By Daiki Yoshioka
If you are thinking of transferring to a 4-year university, then writing the college application essay may be an inevitable hurdle that you have to cross. Although not all the schools will ask you for supplemental essays, students are required to write the general statement nonetheless, especially if you will use the Common Application. What is a must for a strong application essay?
A Hint of Uniqueness
According to the Associate Director of Admission at MIT in an online article, the admissions office annually reviews a plethora of applications and has already got used to seeing “unique” essays. In other words, their major criterion does not solely rely on the uniqueness of applications but rather on the content itself, specifically how well you describe who you truly are. According to the Coordinator of the Honors Program at Rockland Community College, an admission office, especially that of selective and competitive colleges, allocates a minimum amount of time, presumably up to 20 minutes, for reviewing one applicant. So, uniqueness still matters but not as much as the content. This also applies to fairly non-competitive schools as well.
Show Who You Are
It may sound ambiguous , but the college application essay is all about showcasing your unique personality and experiences. According to the Yale Admissions Office site, more than three-quarters of applicants are academically ready and successful applications have “a lot of little things, when added up, tip the scale in their favor.” So, in order to “stand out” from the rest, you would need to focus on the multiple aspects of you that would match with what schools are looking for. One way to accomplish that is to avoid consulting a thesaurus; as Harvard admission office’s site stresses : “Don’t feel the need to consult a thesaurus to impress us with your vocabulary,” the list of “arcane terminology” will not always help. Sometimes, simple conversational language is more powerful and shows your personality.
Research the School
It is really crucial for students to thoroughly research the schools and understand their unique assets, such as programs, majors, or even faculty members; since one of the objectives of college application essays is to convey that the school is your best fit. Some schools even ask students to explain why schools are appealing to them. Go ransack the school website for the unique tradition or program that would align with your interests or your academic plan. “Shooting” emails to or calling an admissions office for specific school-related questions would also help since current students sometimes reply.
Outline Your Plan
Many schools ask students to give their specific plans after transferring or even after graduating from the college. This is another reason why a college application essay needs a considerable investment of time; you would need to come up with a solid plan of how to utilize resources on campuses, such as courses, programs, internship opportunities, or even unique extracurricular activities. It might be a good idea to start jotting down ideas on a piece of paper to see what you really want to do in the college and how the college helps you accomplish the objective.
Although struggles serve as a strong testimony of your mental strength, be careful with recounting your past struggles too much since it may sound as if you were playing the martyr. In order to imprint your positive impression on the admission office, it would be better to spend the fair amount of ink for explaining how you bypassed it and how it has changed you. If you are planning to include your life struggles, pick one or two that have radically changed yourself positively and elaborate on them, focusing on how you have overcome it.
Start Writing NOW
Most importantly, don’t start writing essays at the last minute; this is the most common mistakes made by applicants. Needless to say, excellent essays require countless refinements and considerable time. A former Harvard student, Dan Milaschewski, advises to jot down any idea relevant to the prompt and whittle down afterward in the official blog of Harvard. Another former Harvard student, Taylor Reneau, advises in his YouTube video to start writing essays as soon as the prompt comes out. It is clear that the good college application essay needs exhaustive preparation.
To sum up, a college application essay is more than a mere essay we write in our college writing classes; it requires a significant investment of time and thorough research. To reiterate, it is very important to understand that the uniqueness of the essay is far less important than the content. Almost a majority of the successful applicants start drafting their masterpieces as soon as their interest in a college piques and they continuously edit it. Also, their essays are specific yet concise, also including specific details that compel admissions offices to accept them.