The essay is the one component of the application that can really set a student apart from the pack. With selective schools, for every enrollment slot, there are 5 students with the same scores, GPA, and extracurricular leadership stats. The essay is the only real opportunity to set yourself apart from the others once you hit your senior year – the grades, coursework, and typically test taking is already completed. Your words paint a picture of your past, how you think about your future, and what you’ve learned from your experiences thus far. It paints a picture for the admissions officer – who you are, where you can contribute to the school, and what you can bring to the campus that isn’t already there. Often time, it’s what gets a student into a reach school – when all else equal, the essay is what tips the scales in an invitation to enroll at a school.
Okay, so we know it’s really important.
It’s important, and also a skill that hasn’t been honed by most 16-18 year olds that are looking to attend college. The admissions essay isn’t a book report, analysis of a concept, or summary of a historical period. It’s partially a marketing essay and partially a personal thought essay – both of which aren’t studied much in high school. If a student regularly writes their personal thoughts about life and daily ongoings into a diary – that is likely the best practice they are getting for this type of essay. However, these journal entries aren’t likely getting proofed for structure and effectiveness in getting a point across to the reader. So… a few tips on the essay writing process:
- Be genuine when writing about your experiences – the reader, especially one reading many essays a year, can tell if you’re trying to project something that you’re not.
- Do not try to pack the essay with all the great and wonderful accomplishments you’ve had over your high school and/or middle school career – that’s what the activities list is for.
- But, if there is a stand out, pivotal experience that happens to be tied to one of your wonderful accomplishments, that might be a good topic to write about.
- Although it’s not a formal research paper, it’s a good idea to have a thesis or a thesis-like statement guiding your writing. You want to convey a lot about your thought process and who you are as a person in your writing and 500-650 words is quite limiting. Each and every sentence should be point to your thesis, making your point so that the reader is learning about a message that you'd like your reader to take away with them.
- Write without abandon. Great topics include those that you’d imagine came out of a diary – think about what make Anne Frank’s diary so interesting. We really understood who she was and how she thought about her life and the times. They were personal, compelling…and not meant to be read. It’s a personal statement for a reason – get a bit personal without necessarily involving adult figures at first (or finding trusted adult figures that you can bounce ideas off of).
Of course, Lucent Education helps students through this process – it’s our specialty. We take the mystery out of it, helping students hone in on the skills to write these types of essays through one on one support; "on the job" type support with revisions, questions, and conversation. We never compromise the authenticity of the writer's words and our goal is to help students find their voice in the essays so that they come across genuine, individual, and thoughtful. Just as it takes many hours to learn how to put together a great book report, we structure an effective plan to help applicants learn while completing their admissions essays.