10 Tips for Your College Application Essay

Write about something that doesn’t appear in your activities section or resume  

Every single component of your application, from essays to short answer supplements, should show the admissions committee a different part of you. Let your personality become three dimensional. Don’t just rattle of the same redundant information they’re going to see on your resume.  

Don’t grab at the thing you think will make the person cry for you or feel bad for you

One essay usually isn’t enough to do really flesh out something tragic. If there was something that happened in your life that impacted your school work, then there’s a section on the Common App for that.

If you can, bring them into your home

There are so few guaranteed points of connection between you and the admissions committee. So, try and think about the places in which most people can draw common ground. For one, admission officers probably eat. They also most likely live in a home with four walls. So, bring them into a space or make it a theme that they have interacted with in some way. Squash, for example, is not a sport most people have played. Traveling isn’t a guarantee either. Try to avoid the barriers to entry as much as possible.  

Be wary of coded privilege

Speaking of squash…try to stay away from anything that screams “I’m privileged.” One note on that front: having your own car doesn’t necessarily fall into this category. Plenty of kids live in rural areas, have parents who work and can’t drive them, or worked hard themselves to save up for a car.

Avoid the five-paragraph structure

Even if your essay isn’t the standard high school format, make it anything other than five paragraphs. The optics alone signal a cliché. Space them out.

Include dialogue to advance a plot or storyline

Your goal in this essay should be, in part, to transport your audience into a story. Use dialogue as a vehicle for showing character.   

Don’t read other essays

Don’t read other essays online. If you’ve read a really good essay, do not replicate it. Evening you’re not copying structure, you’ll have it in your mind and it could flag you. Assume admissions counselors have read everything already. It’s their job.

Be humble

But if you’ve accomplished real things, don’t downplay them. If you’ve started multiple companies or founded non-profits, say that. Just be matter of fact. There is a line between bragging and just being honest about what you do. If you’re the captain of the basketball team, don’t say “I facilitate and organize physical activities amongst youth.” When in doubt, ask an adult how they would phrase their work or profession to a colleague. 

If what you’re thinking about includes both a plane and community service, avoid writing about it

This falls into both the categories of privilege and cliché. Tell a simple story. Something about your everyday routine instead.

Don’t try to turn the vapid into the novel

The admissions team has seen it all. They can see right through attempts to embellish or grandstand. Just be real.

Need some help revising your resume? Reach out to us. We are great at helping students weed out the superfluous details in their repertoire to find the gold.