We’ve all heard it from people we know that have gone through it before: applying to college is rough. You’ll spend months and countless hours poring over essay prompts, wracking your brains to think of an essay idea that’ll make you stand out in the admissions process, only to sit and stare blankly at that blinking cursor on the empty Microsoft Word Document, wondering how the heck you’re ever going to get through this without going insane.
With millions of kids applying to college each year, acceptance is competitive. I’ve already written a post on what you can do to make your application stand out to competitive colleges which you can read here, but I’ve also put together a list of tips that will help you stand out in the admissions process and help you on your way to getting into the school of your dreams.
START YOUR ESSAYS EARLY
I mean it. START EARLY. I started writing my application essays to my dream school right after my junior year ended, and worked on them all summer. You should start no later than July, but starting in June will give you lots of extra time to think, write, edit, and perfect your essays than the kids who start later.
KNOW THE SMALL DETAILS
This is the most important piece of advice I can give. Most competitive colleges and universities receive tens of thousands of applications each year—and you need yours to stand out. If this is your dream school, you’ve probably been dreaming about attending since you were ten years old and went to your first football game—but don’t say this in your essays. Tens of thousands of other students just like you have been dreaming of attending this school since they went to their first football game too, and if a thousand kids all write about the same topic in their essays, none of them will stand out.
Do some hardcore research on WHY this is your dream school. Most college websites have tons of amazing and in-depth information available once you start looking deep enough. Look through the online course catalog and find two or three classes that you’d love to take, a club or student organization that you’d love to be a part of or a professor that you’d love to work with in a research lab. Adding all of these aspects into your application essay shows the admissions counselor that you know your stuff, and you’re serious about attending the school. I mentioned all three of those things in my own college admissions essay, and I truly believe the thoroughness and attention to detail in my essays were one of the factors that got me accepted.
It’s cheesy, but it’s true! Don’t spend precious hours flipping through a thesaurus looking for the perfect word that will make you sound like a genius—if you wouldn’t use the word in a real life conversation, don’t use it in an essay. I know words like intransigent, e·gre·gious and idyllic will think make you think that you’ll be tricking the admissions counselor into thinking you’re a genius, but they’re tough to be fooled and can see right through it.
Instead of trying to be someone you’re not, be yourself. Show your true voice and passion in your essays, no matter or cheesy or weird they might be.
EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!
And proofread! Seriously, if you’re comfortable with other people reading your essays, get everyone you know to read them over and double check to make sure that all your spelling and grammar is in place—it would be incredibly disappointing to submit your final essay only to realize you spelled “piqued” as “peaked”.
Writing college admissions essays is the cherry on top to all of the other things you have to do to make sure you have a balanced application. If you’re feeling stressed, just take a deep breath and get away from your laptop for a while. If you’re struggling to think of the words to say or can’t come up with an idea, take a break: go for a walk, read a book, listen to some music, and come back to it later.
Hopefully this list will help you in writing an amazing admissions essay.