The College Essay (NEACAC – Preparing for Senior Year)
Like many aspects of the college process, the college essay seems to be a major source of trepidation for seniors. Some questions that have popped up are: What should I write about? What if nothing interesting has happened to me? Why do I have to write an essay about myself? Hopefully this sheet will help answer some questions and guide you along the way.
What is the point of the college essay?
First, try not to think of the college essay as an essay, but rather as a personal statement! The personal statement gives you an opportunity to help an admissions officer get to know you and hear your voice. Therefore, the best personal statements are truly personal and paint an honest and candid portrait.
The “what,” the topic of the personal statement, is not really that important. Students have written wonderful essays about jumping on a trampoline, pulling teeth, dancing, traveling and every other possible combination in between, so it is safe to say that there is not one topic that works! Remember the topic is just a jumping off point to the heart of the personal statement, you and your voice
So if the topic doesn’t matter, what should I write about?
The key to a solid personal statement is to keep it personal and focused. Remember to write from the heart! The best personal statements are truthful, and honestly show an admissions officer who you are. You do not have to tell an admissions officer everything that has happened to you, a focused and concise statement goes a long way!
Don’t list your activities in essay form!
The admissions officers will get a sense of what activities you do outside the classroom by looking at your application, so a statement that lists what is already on your activity sheet in paragraph form does not help anyone.
Show! Don’t Tell!
You only have two pages to work with, so every word counts! That being said, you want to make sure that you are using descriptive language that can captivate a reader. Instead of directly telling the reader “I learned a lot from my community service trip,” show the reader over the course of the essay what you learned, or how you changed from the trip.
Check Your Grammar! Remember: nobody wants to read an essay that is full of typos, spelling, and grammatical mistakes!!! Edit! Edit! And edit again!!!