Admissions Consultant Explains What Makes a Great College Essay

What makes an extraordinary college application essay? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Judith Lee, College Admissions Consultant at Scholar Strategies, on Quora.

Colleges want to hear your voice. In writing your essay, don't focus on what makes you different from everyone else but rather what makes you YOU. A successful college essay shows the reader what makes you tick, what excites you, what motivates you. It shows the college what you will actually be like when you get onto their campus.

Here are some tips to writing a great college essay.

  1. Take your time to brainstorm topics. Think of an experience where you went into something thinking one way and through the experience came out of it, with new insights or perspective. This experience should have occurred in the last year or two.
  2. Use examples to make your points
  3. Don't just tell your story, show it. You want your reader to see the actions in your story. Use verbs instead of adjectives whenever possible.
  4. Your voice should be that of a normal human being sharing a story. The college essay is NOT the place to show off your SAT vocab. Using unnecessarily big words will just make you sound disconnected, insecure, arrogant, or all of the above.
  5. Write your essay from your perspective only. Don't pretend to know what anyone else's perspective is. That means avoid phrases like, "Unlike other teenagers. . ." or "I'm not your typical high school student" Chances are you are a typical high school student and that is ok.
  6. Be positive. Think about who you are in your best light. Put your best foot forward. This is no place to reveal any deep dark secrets.
The best college essays are rarely about unique experiences. Admissions officers read A LOT of essays - they have seen it all. What will set you apart is your perspective on what happens to you, no matter how mundane it may seem.

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