College Essay 2015-2016 First Thoughts

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College Essay

  • 2015-2016

First Thoughts

  • Become very familiar with the school to which you are applying so that you can make specific references to the mission statements, specific disciplines, or campus life of that school. If relevant to the type of essay you are writing, be sure to point out how you can make a significant contribution to that particular school.

Getting Started

  • Make your essay memorable! You might tell a brief story about yourself to begin the essay.
  • Just as you begin an interview with direct eye contact and a firm handshake, use words that evoke confidence and pride
  • Accentuate the positive. If you want to write about a negative topic, such as the death of someone, a tragic accident, or a tough personal experience you have had, be sure to emphasize how you’ve overcome the challenge or how this hardship has made you a more determined and/or mature individual.

Choosing a Topic

  • Rather than trying to come up with something unique and different, rely on your personal passions and experiences—often it will lead to a piece worthy of a good read!
  • Keep it simple. My favorite essays have consistently been those essays that are about the seemingly most mundane and ordinary aspects of an applicant’s life—it is these topics that often showcase a student in the best light.

Getting Started

  • Write about YOU—your passions, what excites you, life experiences that have shaped you into the young adult you’ve become.
  • It’s all about the hook! A catchy opening line, when used properly, can do wonders for an essay, baiting the reader to hang on the edge of every sentence."

Consider the Audience

  • Would you want to read an essay about this topic? Think of an admissions person‘s day: they may have just had a terrible lunch, woken up to the sound of an obtrusive alarm, or had a frustrating phone call. Don‘t disgust, inundate, or frustrate further.

You are Unique

  • Is this original? How many essays on this topic will someone in admissions have to read?
  • Are you the only one who could have written this essay, or could the specific names be covered and it still ring true many times over? If so, pick another topic.


  • Use one consistent theme or topic throughout the essay.
  • Keep your topic personal – remember you are the expert on your life!
  • Allow others to review your drafts for feedback and suggestions.
  • Adhere to the essay topic and word limit.
  • Make sure the essay tells something about YOU.
  • Use specific examples to tell your story.
  • Turn negatives into positives.
  • Use your own voice and writing style.

Do Not

  • Rely on spell check – many words may be spelled right but used in the wrong context.
  • Try to hit on too many points.
  • Use the same essay for multiple essay prompts.
  • Write what you think the admissions committee wants to read.
  • Use the essay as a resume. Write about something you have not already presented in your application.
  • Try to use large, intellectual words just to impress the audience.

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