5 Essay Tips from Expert College Admissions Counselors
For many students back-to-school season is already here, and with the opening of the Common Application on Aug. 1, the pressure to start on college applications is already on. While it’s smart for students to get a head start on their college applications during the summer, it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure what to write about in your essays – or how to write it.
At IvyWise, our team of expert counselors is made up of former deans and directors of admission from some of the country’s most selective colleges and universities, so they know what it takes to gain admission to students’ top-choice colleges. They’ve read tens of thousands of college application essays, and they want to share their top college application essay tips!
Invest In Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a critical element of the college essay writing process, however, many students don’t spend much time on it. For those anxious to get started they might think of one or two topics and settle on one almost immediately, while other students might brainstorm for too long – putting off the inevitable because they’re just not sure what to write about. Brainstorming isn’t just coming up with topics, however, it’s also getting feedback on those ideas and narrowing down your options with the help of parents, teachers, and your college counselor. Invest some time in meaningful brainstorming. Take time to think about moments or experiences that have impacted you. Talk with your parents and friends about experiences that were meaningful to you. Those who know you best might offer some insight into what events reveal something compelling about you, and talking with them might inspire topics that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
College admissions officers read thousands of essays every year, and they only spend so much time reading each application, so it’s important to grab their attention from the start. Your essay should have a strong opening sentence with that “hook” that’s going to draw the reader in and pique his or her interest.
Let Your Personality Shine
Admissions officers want to get to know you, and there’s only so much they can learn from your grades, courses, and activity list. The essay is an opportunity to reveal something about yourself that they might not otherwise glean from the rest of your application, so use it to help admissions officers get to know you. Your personal statement should sound like you and offer some insight into your personality, what you’re interested in, and your motivations. Don’t spend your essay rehashing your accomplishments or emphasizing your intelligence – colleges are going to get that from the rest of your application elements. Instead, focus on revealing what makes you “tick.” What are your inspirations and motivations? Let your voice and your personality come to life in your essay.
Think About the Essay’s “Takeaway”
Oftentimes students spend so much time trying to tell a story with their essay they forget that the conclusion of the essay is just as important as the strong opening and the middle “meat” of the piece. Think about the “takeaway.” What’s the lesson that you want the reader to come away with? How has everything you’ve written about influenced not only your present, but also your future and goals. A soft conclusion can make the rest of an otherwise strong essay fall flat.
Revise, Revise, Revise!
It’s extremely rare that the first draft of a college application essay is perfect. Just as it’s important to get feedback during the brainstorming process, it’s also critical to get feedback on your actual essay. Have your college counselor, parents, and even teachers review your drafts and offer suggestions. Don’t be afraid to revise your essay multiple times in order to get it where you want it. Editing and revision is an important part of the process, and it can help improve your writing considerably.
The college application essay writing process can be intimidating, but if you start early and invest in some great brainstorming, it can be a really fun process of self-discovery and reflection. At IvyWise our college application counselors work with students in every phase of the college admissions process, including seniors working on their college applications for the fall. For more information on our college counseling services for high school seniors, contact us today.