college article.  Your main objective, however, is to be sure to answer the question.  Avoid the tendency to run off course and discuss something that isn't truly related to the topic.  Also, be sure to address every aspect of the question or writing prompt, as many college essay questions contain multiple parts.  Failure to answer any portion of the question can prevent you from getting into the college of your dreams.

Another goal when writing a college essay is to be original.  Remember, the admissions officer will be reading hundreds, perhaps thousands of essays.  As such, you need to write something that will help you stand out and get noticed.  Use descriptive words and an active voice while painting pictures with words.  At the same time, don't look up every word in a thesaurus in order to impress the admissions officer with big words.  While you do want to use some variety with your words, you don't want the report to come across as stuffy either.  Use words that appeal to the five senses rather than to the brain.

While you need to be creative with your essay, you also want to be yourself.  Make sure your voice shines through on the article that you write.  Remember, the report isn't all about proving your writing style, it is also about demonstrating that you are the type of person the university wants to have on its campus.  Therefore, when addressing the writing prompt, try to focus on your feelings rather than your actions as this will help personalize the story and help the admissions officer get to know the real you.  

While the entire college essay is important, you should spend the most time working on your introduction.  After all, this is where you will first grab the admission officer's attention.  Your introduction will leave the first impression, so make sure it is a good one.  Avoid summarizing in your first paragraph and try to make it intriguing.  That way, the admission's officer will want to read on in order to learn more.  Raise questions and appeal to the emotions and you can be certain the entire essay will be read.  

The remaining paragraphs, except for the last one, should all support the introduction you have developed.  Be sure you have a logical flow from one paragraph to the next.

When writing the final paragraph, it is your last chance to leave an impression.  Avoid simply summarizing what you already wrote.  Rather, expand upon the ideas or connect it to your introduction in some way in order to bring balance to the entire article.

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Viewpoint of Author #7
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Nearly every college application requires that the applicant complete and include an application essay with his or her submission.  Although the application essay is rarely so long that students may feel it might be too difficult to write, the brevity of the assignment often belies the article's importance.  Application essays are often what separate acceptable applicants from those who will not make the grade.  In a sea of qualified applicants, the application essay can be the determining factor for many pupils.

But, how does a student write an application essay?  What information should be included in an application essay?  What makes a good application essay?

Far too many learners rush through the writing of their application essays when they should take the time needed to produce the highest quality report possible.  After all, being accepted into a top school might be at stake.

The topic of the application essay is generally provided by the school to which the student is applying.  In general, application essays require either that a student provide a longer answer to one question or shorter answers to a series of inquiries.  Either way, the applicant should give a great deal of thought to the topic.

Many schools require that applicant's include in their application essays a bit about why he or she would be an appropriate candidate for the school, the program, and/or the field, and that they include some background information about themselves in their documents.  Application essays are highly personal and can include stories and anecdotes that individualize the document.

All application reports should consider the audience.  Far too many learners write what they find important with little consideration about what information the reader is interested in gathering from the writing.  Although an application essay has to assure the reader that the applicant is prepared for entrance into the particular program to which he or she is applying, it must also remain rather generic in that a specific and detailed play-by-play of the applicant's goals is not necessary.  

The writing of a great application essay goes through several drafts before it is perfected.  The writer has to concern him/herself with not only good style, grammar, spelling, and other technical components of writing, the applicant must also consider the voice, motivation, and politics of the report, as well.  The writer has to ensure that his or her application essay is not offensive, inflammatory, but that it is written in a way that truly reveals his or her own feelings on the topic.

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Viewpoint of Author #8
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A college admission essay is a writing prepared by an individual who is planning to attend an institution of higher learning.  Admissions officers evaluate the report based on content, grammar, and style.  College admission essays usually answer a question provided by the college.  Unlike personal statements, college admission essays must follow the typical format of an expository article.  It is necessary for the college applicant to understand the purpose of the report and to follow the steps to writing a quality article.

The purpose of most college admission essays is to introduce the applicant to the representatives of the college.  The admissions committee must be able to determine whether or not an applicant has the potential to be a model pupil.  In addition to high school records, SAT test scores, and the application itself, the college admission essay serves as an important source of information about the applicant.  It shows not only the writing skill of the student but also his or her critical thinking abilities.  Because the admissions officers are seeking individuals who can communicate well, the report becomes an essential part of the admissions process.

