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Tips for Writing a Great College Admissions Essay

(by Charlotte Lazor; Associate Director of Admission Information Systems at Wesleyan University; and Elizabeth K. Lyons, Associate Director of Admissions at Hawaii Business College)

1.  Be yourself.  Choose a topic that is meaningful to you.  Speak in your own voice.  Write what you feel, not what you think the admissions committee wants to hear.  The essay is the candidate’s opportunity to explain who they are and why they are unique.

2.  Don’t overextend.  Don’t take on too big a topic and don’t adopt a “preachy” tone.  College admission officers don’t want to be lectured on rainforest destruction.  Instead, tell them how you became interested in environmentalism.

3.  Be creative.  Try to come up with something different.  Remember that the people reviewing your essay will have read hundreds – if not thousands – in the past.  Don’t give them one more “The Teacher Who Influenced Me Most” or “Drinking and Driving is Bad” to wade through.

4.  Accentuate the positive.  If you are writing about a traumatic experience, describe the negatives but don’t dwell on them.  Rather, explore how the experience changed you and what you took away from it.

5.  Read each draft aloud; your ears can pick up problems that your eyes may miss.  Pursue perfection.  No essay needs to be error-free more than this one.  Quadruple-check the spelling.  Type your essay carefully.

6.  Ask people for input.  Teachers, counselors, friends, parents, siblings – ask people  you respect for some candid feedback, “What do you think I am trying to say?” “Does it sound confusing?”  “Is it boring?”  “Do I come across as the person you know?”

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