In these unprecedented times, applying to college can be a daunting task. It’s filled with uncertainty as colleges and universities dramatically change their admissions procedures, and students are forced to adapt to the sudden modifications.
Generally, college application is one of the most stressful phases in a student’s life. However, in this pandemic, the yearly effort by high school seniors to integrate their grades, test scores, and personal essays into exceptional applications has made the process even more challenging.
Students are dealing with the blowback on their GPAs, the halting of extracurricular activities, and the nixing of standardized tests as a requisite for this year’s applicants.
One of the remaining application requirements for college application is the personal essay. Needless to say, newcomers put all their efforts into learning how to ace it.
Why Is It So Important?
Generally, every high school senior will wonder about the importance of a college essay in the application process. Can an outstanding essay eliminate their fears and anxiety if their test scores and GPAs don’t make the cut?
The admissions office would want to know your potential to be academically and socially accomplished once you’ll be admitted to the institution. In addition to looking at your grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, academic recognition during secondary school, and letters of recommendation, college essays are also used to evaluate your qualification for acceptance.
Colleges that are more selective with their applicants get more qualified students to assess. The admissions committee is interested in recognizing a student’s unique abilities on beyond the academic levels. This is when a personal essay comes in.
The personal essay is a way for the admissions officer to get to know the student. An excellent essay will tell more about you in ways that your application can’t cover.
Challenges of Writing An Essay
Students encounter many challenges when it comes to writing their college essays, and usually, crafting your essay at the last minute only adds to the pressure. And when colleges expect you to explain how awesome you are in 500 words!
Students are aware that authority figures will read their essays, so they’re conscious of pleasing their readers. As a result, fail to relay their real experiences.
Unfortunately, fabricating something that will make you look good in their eyes won’t help. this defeats the purpose of allowing the admissions committee to know the real you.
How Long Should A College Essay Be?
When it’s time to create a compelling college essay, students scour numerous sources for topics. At times, they are skeptical about whether it’s natural, contrived, or impressive enough for the reader. While it’s important to consider all these, word count also matters.
Unlike in most other standard essay assignments with a required number of pages, many colleges supply only the word count limit. This will set a uniform length for all the entries, no matter what format you choose. It is always safe to make it as close to the maximum limit as possible.
Every school will have a required word count, but usually, it falls within 500 and 600 words. Sometimes, the colleges also ask for fewer words but provide about three to five questions, each requiring 300-word answers.
There are times when supplemental essays must be submitted along with the personal essay, but it should be a lot shorter. The supplemental questions are meant to highlight the student’s skills and interests. The topics could be about the degree program they wish to pursue or the activities they spend their time on.
Acing Your College Application Essay
The most important ingredient for landing a lucrative career is a college degree. And everyone is aware of this fact. Even if some high school seniors may not attend college immediately, they may plan on doing so eventually.
The only way to be admitted to your dream university or college is to hold an excellent credential and support your stellar profile with a compelling essay.
Unfortunately, not all incoming first-year students can craft an essay that will make them stand out. To remedy this, college-bound students and their families often hire counselors or “essay coaches” to provide help on application essays.
Students are expected to research before starting their draft. picking the right topic is essential when writing your college application essay. Ensure that this topic is something you’re passionate about, so it will be easier for you to express your thoughts.
Remember that this is one form of telling the school administrators about yourself. They would appreciate learning something that is neither found in your transcript nor reflected on your academic activities.
Bear in mind that a school official will read your essay. It has to be appropriate, comprehensive, and truthful. Otherwise, you’ll only be submitting a cliche which only bores that admissions committee.
It is just as important to be aware of the deadline. If you’re applying for several institutions, take note of these dates and transfer them in a calendar or spreadsheet so you can easily keep track and submit it on time.
College Essay Prompts
According to the Common App, the essay prompts for this year will be the same as last year. For someone who is stressing about what to write in their essay, knowing some of these thoughts from college students who just finished the demanding college application can incredibly help appease your worries.
Remember: Feedback on individual prompts vary.
