What makes a great college essay?
Many books have been written about what makes a great college essay, or even more generally, a great essay of any variety. To be succinct, however, there are a few general rules that will help you write an essay that will draw positive attention from the admissions counselors who read your essay.
1. The essay has to feel authentic. This is not a place to brag about your GPA or standardized test scores. It should be a window into who you are as a person, a human being with unique experiences and a perspective on the world that you call your own.
2. The essay has to be about the writer, i.e., you. But it not only has to be about you: it has to be about you in a way that no one else is like you. Your job is to write about yourself as an individual that stands out amongst the other students applying to the same college. Horror stories have been told about the number of essays that are written about summer camp or the winning football game. Be wary of these and other topics! Many other students write about them, as well, and unless you believe that you have a really, really different perspective, avoid throwing yourself into the pile of humdrum essays on the same topic. Think instead about how you can bend a little to the unusual, the catchy, the thing that makes the college admissions officer sit up and read a little more closely. This is not just about your skill as a writer, but about your experiences, about your *life*. Who are you, at the core of your being? Share that through the words you put on the page.
3.The essay must be clearly written and grammatically correct. Even an essay that tells a great story and serves a meaningful introduction to the student's personality can be marred by run-on sentences, comma splices, and lack of capitalization (the last of which, though stylistically acceptable in text messages and friendly emails, is a major no-no in the college essay). Read, re-read, revise, and revise again. And revise again until you are certain that the words flow and that you have eliminated any embarrassing grammatical gaffes. Remember, you are applying to college, and though a grammatically impeccable essay might not be the one thing that gets you in, poor editing and unchecked mistakes can leave a lasting negative impression on a reviewer.