When the moment arrives to actually write the college application essay, successful candidates will have given it much thought and preparation.  Here is some information to help kick-start the process.

Though each college may present its own, individual essay prompt, applicants should know that one of the primary purposes of the essay for all colleges is universal – to add to or to embellish upon a side of the applicant that is somehow special or unique, a side that, if possible, separates him or her from the pack.

A “good” essay need not be one that explains something extraordinary – such as how the applicant has started a business by selling heavy-duty excavation equipment to developing nations, and how he or she, at the tender age of 17, has become a multi-millionaire.  Rather, it need only present a special side of the applicant that the rest of the application does not adequately examine.  And, indeed, every applicant has a special side.  The object of the writing exercise is to discover and explore that side, and then to write about it as effectively and as eloquently as possible.

Let’s take an example.  As you may expect, many applicants travel frequently.     While the college would like to know where on this earth the applicant has visited, the essay is not the place to list the itinerary.  On the other hand, the essay could be the place to reflect about the travel experience or the places visited, and it could be the place to talk about how the applicant views the world – personally or globally – as a result of the travel.  The question to be answered is not what travelling have you done, but how has your travel affected you?  What, if anything, was unique about the experience?  How did the travel change you?  What separates your travel experience from the hundreds of other travel experiences that the admission officer will read about in his or her share of application essays?

It might be healthy to put yourself for a moment in the place of a college admissions officer in the height of the season.  Imagine, for example, it is winter; you are somewhere in the northeast, nestled into your room on a cold and snowy afternoon, with an enormous pile of essays on the desk before you.  Understandably, after reading for a while, the essays may begin to blend – different applicants but the same story, over and over again. You can see how an essay that presents a different story – a unique story – would be refreshing and well-received, and how it might put that particular applicant into a select group.

Though travel experiences might be the foundation of great essays, please know that many applicants choose that topic.  If you have a unique travel story to tell that describes a special side of you, by all means write about it.  But before committing to a topic, travel or otherwise, explore your likes and dislikes, your interests, your history, your passions, and explore the possibility of writing about a topic that is at once special to you and appealing to the admissions officer who will read it.

Most college admissions officers would agree that, while the essay by itself will not be enough information to accept or reject a candidate, a particularly good or bad essay certainly will be noticed, and could very well become a “tip factor” in a case where the decision for admission could go either way. 


Read more about writing a great college essay in College AdmissionCLICK HERE.