Together with grades, SAT scores, and extracurriculars, the college admission essay is one of the most important components of the college application. Students often ask us, “what makes a good college admissions essay?” or “what are the keys to writing a great essay?” While there is no magic formula to writing a strong college admissions essay, there are definitely some strategies that can help make a student’s essay shine.
Here are some keys to a great college essay:
- Use your own voice. You may get help on your essay from many people–teachers, parents, tutors, and friends–but the final product needs to have your voice and reflect your own personality and style. Don’t let the editing process edit out your unique voice.
- Be genuine/authentic. It is best not to exaggerate or fabricate anything in the essay. Be real. Be yourself. College admissions officials are experts at spotting inauthenticity.
- Don’t just restate what is already in your application. The essay is a chance to highlight some aspect of yourself that is not already presented somewhere else in your essay.
- Tell a good story. This essay is the time to “show not tell,” as your English teachers probably told you so many times over the years. Instead of saying, “I am a great leader,” tell a story that shows your leadership abilities. Instead of saying, “I have overcome great challanges,” tell a story that shows how you have triumphed in the face of adversity.
- Avoid wordiness; be concise. Avoid long sentences and excessive use of adjectives. One good exercise is to literally count the number of words in your sentences. Periodically, throw in a sentence with fewer than ten words. Brevity is powerful. If you have a hard time being concise and to the point, check out the classic book “Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace.“
- Answer the question that is asked. Most colleges ask a specific question for the admissions essay, but some students can be so focused on trying to talk about all of their achievements that they forget to answer the actual question that is asked. This is a big mistake. You should not recycle the same essay over and over again for every college to which you apply. Each essay should be tailored to the specific question that is asked.
These are just a few of the keys to a great college admissions essay.
For more expert help, ask us about setting up an individual appointment with one of our Atlanta writing tutors.