The personal essay you write for college admissions says a lot about you that grades, test scores and GPA cannot. It should work in your favor to show admissions what sets you apart from other candidates, and it may be the deciding factor for the college committee – no pressure! But while a lot of emphasis is put on students to compose a perfect essay, a sincere and personal composition will beat out most formal and impersonal ones.
Step 1: Brainstorming
The first step to any good application essay is brainstorming important points you would like to highlight in your personal statement. Think about yourself, and any personality traits and characteristics you would like to make known. What would your friends say about you? Your family? Are there any internal conflicts, triumphs or epiphanies you think have helped make you the person you are today? What are your favorite books, movies, plays, etc. and how have they influenced you? Have you experienced an interesting, life-changing event that changed your perspective on the world?
Next, think about things you have accomplished. Make sure you focus on what you are most proud of and the struggles you had to go through to succeed. Think of things you do outside of the classroom, and explain why you do them and how they make you feel. Is there something you are most interested in beyond anything else? Make sure you explain why it interests you and how your interest developed. You may even want to add things you struggled to succeed in and ultimately failed at. Make sure to add a brief explanation as to the why’s and how’s of each point you jot down.
Finally, focus on your future. What are your ultimate goals in the distant future, and what are your goals for the near future? Make sure to add both large and small goals, and explain how the school you are applying to fits into the picture of you fulfilling these dreams.
Step 2: Choose your topic
Some colleges ask for answers to specific essay questions, while others are very broad. The key here is to focus your topic around one theme, whether it be a trip to a third-world country, your role model, or any life changing experience. However, try to avoid overly sensitive subjects, as the admissions essay is not the appropriate place to reveal extremely personal issues. The essay should not focus on the broad spectrum of your entire life (most essays are about 500 words) but rather the details of a single important moment.
Step 3: Writing the essay
1. Begin by creating an outline. A well-organized and flowing essay will prove that you have writing skills and the ability to organize your thoughts. The most important thing to do here is answer the questions correctly. You may write an impressive essay, but if it does not answer the question they are asking, you’ve wasted your time. Be sure that you include specific events that illustrate your points. You want the story to be colorful and interesting.
2. Secondly, begin your first draft. Don’t stray too much from your outline, as you want your focus to be narrow and specific. Make sure your introduction is strong and compelling, and it makes the reader want to learn more about you. The conclusion should tie the story into why you want to attend this specific college. Remember that this is just a rough draft, and expressing your ideas is more important than reaching perfection.
3. Have at least two people proofread your essay, and accept constructive criticism from them. Choose people you trust to help you create a more solid essay, and give them plenty of time to review it carefully.
4. It’s time to begin your second draft. Try to focus on using adjectives and detail to illustrate your story, without using overly flowery language. Then go over it yourself for spelling and grammar errors before letting a few others review it.
5. Now for the final draft! Your essay should be free of all spelling and grammatical errors. Have at least one person check it over quickly before sending it in. Make sure it’s a work you can be proud of!
Remember that you are trying to prove to admissions that you are a unique and outstanding individual. While they already have your grades and resume in front of them, they have yet to see the details of your personal life that shape who you are as an individual character.