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More College Essay Tip

Why do colleges require essays?

A college application includes a lot of information about you, such as grades, recommendations, lists of your extracurricular activities and test scores. All of that information is very important and helps admission officers form a picture of your accomplishments and abilities. However, while it tells about how other people see you, there isn’t much about how you see yourself. It’s that inside view — how you see yourself — that colleges hope to find in your essay.

The essay performs other functions, as well, such as:

The essay can be a way of showing that you have researched and thought carefully about the college to which you are applying. It shows, in your own words, why you and the college would be a good “match.”

An essay demonstrates your writing ability, which is a key component to success in college.

In your essay, you can show that you are willing to put yourself into what you do. That kind of commitment is an important part of effective learning in college. And it shows the admission committee that you are someone who is willing and able to be a contributing member of a community of learners.

Your academic record is the central and most important part of your application. For selective colleges especially, your essay provides additional insights about you — as a student and as an individual — for a college to consider as it reviews your application.

Possible pitfalls when writing an essay

Writing a poem or making a videotape in place of an essay is probably not a good idea, unless you’re applying to a specialized school that encourages such a submission.

Humor can be risky, so be careful how you use it.

“Honor code” rules are in effect when you write an essay, so do your own work and don’t make things up.

As a practical matter, other items in the application, such as letters of recommendation, make it quite possible that you would be found out if you tried to make things up.

Some final tips

Leave yourself time to rewrite and revise. For the great majority of people, this is not an easy assignment. Start early and leave plenty of time! Most likely that means to give yourself weeks (not days, and certainly not hours!) to rework your essay.

If your essay is longer than three pages (unless the instructions call for something longer), then it had better be interesting! Think hard about what you really want to focus on, and take out whatever gets away from your central point.

The admission committee will take your essay seriously. You should, too. You have a lot to gain by putting in the time and effort to write a good essay!



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