Many students feel overwhelmed by the task of writing a personal essay for college applications. But this essay is their opportunity to reveal their best qualities and to show an admissions committee what makes them stand out from other applicants.
How Important is the Essay?
A 2006 report published by the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC) found that while grades, admission tests, and class rank remain the top factors in the college admission decision, a majority of colleges and universities consider the essay to be a key factor in determining which academically qualified students they would choose.
In other words, when all else is equal between competing applicants, a compelling essay can make the difference. A powerful, well-written essay can also tip the balance for a marginal applicant.
What are Colleges Looking for in an Essay?
College admission officers look to the essay for evidence that a student can write well and support his/her ideas with logical arguments. They also want to know something about the personality of the student.
What are the different Types of Essays?
There are typically three types of essay questions: the "you" question, the "why us" question, and the "creative" question.
1. The "you" question
This question boils down to "Tell us about you." The school wants to know the student better and to see how he/she will introduce him/herself.
2. The "why us" question
Some schools ask for an essay about a student's choice of a school or career. They're looking for information about the applicant's goals, and about how serious his or her commitment is to this particular school.
3. The "creative" question
The goals of the "creative" question are to evaluate a candidate's ability to think and write creatively and to assess the breadth of his/her knowledge and education.
Tips on Writing a College Essay
Writing Your College Essay By Howard and Matthew Greene
In your college essay, you have an opportunity to communicate to colleges what is most essential to you personally, socially, and academically. Strong essays reveal something intimate and unique about the person behind the file. You can speak, in writing, as an individual, with your own voice and values. Such statements might cover mundane topics or extraordinary achievements, daily stresses or life-changing events.
Explore topics and stories that show who you really are.
To begin, consider your strengths and interests and what you want colleges to know most about you. Then explore some topics, stories, and approaches that might help you show yourself to your readers. You will likely need to write two or three essays for many selective colleges. See them as puzzle pieces working together to present who you are more completely. If you can’t just start writing, make an inventory of your strengths, insights, and what’s most important to you. Chat with friends or parents about revealing anecdotes.
Keep working at it.
To write a great essay, you’ll need persistence. Expect to work over multiple drafts. You may start with sketches of ideas, outlines, or lengthy stream-of-consciousness prose. Share your essays with people you trust and people who can be objective. They can offer constructive criticism about your tone, content, and form. Remember too, your writing should be free from spelling and grammatical mistakes, and be neither too casual nor too formal.
Make it your own.
Read your essays out loud to yourself. Does the language sound like you? Is the essay grammatically correct? Is it awkward? Can your friends, counselors, teachers, and parents recognize the essence of you in the essay? Could no one but you have written this particular piece? College admission readers note that they are looking for a student’s voice in the essays.
Does it speak to people?
View your essay as a public document you are presenting to a large audience, or as a revelation of a personal confidence. Remember, break out of your shell and you’ll be much more likely to make an important connection with your admission audience.
The UC has two short answer prompts that applicants are required to complete in the application. For tips on how to write the UC essay, please visit the link below.