The main steps of writing a great college admission essay are brainstorming a list of succinct answers to the question and selecting the best three answers or concepts.  The applicant must develop a thesis statement about those three concepts.  The thesis statement is always the last sentence in the introduction and helps the reader to understand the main points.  After beginning the report with a good introduction, the student should write a paragraph for each concept.  This will help to produce a standard five-paragraph essay (the conclusion will be the fifth paragraph).  The student must remember that he or she is not writing a personal statement unless the question asks for personal information.  Most college admission essays ask open-ended inquiries that require the applicant to write about topics such as human interest stories, current events, and famous people.  

College admission essays allow the college officials to see what kind of person is interested in their school.  They are specifically looking for people who know how to thoughtfully and creatively express themselves.  A strong candidate for acceptance will write a thorough response to an inquiry that reflects the college's vision for success.  Understanding the purpose for the document and following writing steps will enable the applicant to improve his or her chances for admission.

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Viewpoint of Author #9
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College essay topics are often determined by the admitting college.  The application instructions will indicate what topic students should consider when selecting a subject to write about.  All potential applicants have to do is to gear their college essay topic toward the subject matter indicated in the application.

Still, many learners have no idea how to come up with a college essay topic that sets them apart from the thousands of other applicants.  And, since there are many learners with stellar grades and well-structured extracurricular activities, it might well be the college essay topic that makes or breaks a student's chance for admission.  So, the trick is to select a topic that makes the application stand out among all the others that college recruiters have to wade through.

College essay topics should reflect the individuality of the pupil.  There is no harm in the student writing about his or her athletic abilities, the family vacation, or even their pet turtle, as long as the report reflects how the selected college essay topic makes the applicant different, or special.  The college essay topic that the student selects, and how he or she presents the topic, reveals a lot about who that student is.

Students often wonder why the college essay topic is so important.  Simply put, the college views each student's college essay as a way to get a feel for that student's creativity, writing ability, personal values, and critical thinking skills.  The way that each student uses such tactics as persuasion, organization, and basic writing skills reflects that student's capacity to compete and thrive in the college environment.  

The fact is that there are generally no right or wrong college essay topics.  Students are encouraged to exercise creativity and a great deal of thought when selecting their document topic and when writing their document.  And, although there are few "wrong" topics, students are still advised to refrain from selecting a college essay topic that is offensive or tasteless since such topics almost never elicit positive reactions from recruiters.

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Viewpoint of Author #10
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Most universities ask prospective students to submit a college admission essay along with their application.  College admission essays are required so that universities can learn more about a student than what is presented in their transcripts and test scores, and also so that they can assess a prospective student's writing abilities.

A college admission essay is essentially a personal essay in which the writer describes why he or she wishes to attend the particular institution.  However, college admission essays will differ from the type of personal essays a student has written in his or her high school English class in that they must be tailored to a specific aim, which is to inform the admissions committee of the institution about the student and to persuade that committee that the student should be admitted.  Most personal essays are written with the aim of promoting reflection in the writer and enjoyment in the reader.  In an admission essay, a student must blend his or her skills of persuasion with his or her skills of entertaining and reflecting in order to create a short but comprehensive text that informs, persuades, entertains, and reflects all at once.

The admission report should inform the admissions committee of the student's attributes, achievements, and goals.  This means the student should discuss why he believes he should be admitted to the institution by informing the readers about his academic performance, extracurricular life, and academic and career hopes for the future.  It should also inform the committee about the reasons why the student wants to attend that specific institution.  This should be tailored to the institution, and should mention specific aspects of the college that the student finds particularly suited to him and why.

At the same time as it is informing, a college admission report should persuade the committee to admit the student by presenting information that is of particular interest to the school.  Besides a good academic record, this would include achievements or activities that reflect the values and strengths of the college.  For instance, if the university is known for its focus on engineering, the student would perhaps highlight her experience with her high school's engineering club.  

College admission essays will never be great works of literature.  However, they should still strive to entertain on a very basic level by presenting a coherent, genuine, and aesthetically appealing text that engages the reader rather than bores him.  Thus, a student should strive to use interesting language and illustrative details and include honest reflection and commentary.

