Sealing the Deal:
Standing Out With the Ultimate College Essay
Congratulations! You’ve done everything you’ve needed to do. You’re at the top of your class, you’ve made straight A’s, and you even got a perfect score on your SAT or ACT. It’s time to apply to college, and you’re feeling good – Ivy League good. But here’s the cold, hard truth: most of the applicants to Ivy League have similar grades, rankings, and test scores to you. You’re competing with valedictorians with picture perfect transcripts. So, what’s going to make you stand out? Your college essay.
Your essay is the part of your college application that transforms you from a list of numbers and stats into a human being. It’s your chance to show college admissions counselors that there is no other high school senior quite like you. It might sound like a daunting task, but that’s why we’re here to help. We can’t write your essay for you, but we can give you FIVE key pieces of advice to brainstorming and starting your essay.
It’s all about that first sentence.
You know when you start reading an article or a book, and you just can’t stop? You want (need) the admissions counselor reading your college essay to feel like that. Put them smack dab in the middle of a scene or moment in your life, and suck them in. Make your intro so exciting and unique that any reader would want to know more. Aren’t sure? Print out just the first paragraph and ask friends, relatives, or strangers to read it. If they want to know more, you’re on the right track.
Scratch the cookie cutter essay format.
In high school, a specific essay format is drilled into our heads: intro, body, conclusion. That format is great and all, but you don’t need to stick to those confines for your college essay. This is your chance to tell your story, and many of our stories are messy and complicated. Your story should be in a format that conveys it best, whatever that format is.
Get personal and be sincere.
It’s tempting to craft a college essay that paints you as the perfect student and overall human being. However, that is what 99.9% of applicants are doing. The most important thing you can do is to be sincere, self-aware, and authentic. If you learned a lesson the hard way, say it. If you made a bad decision that led to a valuable learning opportunity, talk about it. There is something so refreshing about someone not afraid to say they’re human, with flaws and all.
Show them something your transcript doesn’t.
Please don’t spend an entire essay highlighting all of the accomplishments that are already listed on your application. That’s boring and redundant. Use this one time opportunity to tell them something new! A perfect score on your ACT doesn’t tell them about the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome, and a transcript of AP courses doesn’t tell them about how you discovered your passion.
Narrow down your topic.
I’m sure you’ve lived a wonderful life, but you’re not going to convey that in one essay. You need to pick a topic, and then take a magnifying glass to it. You want to focus your essay on one thing, whether that’s a specific event, hobby, life-changing epiphany… whatever! If your essay isn’t focused, it can seem directionless.
Keep these tips in mind as you start brainstorming and crafting your college essay. When you've finished, make sure your essay checks off everything on this list! Writing such an important essay is a intimidating task, but it's all worth it when you can submit something that makes you proud. Good luck!