As if essays weren’t stressful enough. As if applying to colleges wasn’t stressful enough. When you combine those two factors, you are given the task of writing an obnoxiously stressful college essay. When I was applying to colleges, writing my college essay was just one big question mark. Lucky for me, I took a composition class my senior year that gave me some material to pick from and work with. I still had a lot of questions, though. Some of these ranged from “what am I possibly going to write about?” to “where do I even start?”, etc. The biggest one, was “how am I going to write a college essay that I would want to read?”
By writing an essay that I would enjoy reading, I assumed college admissions counselors would feel the same way. If anything, it would make me more confident in not only my essay, but in my overall application. Here’s how to write a college essay that you would want to read.
1. Write a list of possible topics and pick the one that best defines you.
While your list of possible topics may be vastly different, sometimes the activities you are involved in can be a good place to start. Maybe you are captain of the soccer team, but you’ve enjoyed playing chess since you were in the fifth grade. From these two possible topics, what seems the most exciting? Hint: there’s no right answer; it’s all up to personal discretion and what you think defines you best. Soccer seems to be the likely choice, but maybe you appreciate chess more because you can relate to it better. Sometimes, the answer lies in what best fits your personality, not in the more exciting topic.
2. The longest essays are not always the best.
Most colleges require that essays be no longer than 5 pages. For most students, 5 pages seems like a paper that is only getting started, not wrapping up. While some of my essays and pieces could just about go on forever, I recognized that it’s important to have a powerful, yet brief, work. An admissions counselor will appreciate that you were able to write a solid essay that is less than 5 pages. Just like you, they don’t have all day for things.
3. Make sure you are writing about yourself.
I distinctly remember attending a college open house and hearing someone ask about college essays. “Sometimes we will get stories about a student’s grandparent and all the great things they did in their life. While that is great and all, it’s not about the actual student. We aren’t looking to admit their grandparent or their dog, we want to admit the student.” For some reason, this response from the admission counselor just stuck with me and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. While it is great to pay homage to someone in your life that is important to you, this is almost a cop-out. Think of your college essay as something you are using to sell yourself. How did their experience or presence in your life influence you? Feel free to incorporate a story about a grandparent or other important person in your life, but make sure you relate it back to you.
4. Write about something you thoroughly enjoy or love.
When you sit down to write your college essay, it’s important that you enjoy writing it. No matter how stressful it may be, if you enjoy writing it, there’s a large chance that someone will enjoy reading it. Writing about something you love will make the entire process more enjoyable and easier to get through. Doing this also allows your own unique writer voice to come through. Whether you are a seasoned writer or not, this is a foolproof way to write a college essay that will be enjoyable to read.
Your college essay is meant to tell colleges a little bit more about you. Take advantage of this chance and deliver them an essay that not only they will enjoy reading, but you yourself will as well.