How To Write A Killer College Admissions Essay
The single most important tool in getting into college isn’t your SAT scores or even your GPA. The game changer – the deal breaker – the playing field leveler – is your personal statement (aka, your college essay).
The first thing that students need to understand is that college admission is personal. You’re a person and the person who is going to let you in to the college of your dreams is a person. You’re not applying to an ivy-covered building or a computer program that crunches your numbers and spits out an acceptance or rejection letter. If that were true, colleges wouldn’t spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars reading reams and reams of essays each admissions cycle.
Most students think that the purpose of the essay is to impress the admissions officer. These students load their essay with what they think are impressive accomplishments and amazing academic feats. That’s a mistake. Leave the bragging for the brag sheet (aka, your resume). The goal of your essay is to create a personal connection between you and your admissions officer.
So, how do you create a personal connection with an admissions officer? You don’t boast about accomplishments, you reveal your struggles. One of the easiest ways for us to relate to each other and ultimately relate to a college admissions officer is to show them how you’ve struggled, why you’ve struggled and how you overcame your struggles. These struggles don’t have to be monumental – like the loss of a loved one or a troubling home life – these struggles can be small, but significant to you. How you lost the big game. How you failed your driver’s license test… five times…Or how you managed to mess up a dream date. These experiences are relatable and, most importantly, personal. As you describe your struggles, use specific details. Don’t just describe dropping the pass. Explain how time stood still as the ball was in the air. Describe the sound from the crowd…the look on the face of your best friend as you walked back to the huddle. Then, let the admissions officer know what you’ve learned from the experience and finally how you overcame it.
If your essay talks about how you won the big game with a shoestring catch and your team carried you off the field, you lose out on the opportunity to connect on a personal level. You can show more sides of yourself and more character in your struggles than in your accomplishments.
Just remember, keep your essays and personal statements personal. You are trying to make a connection to another human being. Explain how you’ve struggled, explain what you’ve learned and finish it off with how you’ve overcome that moment in your life when you wished you could just crawl under a rock. That horrible moment may just be the best thing that ever happened to you.