As college admission applications open, high school seniors are looking for inspiration as they write a compelling college essay. Rick Clark, director of Undergraduate Admission at Georgia Tech, offers some practical tips.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. The person reading your essay wants it to be great! We always start on your side. Here are a few ways to keep us there:
Personal. Since most schools don’t interview, this is the one opportunity you have to bring your voice into the application. Your test scores won’t help readers understand if you are funny or if you are quirky or deeply concerned about a global or community issue. Think about it like this: If you dropped your unsigned essay in the hallway at school and a friend picked it up, would they know it was yours? If not, re-think your topic or style.
Passion. What do you love? What do you loathe? What are you obsessed with or what terrifies you? If something from one of those categories can tie into a college admission topic, write about that. After reading hundreds of essays in a year, admission officers can tell in the first two sentences if your tone, words, and topic are really you. Don’t let a parent, counselor, or consultant strip “you” out of your essay.
Print. Have you ever typed an email or a paper and believed adamantly that a word or entire phrase was there but in reality it wasn’t? Printing your essay and reading a hard copy will help you find errors or omissions. It can also provide amazing insight into more radical improvements, too.
Proofreader. Since you already have your essay printed out, ask someone else to read it. You’ll make a mistake if you don’t let a parent, teacher, or friend look it over. Don’t just ask if they like it. Ask: Is it authentically me? Do you hear my voice? Is it different from what the other 20,000 kids applying could write?
Procrastinate. Saved this one for last. See what I did there? Let me be clear. This is a DON’T. Start now on writing, curating, editing, revising, and seeking advice on your essays. Have you ever furiously brushed your teeth, flossed, and used mouthwash eight times on the day of your dentist appointment? It’s the same idea. Each year thousands of applications are submitted on the final day. Many come in the final hours. I’m convinced that what really takes time is finishing up your essays. So brush your proverbial teeth consistently for the next month and you’ll have a plaque-free essay by the time it’s due.