What to "say" in the college essay

The college essay is the most important component of the college application in terms of making the applicant come alive in the mind of the admissions reader. Consider the essay as a handshake or most personal introduction to the college admissions committee. Therefore,
the first step in selecting a college essay topic is to know yourself by identifying the highlights of characteristics and personal experiences in which to draw from.

Most college admissions committees want to know something about the applicant that they cannot otherwise learn from the rest of the application. A good essay can make the applicant come to life. Therefore, a specific and concise essay concentrating on a single outstanding attribute, experience, or activity (without listing what is on the activity resume) will allow the opportunity to elaborate on something important in specific details. It is important to read
through the application to determine the number of essays required and their word lengths; following directions is key. Some colleges ask very specific questions, while others will allow the applicants to choose from a number of topics or select one of their own choosing.

One of the first steps in determining the personal essay topic is to create a list of one's character traits and then to come up with an experience which reveals these traits without using those words. The applicant may want to ask himself or herself some personal questions to come up with some topics. Typical questions could be: When was I most fulfilled? Who is my hero or heroine and why? What was my biggest failure and how did I respond to it? When have I struggled with in life and how did I overcome it? Where do you I see myself in the future? To come up with a list of possible essay topics that express one’s personality and character in the form of a story, ask five closest people to describe what they know about you – what stories best
describes who you are and what you stand for. Take notes as the story is told and select the topic that best presents the real you.

When writing the essay, the goal should be to tell a story--one that only you can tell in your own voice--that will lead the reader to determine one’s personal characteristics and qualities without being presented with a list of superlatives on how wonderful and great you are. As a general strategy, it is always a good idea to have a catchy first sentence to grab the reader’s attention and encourage the reader to read on. Become familiar with successful essays of which thousands
have been published. Finally, use these essays as an inspiration and learning tool for identifying particularly good examples of what college admissions officers are looking for in a college application essay. Never copy an existing essay or write what you believe the admissions director wants to hear. The more authentic the essay, the more compelling.

Copyright Katherine Cohen -

Katherine Cohen