I’m in the middle of college applications with my Seniors. It’s an emotional time of year; stress levels are high and there is so much anxiety and uncertainty filling the air. I get asked all the time how much essays matter in the college application? My answer is: a lot.
Essays matter. Your personal statement is your opportunity to be evaluated based on your experiences, your creativity and your curiosity. Students often times feel like they have to write about big moments or get stumped because they don’t feel like they have the “right” experiences to write about. When I work with Seniors, I’ve had at least a year of getting to know them, often longer, so I can make suggestions based on their interests or the experiences they’ve shared with me. Sometimes, it’s the random topics a student may find themselves reading about or researching that make great topics for essays. Did you discover something on a trip last summer that piqued your interest? Did you teach yourself an instrument because you love a particular band or genre of music? Did something really embarrassing happen at your job that taught you something about yourself? Tell a story to the admissions officer that reveals parts about you that aren’t already reflected in your application. Your inquisitive nature and your interest in the world around you shows a college admissions officer how you might thrive in a college environment. Bring the reader in; let your personality shine through.
A few final tips:
• Proof read; a spelling error might be overlooked, but correct grammar should be used. Please have your counselor, teacher, uncle, cousin, or even your parents (!) read your essay.
• “Optional” Essays aren’t really optional; consider these required.
• Many schools have supplemental essays that are required. Make sure you are writing about specific things at that school. I typically advise students to apply to 8-10 schools; part of the reasoning behind this is because of all the work each application requires. If every school you are applying to has 1-2 (on average) supplemental essays that’s a lot of extra work. Treat these with the same thoughtfulness and consideration as you do your personal statement. I was with an admissions officer last year from a mid-size urban college on the East Coast, and he was telling anecdotes about supplemental essays he read where students were clearly “search and replacing” and he could tell they really didn’t do their homework. He said a student was clearly writing about another suburban rural school and he could tell the essay was not geared towards the college he worked at. DO NOT DO THIS. My clients laugh at these examples but they really do happen over and over again. (And, if you work with me, I will not let this happen!)