Not everyone thinks that essay prompts are useful but it’s unanimously believed that they allow students to express their thoughts about a significant interest or highlight a characteristic, background, or skill. More than half of the student respondents in every group pointed out that prompts are effective.
The applicants like the part when they write about their choices, but the counselors have a different opinion. The admissions officer would love to know more about their experience when they challenge a particular point or belief. All these scenarios cited mean only one thing: people have different reactions to the role of essay prompts.
What Are Essay Prompts?
1. Students come from diverse backgrounds, with various interests and talents that they find so significant and consider important to their application.
This prompt is about their uniqueness. It doesn’t matter if it’s about where you came from, your interests, or how you see yourself. The key is to convey a story about you. Don’t repeat any information about yourself that can already be found somewhere else. It’s meant to tell the counselors a different side of you.
2. Every failure that comes in your way will be crucial to your success in the future. Recall the time of that failure. How did it change you? Did you learn any significant lesson from that experience?
It can be difficult for someone to show their strength when asked to highlight a failure. But if you don’t have qualms about self-analysis and opening up a bit more of yourself, you can easily proceed with answering this prompt. Counselors will find your maturity, humility, and maturity through your response and see your desire to learn from the dire situation.
3. Think about the time when you questioned an idea of belief. What triggered your perspective? What was the result?
Students may have broader options on what to write for this question. The prompt is vague. But not all points and beliefs will create an excellent essay. Writing a superficial response will do no good. The counselor would like to know the student’s open-mindedness, unselfishness, and ability to think empirically.
4. Talk about the problem you’ve resolved or an issue you want to settle. It can be about research, an ethical issue, an intellectual dispute—something that is personally significant to you, regardless of its extent. Explain its importance and what means you used or could be done to find a solution.
The prompt can help the student create a unique essay that will present their values, problem-solving ability, and curiosity. Providing an informal answer will not be appropriate since this is an application essay, after all, not a research paper.
5. Talk about an achievement, activity, or learning that brought emotional growth and a new realization of yourself or others.
Every student went into something that helped them mature. This prompt is a terrific topic for them. The best way to work around this issue is to choose the appropriate achievement. Then create the content that will display your profundity and analytical skills.
When recalling a particular accomplishment, don’t look too further, perhaps a couple of years back. This is your chance to tell the counselor about yourself. Telling your childhood story will not be that effective.
6. Explain a topic or concept that you think is fascinating, making you want to spend most of your time. Why does it excite you? What or who do you share it with when you want to know more about it?
This is another vague subject that will allow students to talk about what interests them. The question helps expose what drives and fascinates them. It is perfect for students who can clearly convey their interests. Those who haven’t figured out what their passion is should answer a different prompt.
Tips for Crafting Your Essay Based on the Prompts
1. Answer the prompt.
A typical mistake in an essay is writing about a particular story without any relevance to the prompt. Empty words that do not link to the topic won’t impress admission officers.
Most higher education institutions permit students to select from several prompts. Answering your preferred subject within the essay’s limitation makes writing your story a lot easier to write (and read!) Grab this chance to let the school know more about yourself, something they wouldn’t find in any of the credentials you’ve submitted, while still addressing the prompt and complying with the writing standards.
Make sure the reader understands and realizes what you’re trying to relay to them after reading the essay. Contemplate on the idea, and ask yourself what the counselor would want to know. If the prompt asks about a particular event or an example, write a response that exactly answers that question.
Do not deviate from the topic. At times, students tend to stuff their essay with too many words and do not provide the exact answer to the question. Officers read numerous articles, and the last thing they want to end up reading is long-winded content.
After you’re done writing, it helps to have someone who has not seen the prompt read your content. Ask these people after your essay stayed true to the subject. You’ll be amazed at how easily you can go off-topic without you even realizing it!
2. Allow your character to shine.
There’s only one goal for the officers here, and that is to get to know you in ways that your credentials can’t tell them. Your activity record, grades, and courses will only tell you about a piece of yourself. An essay must provide insight into your character, interests, motivations.
However, avoid talking about your achievements or highlighting your intellectual ability too much. They already know how smart you are, thanks to your academic information. Talk about your inspirations and goals. All these elements will help bring out your personality, which officers would like to know about.
