Colleges take many things into consideration when accepting students into their programs. But one of the most unpredictable and subjective components of your application process is writing the perfect college essay. Sometimes you just have to apply the right amount of linguistic gymnastics in order to tug on the heartstrings of your school’s admissions to get them in your favor.
It’s a thin tightrope that every applicant has to walk. So there must be some sort of cheat sheet on how to jump this last hurdle, right? Well as it turns out, writing from the heart may be the only way to ace this portion of your application. We spoke with Stacey Brook from College Essay Advisors to see if she could decode the perfect approach to writing a great college essay.
First and foremost, Brook believes that you need to introduce yourself to the admissions department in a way that sets you apart from all of the other applicants. Or in other words, “show admissions something they can't glean from your grades, your test scores or activities resume”. By writing a well thought out essay that gets down to the essence of who you are as a person, you will be able to blow them away with your authenticity and prove to them that you are “not just another number”.
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Show the admissions department that you can bring something to the table that others can’t. If you can include details and anecdotes that are “highly specific to you and who you are” with your own unique perspective, it will show them that you are capable of contributing something new to campus and they will remember your essay more than other applicants who are simply coloring within the lines. Basically, if whoever is reading your essay can “summarize what you’ve written in a sentence” or give you a nickname based on the story you told, the better chance you have of being remembered.
The admissions department will be able to sense it immediately if you are coming off as disingenuous, so Brook has a great test that will keep you honest in your writing . “One thing that I ask people to do is that when you finish your essay, hand it to somebody else and have them put their name on top of the page. Are the details that you’ve laid out and anecdotes you’ve written about so specific to you that someone else cannot say that they wrote your essay?” If you are detailing your own specific cultural heritage or a niche hobby that you are obsessed with, there will be no mistaking your experiences for someone else's and you will demonstrate your value to the culture on campus.
So are there any topics that you should stick to or stay away from when writing your essay? As Brook sees it, if the topic you chose is something you are deeply passionate about and will show off a different side of you then nothing is off limits. Colleges will generally give you a few different prompt questions to pull these sorts of stories out of you but chances are, if you choose a topic that is true to who you are first you will have no providing them with the kind of information they are looking for.