college essay tip
A student who can make an admissions officer laugh never gets lost in the shuffle. But beware. What you think is funny and what an adult working in a college thinks is funny are probably different. We caution against one-liners, limericks and anything off–color.
A teacher or college counselor is your best resource. And before you send it off, check, check again, and then triple check to make sure your essay is free of spelling or grammar errors.
“Instead of trying to come up with gimmicky, catchy first lines, start by sharing a moment,” says Janine Robinson, writing coach and founder of Essay Hell. “These mini stories naturally grab the reader … it’s the best way to really involve them in the story.”
“It’s hard to find a balance between sounding professional and smart without using all of those long words,” says Lily Klass, a senior at Milford High School in Milford, Mass. “I’m having trouble reflect myself without sounding arrogant or rude or anything like that.”
1. It’s time to be a little self-centered: Despite the often bad rap, I find seniors in high school have a hard time being self-centered when it comes to writing their college essays. Often your instinct is to write about something else – an experience, another person, a favorite activity – rather than your personality, passions, or quirks. This makes sense; your writing experience up until this point has consisted of essays on books you’ve read or concepts you’ve learned. But now we need you to look inward. Fight the urge to focus on your athletic practice schedule, the grandparent you admire, or the community service experience from last summer. You may use these people or experiences as launching pads to discuss yourself, but that is all they should be. What kind of teammate are you? Is grandpa the reason you’ve always got a harmonica in your purse? Did the service trip spark a deep interest in a specific social issue that now drives your academic study? These are better areas of focus than the sport, grandparent, or trip themselves.
Each year, about half of our applicants submit their application in the last few days before the deadline. Even our ED early birds seem to know how to procrastinate. So as our November 1 ED deadline approaches, I thought I’d write to you, future applicants everywhere, and give you four easy tips for a great college essay. Here we go!
At Brown I look forward to pursuing a double concentration in both public health and business, while also tapping into other, more unconventional academic interests, such as ancient history and etymology.
Share one thing that you wish people knew about you.
4. It’s all in the details: What is the difference between these two sentences? 1. My favorite activities included fishing and cooking my daily catch. 2. My friends and I woke up early every morning to catch bass on Lake Michigan, cooking our spoils with herbs picked from a local farm. In the first sentence, we understand that you enjoyed certain activities. In the second, yes, we know you like fishing but we also understand your commitment to an activity you engaged in every day and recognize that your fishing trips are a social effort. There is a sense of time and place- we can see the setting, smell the herbs. With a few extra words, sentence two tells us much more about your fishing experience. Many students have a tendency to skew generic in the telling of their personal stories. What makes an essay memorable is often the sum of the little things. If you can paint a clear picture for your reader by providing details, you are much more likely to lodge a marker in their memories.
3. Kill those clichés: We’re not going to beat around the bush here: clichés really get our goats. When you take that trip down memory lane, telling us about the time you were a mover and a shaker putting your nose to the grindstone it makes our blood boil. We’re content and grammar snobs, so we find clichés to be extra unappealing, but we also have enough confidence in your creativity to know that you can do better. Admissions essay readers know it too, and expect you to think out of the box without using phrases like “think out of the box.” So strike those tired sentences from your essay and do it now. Never put off tomorrow what you can do today. It actually hurt us to write that.