As you explain your topic, remember it has to sound like you. Refrain from adding words you hardly use. Incorporating fancy language that people barely say will not impress the admission officers. Words like “maybe,” “I think,” “and sort of,” may weaken the quality of your essay.
3. Start strong.
Keep in mind that colleges receive up to 70,000 applications each year. For someone going through every single essay by each applicants, reading a powerful introduction will surely make a lasting impression. A dynamic intro doesn’t have to be bold and spectacular, but it must establish your character.
When it comes to writing the essay, the admissions committee constantly reminds students to be themselves. Focus on the elements of your essay that will get you to your dream school.
4. Check your essay before submitting it.
Admission officers have expressed it’s not uncommon for them to spot sentence structures problems, grammatical errors, and punctuation issues on college application essays.
Like any other literary work, you must proofread your essay. There’s no limit on how many times you need to check the material, and you can use various methods to ensure it is error-free.
Using a spell check application is helpful and necessary. Another option is asking another person to read it, giving them the chance to find minor mistakes. Counselors may not be that strict when it comes to punctuation errors, but grammatical and typos are big no-nos, and they paint a poor impression of you.
Proofreading would lead to revisions. As you read it several times, you are likely to revise some parts to perfect them. It helps, too, to ask those who read it to offer you feedback.
5. Avoid summarizing.
Steer clear from stating the obvious in your essay. It becomes ineffective when you explicitly express your point by using phrases like “I learned,” “The most important lesson for me” or, “I realized that.” This makes it unconvincing and ruins the moment for the reader.
Allow them to read between the lines and decipher the idea of the essay on their own. State something about how to took a risk, made a decision, or argued about and proved your point.
Don’t make the mistake of submitting a summary of your essay points or worse, submit an unfinished version. It may sound careless, but some applicants have committed this mistake! This negligence can make or break your essay writing effort, so reread your piece carefully before submitting it.
Double-check the word count of the document and make sure it meets the requirement–especially if you’re submitting for numerous schools with varying word count limits!
Like in a marketing campaign, the brainstorming phase is essential in writing a college application essay. The goal here is to extract all potential ideas, so as soon as you start writing, you’ll have enough information and a framework to focus on for your topic.
Begin by reflecting on the events that happened a few years back. Gather all the meaningful experiences that made a strong impact on you. Take this time to contemplate your strengths, friends’ impression of you, and consider what sets you apart from the rest of the new students.
Put all your thoughts into writing. There’s no standard method for this part but jotting down all those ideas is helpful when you may have forgotten about it. Then comes the filtering part where you pick three of the most appropriate ideas that will captivate the reader.
The last phase of brainstorming is finally choosing what story to tell. Have sufficient supporting details to demonstrate your character, skills, and motivations effectively.
Whether it is for an application or an assignment, it is necessary to outline every essay. Just as architects make use of blueprints, use a guide for crafting your essay. After the brainstorming process, organize your piece and decide how to deliver it to the readers. Create an outline that will break down every point of the essay into sections.
Every good story must have a catchy beginning, middle, and unforgettable ending. It’s a fool-proof formula you can use to make your essay cohesive and organized.
You can also follow a strategic method of opening your story, perhaps with an anecdote, a dialogue, or a proverbial statement. Look into your ideas to identify the mood of your essay. Follow your natural style of writing to avoid sounding superficial.
8. Finalize everything
Writing your college application essay is indeed a taxing task. Don’t let your effort go to waste by rechecking the small yet important details like name, contact details, and other relevant.
Keep extra copies of your essays and put a note on each copy, such the school you submitted it to. Doing this makes tracking and making follow-ups easier for you. Don’t forget to confirm if they received your email and were able open your file.
College application should be an interesting moment for the students and families. You’re going to a place that will open so many opportunities for you. And this will be the time to invest in your future career.
Ask for help from your family, teachers, and the admissions committee. Do a bit of research, too!
Everyone in the workforce went through the same path as yours. It wouldn’t hurt to ask for a piece of advice about your college application essay.