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cricketonastick's avatar

College Application Essay: how do I write it?

Asked by cricketonastick (198points) November 8th, 2009

I am in the process of applying to colleges, and most of them are crazy ambitious schools. I have above a 4.0 GPA and am a good student etc. so I think my chances of getting into to these schools are pretty decent. Nonetheless, I really want to stun the pants off of anyone who is going to read my application essay.

And I’m freaking.

I don’t really know what to write about. The majority of the advice that I’ve gotten is that I want to stand out, promote those things that make me, me. Additionally, a lot of people say that instead of writing about a broad subject (like how I forced my school to let me go to Sweden for 6 months), I should pick a specific event or moment that has really affected me.

My uncle who is a professor now wrote about what he learned sitting in a field.


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16 Answers

smack's avatar

take a risk, write about something really really important to you. i wrote about a horrible thing that happened to me and how it changed me, and got into my first-choice school early decision.

what schools are you applying to?

cricketonastick's avatar

@smack Swarthmore, Wharton School of Business, Princeton, Cornell, Brown…

smack's avatar

i looked at swarthmore, loved it. didn’t look at princeton/cornell/brown because they were too close to massachusetts, haha.

definitely stick with something that you know, that’s important to you. make sure that the essay conveys what you are like as a person.

make sure those colleges to which you’re applying fit you, too. college is a lot more than academics. there are a lot of different concentrations of different kinds of people at each school – make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

nxknxk's avatar

Depending on the length of the particular essay it’s often a good idea to craft some sort of narrative within the piece. This not only shows who you are but also how you’ve been able to grow because of certain experiences, etc. Admissions faculty usually appreciate it.

wildpotato's avatar

I’m really bad at admissions essays, but my brother’s blew everyone out of the water. He talked about the moment he realized he’s gay. I think it worked so well because his voice came through so clearly – you could really hear him telling the story. So I guess my advice is to think of some event that’s emotionally charged, and tell the story as clearly and simply as you can.

If you’re totally stuck, I suggest just sitting and writing the first thing that comes to mind, even if you think it’s cruddy material. Having words, any words, on the paper can be all the stimulus some people need to get the real juices flowing.

And revise a lot. The real work of writing is revision.

cricketonastick's avatar

@wildpotato that’s a really great idea. I love it. Free association, right? All this is very helpful. Essentially, the due dates are coming and I just don’t know where to start. With this, I’ll start at the beginning and probably end up somewhere completely different, but ‘ll start and that’s what’s most daunting to me as of now.

Keep the answers up! Thanks again, everyone!

janbb's avatar

At one admissions talk for Brown, the rep spoke about what essays catch the admissions officers’ eyes. Framing it as a narrative with a catchy (but not snarky) opening is really helpful. Try to think about some incident or life experience that sets you apart and then tell a story that shows that. Include some dialogue if it is appropriate. It worked for my son.

wundayatta's avatar

Is there an event in your life that sticks out in your mind, because it had a huge emotional impact on you? Tell the story (not the emotion).

Is there something you feel really passionate about? Tell the story of how you got to the passion, not a description of the passion.

Darwin's avatar

My daughter is writing hers about a summer camp that she absolutely loves and that she has gone to every summer for 8 years, and to which she is applying to be a counselor this summer. She is going on to talk about how her experiences at camp have helped her affirm what she wants to do with her life, and why she believes this university in particular can help her achieve her goals.

loveurmindnsoul's avatar

I’m in a similar situation, except I’m not writing personal statements for undergrad college. I’m writing them to get into law school. I say write about something that changed your life or had a deep impact. Ex: You figured out what you wanted to be in life and why or something happened to you or your family. What obstacles did you overcome? What are you passionate about? Etc etc.

If none of those work, just pretend that you’re writing in a journal and don’t let the pressure get to you. Just write it for yourself first and see where that takes you.

emma193's avatar

Do you have any examples of a business you tried to start or a club at school that you turned around or a summer job where you took the initiative to start a new project that left a lasting impact on the organization? Extra points if it involved rallying a team of people. Plus, even if it didn’t work out, the most important take-away is what you learned from the experience…and to warn you, I heard from my little brother who is currently applying to schools that you should not write about a sports injury that you overcame as admissions officers get those stories way too often.

DrMC's avatar

application for penn state.

I am eager to join penn state university. As the top partying school in the nation, I have prepared diligently for the rigorous challenges. I can tap 3 kegs in 6 minutes, and I can chug a gallon of beer in 60 seconds without throwing up.

I have GPS so If I get too lost to find my dorm at night I wont freeze to death. In boy scouts I learned the buddy system so I’ll never leave a friend to stumble his way home in the middle of the night.

I promise to get good grades so my parents wont know that no one in the dorm sleeps. I am an avid football fan, and look forward to a lifetime of tailgating parties.


(fictional joke)

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janbb's avatar

Compelling story and a good hook helps a lot. My one son started his essay with the quote “I don’t want to be smart anymore” and talked about his failures as a high school Freshman (followed by later drive to succeed.). Got in everywhere he applied. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking, but it does have to be honest, interesting and well-told.

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