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Admissions Essays - We Can Help


College admission essays are the most personal part of your application and often a critical factor in telling an admissions committee what you will contribute to the campus where you're applying.
Here it is.  The part of the application where you can sing in your own voice.

Your application essay is your chance to:
  • Speak in the first person.
  • Speak to what is important to you.
  • Tie it all together.
  • Show where you've displayed the single most important factor in determining which students do well in college, motivation.
  • Add real value to your application by adding perspective to the litany of numbers and, increasingly, a numbing set of very similar teacher and counselor recommendations.

Style Points

  • Use only the most motivating topic.  Remember, 20 to 40 other essays that day. It has to be riveting to you for you to be interesting to them.


  • This ain’t a vocabulary test.  Talk like you talk to persuade adults to what you’re excited about. Fulminating, however fastidious, is fatuous and often fatal.  Struggling? Use the Visual Thesaurus in our Bookstore.


  • Use short sentences first. Bring readers in. When they’re in, elaborate.  Readers will appreciate the subtlety and complexity of your thought.  After they know you.


  • If you set up your context with a great quote, you’re setting yourself up to fail. First, whatever the quote, you’re not the first to use it.  You invite comparison to the last six applicants who did. That’s a risk you don't need. Second, this essay is about you. Why do I care what Freud thought?


  • Get at least one other human proofreader.  Yale admissions reps tell of one applicant's essay which said, in short, she loved to tutor children, tutoring was her greatest love and that she wished more people took the time to tutor children.  But then, in the final moments, she used the auto-correct feature in her word processing software to clean up the grammar in her essay.  At each place she had used tutor as a verb, the software substituted the verb 'to torture'.  So she applied to Yale saying earnestly how much she loved to torture children, torturing was her greatest love and that she wished more people took the time to torture children.  No, we don't know if she got in.

Looking for ways to know that your essay topics and execution
complement your application?

Get Started with CollegeLab's free consultation and find out.

Your admission essays should present a clear picture of your motivations and your potential to contribute on campus.

The Formula for the Best Essay

Made You Look!  There isn’t one. Like life, success here comes in many forms.

But, also like life, what you say has to be relevant.  Your essay readers have seen four years of grades, pored over your test scores, decoded the clichés in your letters of recommendation and a lucky few have interview reports. The essay gives you a chance to (a) insert some color to the black and white case for your admission; and(b) give the reader some new information about the context of your life.  Your essay has to deepen what the admissions office knows about you as an individual and what besides Mandarin or molecular motion you bring to the table. 

They’re human; they know what risks feel like.  Often, they can admit a B student who can persuade them of their passions with more confidence than an insipid valedictorian.

So, you have two jobs. Give your readers more insight into your motivations and make those motivations feel compelling.

First, tell them the formative experiences that shine a light into you as a person.  They don’t have to be happy ones.  They have to be vivid, they have to be concrete and they have to be true.  If you’re relating the facts and, most important, telling them what it continues to mean for you, you’ve done the first job.

Second, address what you will bring to that campus.  Not any campus, theirs.  If you’ll be an outlier there, celebrate it.  Point out how your other qualities will enrich their campus.  Your readers will read 20 to 40 essays that day.  Don’t make them guess where you fit in.  They might guess you don't.


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