A college admission essay is written for an audience, but it is also an exercise in self-reflection.  Beyond the personal benefits of such reflection, the readers of the article should be able to see that the student is self-reflective and emotionally mature.  

All college admission reports should be grammatically and stylistically flawless.  To this end, they should be thoroughly proofread multiple times and by multiple parties.

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Viewpoint of Author #11
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If a student needs to write an admission essay for a college or an academic program, the student may benefit by reviewing a sample admission article.  After all, students rarely get feedback on their admission essays since the reports are not written for a particular course.  Therefore, by looking at sample admission essays, students may be able to get a better idea of what kind of information and format that should have with their own documents.

The first thing that students need to do in order to get the right kind of sample admission essays is to review the admission essay requirements.  Different schools have different report topics and requirements for the reports.  For example, some schools may require learners to write just 500 words about themselves.  Other schools might ask students to write very specific responses to specific questions.  

Some students have been able to get a hold of sample admission articles that have been successful for admission into a particular school.  For example, if a student is trying to get into a business school, the student may be able to find sample admission essays for students that successful became enrolled in the school.  

There are many different sources for sample admission essays.  Some students may contact the alumni association for a school to see if any students would be willing to share their sample admission article that has worked.  Other students may be able to receive copies of successful sample admission reports from the schools themselves.  Some students even look online.  

When looking online for a sample admission essay, students need to keep in mind that the reports may or may not have been successful for pupils.  Therefore, learners should be able interact with the publisher of the report to find out what feedback and results the student achieved with the document.  Students should always look for high-quality reports when looking online, as well.  

There are many differences between different types of projects.  However, one of the distinguishing characteristics that students will notice when they review sample admission essays is that admission essays focus on the student's point-of-view and experienced.  The point of admissions essays is for students to express themselves.  Admissions counselors will review a student's responses to the report and determine whether the student is a good fit for the school or not.  Therefore, students need to be aware of the characteristic of an effective admissions essay and write based on those characteristics and not on the characteristics of other types of academic writings.

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Viewpoint of Author #12
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When writing a college admission essay, your primary goal is to share something about yourself that helps to set you apart from the other applicants.  Since there are likely to be thousands of people applying for acceptance to the school and only a limited number of spots available, you need to do everything possible to differentiate yourself from the competition.

In addition to simply following the general rules of good essay writing, which requires that you have a strong and interesting introduction, a logically flowing body, and a conclusion that leaves an impression upon the reader, you also need to avoid making some common mistakes that are found in admission essays.

One of the biggest mistakes that college hopefuls make when writing their admission essay is trying to philosophize in their admission essays.  Remember, you are not trying to make a profound statement with your admission essay and you are not attempting to take a stance on a particular issue.  Rather, you are trying to share something about yourself with the admissions committee.  Therefore, you should focus more on a person or event that has an impact on you and describe its effects rather than making a profound statement about society in general.

Another common mistake that is made when writing admission essays is overuse of the thesaurus.  While it is good to use the thesaurus in order to make your writing more descriptive and interesting, you shouldn't use one in order to use "big" words that you normally wouldn't use.  Overusing the thesaurus results in an application article that does not reflect the real you and may even lead to clunky writing that is difficult to understand.

As you plan your admission essay, you should also focus on just one event or topic to write about.  Remember, your admission essay is not a resume.  As such, you should not attempt to cram every great thing you have ever done into one report.  Resist the urge to impress the admissions committee with a look at all of your awards or experiences.  Rather, impress them with your ability to tell a good story about just one event or experience.

As with all good writing, you should also avoid the use of clich├ęs or the use of other terms and themes that are formulaic in nature.  Some themes that are overused in admission essays include: winning one for the team, discovering that money is the root of all evil, espousing religious beliefs, and taking in the weak and the poor.  Try coming up with a different idea that provides a unique perspective that will show the admissions committee who you really are.

Of course, it doesn't matter how great your ideas are if you have grammar errors, punctuation errors, or flaws in your logic or the flow.  Therefore, you should set the report aside for a few days and then re-read it before sending it in.  Make sure the paragraphs transition nicely into each other and that the sentences flow well and you will be certain to have a winning article.

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