Let’s face it: 99% of Colleges and Universities have THOUSANDS of applicants vying for (relatively) fewer spots. Although there are many things you can do to gain visibility with a potential college, your essay is one of the most important pieces of the application puzzle…it is the chance for you to display your true personality on a sheet of paper…ok, that sounds less than glorious, but think about it this way…A regular essay in high school English is simply on a plain sheet of paper; your college admissions essay should be like a 3-D pop-up book with sound! (okay my right-brained creative thinkers are TOTALLY getting it right now! Left-brainers…you’re close!).
You know how we do it…Time for some quick tips!! Check out the following Quick Tips to get started on that Pop-up Book Personal Essay (okay, if you missed it, back up to the first paragraph, please).
1. Most schools will give you a word limit on the essay…if not, your College essay should be relatively short – ideally 250-600 words. With these, less is more.
2. Your first sentence has to grab the reader by the eyeballs (seriously!) and compel him (or her) to keep reading…REMEMBER, admissions counselors read essays ALL DAY LOOOOONG. If yours is the last of the day, it had better be a pop-up (again, refer to first paragraph).
3. Think “micro” not “mega”. Instead of writing about the time you went to Disney (too broad), tell me about the family you met at the Disney Dining hall who travelled all the way from Uruguay to the US for the first time so that they’re grandmother could see Mickey before she got too old to travel…That’s micro…a little tiny moment within a huge trip, that makes the reader feel something. (Great segue to the next Quick Tip)
4. The reader should be able to feel, see, hear, taste, and/or touch whatever it is that you are writing about. If you’re writing about visiting the old slave forts in West Africa, I (the reader) should be feeling the heat!!
5. Write as if you are talking to the person and telling a very descriptive story. If that’s the case, don’t use big words you wouldn’t use in conversation…it won’t flow in your essay, and admissions counselors will compare your essay with your SAT writing sample (if you have one) to see if the two “jive” (i.e. match). Be yourself! Tell the story as if someone pressed play on your memory and can see every detail.
6. Lastly, find an adult, parent, teacher, or advisor who you trust to proofread and edit before you submit it. Try finding someone who is familiar with college essays. If not, at least print these Quick Tips and give it to them with your essay so that your reader has some idea of what you were shooting for. It’s definitely worth having another pair of eyeballs on it before you click “Send”.
You’re off! Good luck! If you don’t feel any emotion from your own story, then you probably haven’t found that moment in time that you should write about. Keep in mind, some schools will ask specific questions and even then you’re intro should be pop-up, eyeball grabbing material!