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College and Graduate School Application Essay Tips and Advice

Completing your college or graduate school application can be overwhelming, especially the essay portion. You need to write so it sounds like there is a human being behind the essay, but you also need to balance that with a formality that shows you are taking the process seriously. There’s also the matter of choosing which stories to focus on, and how to present them in a way that conveys your qualifications. It can be a lot to tackle, so heed some application advice from expert editors and consultants at EssayEdge.

Three of our expert editors and one of our professional admissions consultants weigh in on the best way to approach a college or graduate school application essay.

Best Advice

If you could give one piece of advice to college or graduate school applicants, what would it be?

Ashley (Editor): If I could give one piece of advice to students who are applying to college or graduate school, I would say to be bold in your application. Schools are really looking for students who know who they are and know where they want to go, so the best thing you can do is really try to convey that on paper.

Kai (Editor): If I could give one piece of advice to someone applying to college or grad school, I would say do your research. It’s incredibly clear to these institutions if you write an essay knowing nothing about them.

Jessica (Editor): The one piece of advice I would give to applicants is to complete your application with confidence. Write like you know you are going to be accepted.

Stories to Tell

What kinds of stories should you tell in your application?

Doris (Admissions Consultant): When you’re applying to college, the kind of stories you want to tell show your passion, learning, drive, and growth. Even if you do something that you think is very commonplace like volunteer work or playing a high school sport, there is probably an angle you can take to show your leadership roles, or maybe a personal project that you took initiative on.

As a graduate school applicant, the most important thing is twofold. Number one, you want to show stories and experiences that demonstrate your credentials in your field of choice, and your interest in that field, because you’re going to be pursuing it for the rest of your life. The second thing that you want to do is also demonstrate your experiences that show your potential to be a superstar in that field going forward.

Common Mistakes

What is the most common mistake you see applicants make?

Ashley: I would say the most common mistake I see in personal statements is when students choose essays that are too generic. A lot of times, they forget that the topic is the foundation of the essay, and so you really need to choose something to write about that you feel passionately about.

Kai: Some on the most common mistakes that I come across in personal statements are either essays that are essentially a CV translated into text, or an essay that begins with some grand statement, and then completely forgets it and never mentions it again.

Jessica: I think the biggest mistake that people make with personal statements is that they are too generic. A personal statement is an opportunity for an individual to set themselves apart from a crowd, and make themselves different from other applicants.

How to Stand Out

How can you make sure you stand out from all the other applicants?

Jessica: To stand out, use personal stories and experiences to illustrate why you are pursuing your particular academic path. You can also use creative writing techniques to make sure your reader is particularly engaged.

Doris: It’s really important to figure out your personal brand, because when you think about the hundreds or thousands of people you’re going to be up against, many applicants have really perfect credentials. But the ones who really stand out are the ones who figure out what their story is, what their brand is. And if they communicate that through their entire application, that’s going to make them stand out from the crowd.

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