The college essay is especially important because it’s not a number. Your college application is filled with numbers (test scores, G.P.A., etc.), but the college essay is your chance to show a school who YOU really are, behind the numbers. The essay is your chance to stand apart from the crowd, to SHINE!
Beginning the essay is always the hardest part. Below are three KEY suggestions to consider before the pen ever hits the paper.
KEY #1: DO NOT BUY ANY OF THE COLLEGE ESSAY BOOKS SOLD AT BOOKSTORES OR ONLINE SITES
College Essay books are filled with polished, professional essays – the elusive “one in a million” examples. After reading ten of these “perfect” papers, you will begin to psych yourself out, thinking that your essay will never be good enough. Even worse, you may try to model your essay after one of the examples presented in the books. Bad idea! Why? Because your college essay should reflect YOU and YOUR VOICE, not someone else’s “perfect” one.
KEY #2: DO NOT TRY TO BE SOMEONE YOU’RE NOT
Instead, turn to yourself. You need to write about a moment, an event, a turning point, or a passion in YOUR life. Don’t write about being the captain of the football team or president of the law club. Although these are certainly impressive duties, they’re boring! All of this information is already on your application. College admissions committees want to see something more! Therefore, write about something not already listed on your resume or transcript. Write about an important friendship you formed because of playing football or a specific, exciting day spent while president of Amnesty International. Maybe you were involved in a letter campaign that changed some legislation or a guest speaker resonated with you and became a hero in your mind. These sort of details provide insight into you as a person.
Remember, the primary goal of the college essay is to show you for who you are. Are you funny? Persistent? A leader? The essay is your chance to truly show off and let the college hear your voice.
KEY #3: WRITE FROM THE HEART
Colleges do not expect you to have performed heart surgery, written award-winning operas, or climbed Mt. Everest. So, stop thinking that you need to write about something exceptional and just write from the heart. Write about the everyday. Write a “slice-of-life.” You want to set yourself apart from the other applicants by pointing out what makes you unique. I once read a terrific essay about a young man who loved to eat chicken soup! Remember, unique does not necessarily mean spectacular.