College Admissions

Thinking About Content in an Application Essay

If you are looking forward to going to college, you should be thinking about your application essay.

Some universities require several application essays, some will request only one or two, and others will not want any application essay at all. Lucky you! However, most academic institutions do require an application essay. The content of the application essay depends upon the prompt from the university. Perhaps the admissions committee wants you to look out a window and describe what you see. Okay. You can do that. Be creative and describe what you see and why. Focus on the imaginative aspect of describing your view, making it personal by letting the reader know what it means to you. Remember that your application essay must be unique to stand out from the large numbers of application essays that will be arriving in admissions offices across the country.

Another college’s application wants you to describe yourself using just three words and then explain why you selected those words. That’s not so difficult. Unless you have really good reasons for describing yourself with ordinary or commonly-used words, choose this application essay to define yourself in atypical terms. Use your imagination or ask your friends how they would describe you. You may be surprised at their responses. You could also describe yourself the way you wish you were. Add a footnote in the essay to explain that this is a “fantasy” essay.

Never Rush Your Application Essays

The most challenging application essay is the one which simply requests that you “tell us about yourself.” The purpose of the application essay is to let the admissions committee get to know you beyond the standard application materials: the statistics, the test scores, the transcripts, and the letters of recommendation. This application essay is your chance to step out of a crowded field and say “Look at me!” I have chosen to apply to your school because… I want to study (pick one!) …English/physics/engineering/graphic design/ communications… Or perhaps you are not sure what you want to be or what you hope to study. Application essays are the tickets to the future. You do not have to choose your destination yet. You just have to think about it now.

Final words of recommendation about writing application essays: stay within the required word limit; respond to the prompt or answer the question; be creative while being yourself; be serious about writing the application essay in good English; and, ask someone you trust to read your application essay for you and offer their opinion and suggestions. Have fun with the process! It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

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