Admissions Essay Tips

by | Mar 18, 2020 | Admission Essays, College Applications | 0 comments

Overcoming college essay writer’s block

The College Admissions Essay is a genre unto itself and, arguably, the most anxiety inducing component of college applications.  In an era dominated by tweets and status updates, you would think that this generation is uniquely prepared to present themselves in 650 words or less.  However, the challenge of the essay is the expectation that an applicant can adequately personalize an otherwise impersonal application.  For some students, the Admissions Essay presents a valuable opportunity to set themselves apart and a chance at redemption.  In fact, many students cling to the hope that a stellar essay can compensate for lackluster grades and underwhelming test scores.  Of course the academic record still remains the primary consideration for committees, but admissions representatives love to tell stories of the exceptional essay that prompted them to reconsider applicants that had been placed in a “maybe” pile.  If a student sticks to schools using the Common App, then they may only need to write one, solid essay.  But, if the student selects schools that opt out of the Common App process, or provide alternative essay prompts, then more than one essay is often necessary.  This can be overwhelming, even for the student who loves to write.

Writing takes time.  Writing requires preparation, revision, and more revision.  This is not an application component that should be left to the last minute.  The summer before Senior year is a great time to review writing prompts and brainstorm.  The Common App publishes a list of essay prompts for past and upcoming admissions seasons.  Here are some tips for writing a successful essay:

  • Make a list of adjectives you would use to describe yourself
  • Choose a few of those adjectives you would like to highlight for the committee
  • Tie those adjectives to activities with which you are involved
  • Think of experiences with these activities that would illustrate the adjectives you’ve chosen
  • Set a timer for twenty minutes and free write based on the above
  • Don’t worry if you are “stumped” or “uninspired” -the trick is to start thinking/brainstorming early
  • There are many different types of essay prompts that require different approaches and strategies
  • Be sure to always review the prompts and do not rely on a “one size fits all” essay

The number one thing to remember is that the student needs to be genuine and honest.  Do not write what you think the committee wants to hear.  If an applicant represents who they really are and the admissions representatives decide the student is not a good fit for their school, then this is not a bad outcome.  After all, a student would likely be miserable at a school that does not appreciate, or welcome, what they have to offer. Compass Academics offers personalized, custom consulting packages to help you compose stellar admissions essay. It is important to have other people read your essay and offer feedback. Ultimately, the essay belongs to you, so you should never let someone take over the essay with their own voice and content. There are also several guides that students might find useful:

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