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Writing a College Application Essay

Admissions officers have the difficult job of trying to get to know a sudent from the packet of information in front them. They trudge through a swamp of test scores, course and lists of activities until they reach the one patch of high ground where they can get a glimpse of the real you: the Essay. If your essay is boring, you are boring. If your essay is typical, there is nothing special about you. If your essay has careless errors, then you must be a person constantly tripping over your own shoelaces. The essay is your chance to round yourself out in the eyes of the admissions officer, to become a real person, an individual, and not just a series of statistics. If someone reads your essay and likes you because of it, he will have a hard time tossing your application into the "NO" pile. Here are some tips for writing a successful essay:

(1) Read a book on applying to college. Loudoun's library has some good ones, such as Fiske's How to Get into the Right College. These books have several good tips from admissions officers, and they offer samples of successful and unsuccessful essays. (Be careful not to steal specific ideas from these books. Admissions officers have read them, too. In fact, admissions officers often wrote them!)

(2) Organize your essay around a certain theme-the aspect of you that you want to bring alive and offer specific examples. Make sure that your essay couldn't apply to anyone else.

(3) The essay should come across as honest. Don not try to impress the reader with lofty language and the types of topics you think you are "supposed" to discuss. Your essay should come from the heart and sound like you.

(4) Answer the question. Don't stretch it and write about something completely different.

(5) Follow directions! If your application asks for a letter, then write a letter. If the application tells you to put your name and social security number on the essay, then put your name and social security number on the essay. If your application stipulates a word limit, don't exceed it.

(6) Humor can be just the thing to wake up a bored admissions officer, but humor can backfire and make you appear aloof, cynical, or worse: just not funny. As a rule, only gifted writers can use humor successfully. Give your essay to several friends to read, and watch them while they read it. If they don't laugh or smile, it isn't working. And remember, the essay shouldn't only be funny; it must also be intelligent and revealing.

(7) Don't have ANY grammar errors, punctuation errors, or typos.











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