Your college essay reveals something important about you. It goes beyond your grades and your extracurriculars. It shows more than your SAT and ACT scores ever could. It makes you more than just a name on a page. It makes you an actual person...that is, if you do it right.
Writing personal essays is perhaps the most stressful part of applying for colleges. But it doesn't have to be. A college essay is meant to be a genuine expression of who you are as an individual- what you stand for. And who knows you better than you?
Writing these essays isn't as hard as you think, you just need a little advice and a lot of time. We can help you with one of those things. Take a look at these five things you can do to make your each of your college essays a success.
Different colleges offer different topics for personal essays, but regardless of the prompt, it is always a good idea to give yourself time to digest your topic.
1. Give yourself time to think about the prompt
- First, you should spend some time thinking about what the prompt is actually asking. How many times have you gotten a question wrong on a test or quiz because you read something wrong or didn't take the time to understand the question fully? Read and re-read your prompt and make sure you understand what is being asked of you.
- Next, you should reflect on why you are being asked what you are being asked. Why would the school want to know this about you? How does this relate to your ability to be an excellent college student? What specifically do you think the college is interested in? Asking these questions will allow you to be more precise in your response while touching on the things that really matter.
- Finally, you should spend a few days letting the prompt tumble around your head. Give yourself time to consider your answer. A personal essay should show who you are. It should give some insight into your personality. So dig deep, and leave a little bit of yourself on the page.
2. Get organizedMany colleges will give instruction on how long or short your essay should be. Because of this, before starting your essay, you should take time to organize your thoughts. I know how easy it can be to jump right into a piece, but trust me, doing 20-30 minutes of organizational preparation now, could save you from a lot of headaches later.
An excellent way to organize your writing for a personal essay is to outline your main talking points and estimate how many words or sentences you'll use to cover each point. If you do this, you should be able to allocate words to one area of your essay over another based on the importance of each talking point.
Here are a few other sources for organizational tips:
3. Use editing softwareYou are probably familiar with the spelling and grammar checks built into Microsoft Word, but did you know that there are other FREE tools out there you can use to edit your essay? Tools like Grammarly, Hemingway, and ProWriting Aid, give you feedback on things like word choice, sentence complexity, comma use, and more. If you want your essay to be as mechanically strong as possible, give these tools a try.
4. Use editing humansWhile online tools are great, nothing can beat the feedback of a qualified individual. English teachers, school counselors, college professors - these individuals should be able to provide you with insightful comments and critiques.
Regardless of who you have look over your essay, having another pair of eyes on it doubles your chances of eliminating wordy phrases, misspelled words, and confusing explanations. Out of all of the people you know, you shouldn't have much trouble finding someone to look over your work.
Note: Limit the number of people you have reviewing your essay to two or three. When you try to satisfy the advice of too many people, you run the risk of upsetting the natural flow and balance of your work.
5. Formal is a formality - be yourselfWhile turning in literary analyses and other pieces of school work, you have probably been told to keep things formal. This is a good rule to follow, but when writing a college essay, you have a little leeway. Know one wants to know what "one" would do, they want to know what you would do.
This is an essay about you! It should show who you are and what you are about. So while you shouldn't throw all regard for formality out the window (words like lit, bae, and frontin' still aren't okay), you do have some amount of freedom to talk about yourself in a way that is true to yourself.
Writing a college essay can be extraordinarily stressful, but if you follow these tips, take your time, and write about something important to you, you should be able to put together an essay that will show your skills, strengths, and personality.
So are you ready to get to work? You can click below to download our Application Checklist which will guide you through our application process and give you information on our essay prompt!