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Start Writing With This Good Advice

Monday, April 03, 2017

A good college essay can help you to favorably stand out in the applicant pool. When applying to selective schools, standing out in a positive light can make the difference between admission, deferral or deny.

No matter which essay prompt you choose, consider: “What do I want the college admissions office to know about me beyond my grades, test scores and extracurricular activities?”

Before sitting down to write, consider that you are not necessarily or literally answering a question. Instead, let the prompt guide the story you tell.

A college essay is actually closer to a personal statement and:

  • Features YOU as the subject; the topic is somewhat secondary.
  • Communicates a meaningful story that is focused, not overly broad.

    Examining one smaller feature/concept/event allows the writer to go into more depth.

  • Communicates what you learned from your experiences, not just what you accomplished.
  • May demonstrate elements of character
  • Sounds like you – an insightful high school student ready for college.

Consider These Helpful Tips:

  • Incorporate your values or what is important to you.
  • Communicate how you deal with challenges or set backs.
  • Provide insight into your personal growth or development.
  • Reflect on how you think or elements of your character.
  • Become a proxy for an interview. The essay should enable the reader to gain a sense of you almost as if you were in the room with them.
  • Be personal. You are in some way the subject of the essay, so it is totally appropriate to use the first person “I” — different from a high school 5-paragraph essay or research paper.

Caution: The essay should not be TOO personal! If there is anything that could be embarrassing to you or to the reader, then it’s TMI and should be left aside. Project your grandmother or uncle reading the essay. If they would be ok with what you are sharing, then your content likely is appropriate.

Marla Platt, M.B.A. is an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA through AchieveCoach College Consulting, providing personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search and admissions process. She is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

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