Tips for Writing a Winning Personal Essay
College Application Essay
Are you feeling anxious about crafting a compelling personal essay that will captivate the reader and stand out among the rest? Are you feeling unsure how to start the process and what to write about? The personal essay can be used as a tool to help you gain admission to the school of your dreams. An exceptional application essay can help a mediocre student gain acceptance to their top choice school. On the other hand, a poorly written essay can turn a likely acceptance into a rejection. The best way to think about the essay is as an interview in essay format. It should be about yourself and focus on a single meaningful experience in your life. It’s important to remember that your essay does not have to be about some monumental experience or tragic or triumphant event. The best essays can come from the most unlikely places. Your interpretation and presentation to the reader is essential. It should be written in an engaging conversational tone and read like a story. The personal essay can provide a window into your character and personality. In reflecting on the impact of a specific experience on your life, try to display your critical thinking skills and self reflection.
Here are some tips to keep in mind while writing an essay that is sure to grab the reader’s attention:
- Your essay can be used to display your humbleness and generosity to others. These character traits can appeal to the reader.
- Your essay should make a point, although it does not need to be obvious.
- Be specific and avoid using clichés, controversial topics, and jargon.
- Everyone has a story to tell and one of the best ways to find one is to keep a personal journal.
- Try to stay away from a story that is too predictable. A surprising twist in the story is more likely to grab the reader’s attention.
- The essay should focus on a tension or conflict in your life and how you resolved it.
- Try to allow enough time to write the essay so that you are not rushed.
- Remember that appearances count. Spelling and grammatical errors show a lack of diligence. Try to have multiple people proofread for errors. The computer will not catch all spelling and grammatical errors (such as their and there). Proofread at least three times. Edit also for layout, content, style, flow and meaning.
- Be sincere and write in a clear, concise and coherent way.
- The essay can be used as a tool to focus on your strengths or address your weaknesses.Be careful not to overuse “I”.
- Stay within the word limit.
- Never plagiarize.
- Answer the prompt.
- Read your essay aloud to see how it flows.
- A good essay always shows, a weak essay tells.
- If you are writing about a sad or tragic experience, always focus on the positive outcome.
- Your essay should say, “I am a good fit for this college.”
- The essay should contain information that is not in the application.
- The essay is the student’s voice of who they are.
- Consider using a metaphor or simile that applies to your life to make your essay more interesting.
Two books that can offer additional information on essay writing are:
- 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays
With Analysis by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson
- Fiske Real College Essays that Work
By Edward B. Fiske and Bruce G. Hammond