Nothing inspires more anxiety in the admissions process than college application essays. Questions abound: What are admissions officers looking for in your essays? How will your essays be evaluated? You may also be apprehensive because you feel you’re not a great writer. Or, you may be intimidated by the sheer quantity of essays and short answer questions that you will need to respond to as part of your application to the most highly selective as well as selective colleges in the nation.
Let’s answer some of those questions and allay some of those fears. First, understand that admissions officers are looking for reasons to admit you, not disqualify you. Most importantly, they are trying to learn more about you through an authentic personal statement. Of course, they’d love to see a demonstration of your intellectual ability and your passion for learning. AO’s want to find out about your unique traits and leadership potential. Particularly in the essays that proliferate in the supplements of the most competitive and very competitive universities, they want to see how you fit at their schools and how you will take advantage of the academic and extracurricular resources on their campuses.
Your essays will be evaluated in a number of different ways. Obviously, admissions officers want to see how you write. Your ability here will be analyzed based on your persuasiveness, thoughtfulness and the structure of your personal statements. On a deeper level, your essays will be evaluated based on what they reveal about you – your maturity, character traits, personality and goals. Your understanding of each particular school to which you’re applying is also fundamentally important. If you can demonstrate how you will contribute to the lifeblood of the university, your essay(s) will be looked upon more favorably.
So, what forms the basis of a great college essay? Writing that relates your personal experience will reveal a piece of who you are. If that essay ties into your passions, the essay will come alive. You might also demonstrate your intellectual curiosity in your “main” essay, but if you are writing about something else, there will be other opportunities to talk about what interests you in the academic context. Likewise, consider writing about your future goals and what influenced you to study a particular discipline at college.
Most importantly, try to tell a unique, moving story and do so with authenticity. Don’t write something because you think it’s what admissions officers want to hear. Often, students envision admissions gatekeepers as old men wearing bow ties and tweed jackets and try to write to please that audience. Although a few senior admissions officers may fit that profile, most admissions staff members do not.
Your college essays can truly be the difference between whether you get into a school or not. What separates one student with a 4.4 GPA and 2250 SAT from another with the same or similar credentials? The answer is nothing. It’s the particular backgrounds, talents and interests that separate students from each other. One of the best ways to reveal how you’re unique, how you’ll contribute to the university, and why a school should take you to add to its interesting mix, is to write a compelling essay. If you can make a visceral connection with the live human being on the other end of your application file – the admissions officer – you will have a leg up over the competition.
In a future blog, we’ll go through the physical steps of writing essays, from the brainstorming stage through the polish stage. In the meantime, if you’re a senior, start thinking about your main essay and take a shot at writing a draft. The process can be daunting and you may realize that you need help.
In that regard, IvySelect counselors are expert at assisting high-ability students craft essays that stand out from the competition. We invite you to contact us to learn how we can help you maximize your competitive stature through our comprehensive, one-to-one essay writing program.