College Application Essay – Setting Yourself Apart

SC Test Prep

College application essays. With so many different schools, types of applications and variety of prompts, essay writing often produces the most anxiety for students in the application process. Because essays are so open-ended, students commonly have no idea what is expected of them or what to write and most admission offices prefer it that way. To balance the scales a bit, here are a few tips and things to consider before you start.

1. Essays are often have the least weight in an application except for letters of recommendation. Nonetheless, they can have a significant impact on an admission decision or financial aid.

Even for schools that have moved to a test-optional admission policy, a student’s essay is still not as indicative of collegiate success as GPA, rigor of schedule, extracurricular involvement, or even an interview. As a result, no matter how well written or compelling an essay, it alone will not guarantee an admit decision unless a student’s application is at least close to other criteria for admission. With that said, I have denied otherwise excellent students due to their essay being poorly written or offensive and have admitted students with otherwise marginal applications on the basis of an exceptional essay. Said differently, an essay is usually not that important a piece of the application puzzle except when it becomes essentially the most important piece. This occurs when, either positively or negatively, it significantly distinguishes a student from other applicants who share their same basic academic and extracurricular profile.

2. The best use of an essay is to distinguish yourself in a positive way from most other applicants.

This boils down to one simple instruction: Do not, under any circumstance, write an essay about athletics, mission trips, or how wonderful your mom, dad, or dog Spot is. During reading season, most admission counselors read 80-100 applications and essays a week. Of those, about 75% touch on one of those three topics. As a result, using one of them in an essay will not help you stand out and, no matter how well written, a counselor’s eyes will probably start to glaze over a bit after the first paragraph – not an ideal outcome for any applicant’s chances.

3. Use your essay to describe your plans for moving from Point A to Point C.

Point A is who you are now, the sum total of your experiences, passions, and goals. Point C is where you will be after you finish your education and begin your career, a place where you have an opportunity to affect the world around you. Point B is the institution you are trying to attend and what they offer. Articulate why, on the basis of who you are, you have selected the goals you have and explain how attending that particular school will best help you reach them. Doing so demonstrates, among other qualities, forethought, maturity, and real interest in the school itself, all of which admission offices are looking for in prospective students.