The Importance of the College Application Essay

Today’s blog article from  Ellen Shapira, College and Educational Consultant

In a tough economic environment, application essays can be crucial for the high school seniors looking for college acceptances that are both desirable and affordable.  Writing that perfect essay may make the difference in acceptance and rejection, or getting the desired scholarship.

Most private colleges and some public universities require essays as part of the admission process.  They often include a general question that allows the student to write on almost any topic, and sometimes there are several specific topics.

In instances when a student’s grades and test scores are not quite as good as other candidates, a really good essay can make the difference.  Most private and more selective universities use qualitative methods in evaluating applications rather than basing admission decisions on quantitative selection criteria, so the essay becomes a critical part of the process.

Most state universities do not require essays as part of the application process.  However, applications for scholarships or admission to special programs may require an essay.

General Tips:

When writing the college or scholarship essay, here are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Treat the essay as an opportunity. Students are in a position to communicate positive and appealing aspects of their makeup that the school otherwise will not likely see.
  • Use the essay to describe a life changing experience or perhaps show how community involvement has begun shaping a sense of what you want to do in life.
  • Be yourself. Try to have the “authentic you” come through to the reader. For instance, if you are normally not a humorous person, do not inject broad levity into your essay and suggest that you are the world’s next great comedian.
  • Go beyond the obvious. Tell the school something different than what they can readily tell or glean from the rest of your application materials.
  • Be focused, keeping it brief and to the point. Whatever topic you select, stay on target and don’t go into excessive detail. Play to a subject that matters to you, carries personal significance and is easy for you to discuss.
  • Avoid trite topics that the admission officer would have seen many times such as “my summer in Europe.”  Also avoid controversial topics such as religion and politics.
  • Review your final product. Run it by a few other people whose opinion you value.
  • Adhere to good writing principles. Grammatical accuracy is critical. Does your central point come through clearly? Proofread your essay several times. Critique your final product from an outsider’s perspective.

On Wednesday, September 5, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Jewish Family & Career Services will offer a college application essay workshop taught by college essay coach Leslie Ellis. Participants can expect to learn how to:

  • Write an effective college essay that helps them get noticed or stand out.
  • Apply practical tips to produce good ideas for essays.
  • Approach the writing process.
  • Write personally and vividly.
  • Revise rough drafts.
  • Begin developing college writing skills.
  • Use essay handout materials provided.

To reserve a spot or for further information, contact Ellen Shapira at 452-6341 ext. 225 or [email protected]



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