Tips for Writing a College Essay

writing a personal essayOne – one thousand, 
two – one thousand,
three – one thou…….that’s it!! When writing a personal statement or essay for your college application, that’s all the time you have to impress your admission officer.

Not even a full three seconds.

One of the most important tips for writing a personal statement that I can give you is that you need to to GRAB the reader’s ATTENTION in your opening line, right out of the gate!

It took this admission officer that was reading your essay about three seconds to put it down and place it on top of  the dreadful rejection pile before moving on to the next.

Could it be that you simply caught this official on a bad day???

Or is it that perhaps she’s incapable of instantly recognizing a masterpiece when she sees one? Hmm, probably not the reason. To be sure, you might have had a good enough application essay. However, if you failed to apply some basic techniques when writing your essay, it could end up being the difference between it being read or it immediately discarded. 

The most likely scenario is that this officer has a truck load of application essays waiting to be read. They’ve probably been pouring through several hundreds since the application season began and still have many more to go. Consequently, they have a remarkably short attention span. They’ll zip through the first paragraph of your page at supersonic speed. As a result, if you can’t catch their attention quick enough you’re doomed! This is why it’s so important for a college-bound student to understand the techniques on writing a personal statement or essay for college.

It’s not enough to write an OK college essay. Nor is it enough to simply write a good essay, particularly if you’re aiming towards a competitive school. Instead, you need to write an exceptional college essay. One so honest, well-written, and heart-felt that it knocks the socks off of them!

And the most challenging part is that you only get a few seconds to demonstrate that your work is worth reading all the way through.


So What’s the Secret Ingredient to Writing an Outstanding College Essay?

The secret ingredient is simple: your personal statement must be able to move the reader in some way. It must be impressive, well-developed, and most of all, do its job.

What’s its job? To reveal aspects of your character and personality that would normally not be exposed in your application package. Clearly, it should represent you in the best light to a complete stranger. A stranger (the admissions officer) who will be picturing in his mind what sort of person you are and how you will fit in the school. Someone with the power of making a snap decision that can determine whether or not you get into the school of your dreams. 

So how do you write an exceptional, attention-grabbing essay that meets all the criteria above?  Simple, you do it by turning this stranger into a friendly acquaintance! This should be the focus of your essay. You should be writing your personal statement as if you were speaking to a stranger whom you’re hoping will get to know you better.

Bring a grin, a smile, or a hint of a tear to his or her face. This should be your objective when writing your college essay or writing your personal statement. And the best part is that you can do this without being a natural born writer. You just need to do a bit of soul-searching, follow some guidelines and apply good writing techniques and tips you can learn right from this site.


Eight Important Tips for Writing a Personal Statement  

1. Start Early
A great time to start working on writing your personal statement is sometime in the summer between your junior and senior year in high school. That is, use your free time to think about topics and test out your essay ideas informally with people you trust. Read books and study successful essay examples.

2. Be Honest, Be Yourself
Choose a topic you’d like to write about and use it to show the admissions officer who you are. Don’t write what you think they want to hear if it’s not really how you feel, because it will not sound sincere. Instead, write about something that you care about and show how it has impacted you in some way. You are trying to establish an emotional connection with the reader. But without confusing him or her with your buddy or your therapist.  

3. Choose a Narrow Theme That had Significance in Your Life
Many applicants feel they must choose a scholarly topic or some world-shattering event to be able to demonstrate their intellectual prowess. This is a mistake. The admissions officer doesn’t want a lesson in history or social economics. Instead, he wants to learn about you as a person. You’ll have lots of opportunities during your application to demonstrate your academic qualifications, but not during your personal essay. This is your chance to introduce the person behind the school grades and SAT scores and show your wonderful personality. A topic as simple as a memorable family vacation can do the trick.

4. Avoid Negativity
Never, ever never be critical. Never whine. Never be negative. Even if writing about something sad or traumatic, always remain positive.Your essay must end in an upbeat tone!

5. Avoid Polarizing Topics
There are a million things you can write about in your personal essay. From how you enjoy walking in the rain to how you like singing in the shower. But there are two topics you should avoid for sure: religion and politics. Write about one of these two topics and you’ll be on a certain path to self-destruction. Simply avoid any incendiary topic.

6. Don’t Write About Past Illegal Activities
If you used to be a drug addict, served jail time, were caught drinking and driving, or were involved in any other sort of reckless behavior, here’s a piece of advice: keep it to yourself! It doesn’t matter that you are completely reformed and born again. My advice is don’t bring it up. It’s too risky and will surely hurt your chances.  

7. Proofread Your Essay
You might think this is obvious, but it’s such a critical element that it is worth mentioning and repeating: always proofread your essay. Also, make sure to read your essay out loud or have someone else read it out loud to you. Therefore, you can be sure it flows well and sounds conversational.

8. Write and Re-Write
Whether it was Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, or any other great American author, one thing you can be sure of is that they never finished their work on the first try. You write, you revise, you re-write. And then you do it again. That’s how it’s done!

To learn how to write a great college essay, get started here.

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