Writing the Successful College Application Essay: Tips for Success. Part 4

If after reading the previous post you still do not have an idea for your essay, do not be surprised. Coming up with an idea is difficult and requires time. Without a topic you feel passionate about, without one that brings out the defining aspects of you personality, you risk falling into the trap of sounding like the 90 percent of applicants who will write boring admissions essays. The only way to write a unique essay is to have personal experiences that support whatever topic you come up with. Whatever you do, don’t let the essay stress you out. Have fun with the brainstorming process. You might discover something about yourself you never consciously realized.

Selecting a Topic

Having completed brainstorming, you should now have a rough idea of the elements you wish to include in your essay, including your goals, important life experiences, research experience, diversifying features, spectacular nonacademic accomplishments, and other important elements. You should also now have an idea of what impression you want to make on the admissions officers. I should remark that at this stage, undergraduate applicants have a large advantage over graduate school applicants. Whereas nobody questions a high school student’s motivation to attend college, graduate and professional school applicants must directly address in their essays their desire to study their selected field. Consider topics that will allow you to synthesize your important personal characteristics and experiences into a coherent whole while simultaneously addressing your desire to attend a specific institution. While most admissions essays allow great latitude in topic selection, you must also be sure to answer the questions that were asked. Leaving a lasting impression on someone who reads 50-100 essays a day will not be easy. Yet with any luck, one or two topics, with small changes, will allow you to answer application questions for 5-7 different colleges, although admissions officers do appreciate essays that provide convincing evidence of how an applicant will fit into a particular academic environment. You should at least have read the college’s webpage, admissions catalog, and have an understanding of the institution’s strengths.

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