Don’t start looking at college essays featured as samples without a clear game plan. Here are four tips to help you get the most out of reviewing sample essays, wherever you find them.
1. Remember that these samples were chosen for a reason
Essays featured as samples have something in particular that makes them worth reviewing. Every time you look at college essay samples, ask yourself why that particular essay is being held up as an example. Is it the story? The writing? The organization? All of those elements? Something completely different? Don’t just assume that an essay is great in all respects. Bring a critical eye to your review and pinpoint what you like about the essay and what doesn’t work so well.
2. Your Own Story is Different from that of Anyone Else
Because being unique and personal is vital to the success of an admission essay, you should know that a story that works for someone else will likely not work for you. Similarly, the best essay you can write will likely not work for anyone else. Understanding that, you can review samples, but you should never feel constrained by them. They can give you a better understanding of the task, but they should not make you feel like you absolutely must (or must not) write about something in particular. Don’t lose your own voice by looking at a college essay example.
3. Samples have often been Edited or even Rewritten
The essays you see featured as samples are often prepared before they are published. That could mean substantial editing, reorganization, or even rewriting of entire sections. Some sample essays are actually written specifically for the purpose of being featured and have never been submitted as part of any application.
4. Most of the Best Essays are Not Published
This is extremely important to understand as you review college essay samples. The simple truth is that the vast majority of excellent admissions essays are never featured in a book or on a website. In fact, they may only ever be read by three or four people: the author, maybe a friend or editor, and an admissions officer or two. In fact, because many of the best college application essays are so intensely personal, they’re not meant to be read by a broad audience.
Overall, just remember that there are an infinite number of ways to write an outstanding college application essay. Don’t limit yourself based on what you see or read in a college essay example.
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