I am an international student applicant, how do I write an effective college admissions essay?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

I am an international student applicant, how do I write an effective college admissions essay?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Effective Essays: A Challenge for All Students

Some students are natural writers and welcome the challenge of the college admissions essay. For so many, however, the process can be filled with uncertainty or even anxiety. International students have the benefit of some very interesting experiences and motivation that can add spark to their essays; however, they also face some of the same challenges as writers from any location. Here's what I advise students as they develop their essays. First of all, be yourself. Don't try to write in any type of tone that could be a turnoff to the reader. If you have a topic or experience that is uniquely yours, you have the potential for an interesting and memorable essay. Use active rather than passive language. Grab the reader's interest in the beginning, and leave him or her thinking about you at the close. During your school years, you may have had teachers who discouraged you from writing in the first person; this essay is the absolute exception. As an international students may have had powerful influences and role models in your life who drove you to apply to college in the United States. However, the college essay, known as the Personal Essay on the Common Application, is about you. Colleges don't need to hear too much about someone or something else; what they want to know is the effect on you. One thing I always tell students is that there is no need to have a serious essay; in fact, many admissions officers say how much they welcome something light and fun. If you are are a very strong student, stay away from writing about school.

Francine Schwartz
Founder/ President Pathfinder Counseling LLC

International Students and the College Essay

I think international students face the same issues as other applicants in constructing a solid and effective essay. They should strive to tell a story that no one else can tell, in their own voice and not repeat what is said elsewhere in the application. It is particularly important for them to have a qualified teacher or other person proof read for grammatical errors.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

I am an international student applicant, how do I write an effective college admissions essay?

Writing a compelling and memorable college admissions essay is no different for an international student than it is for a U.S. student. Be yourself and tell us a story that only you can tell. While you don't need to reveal any deep, dark secrets, you do need to show admissions officers the human being behind the GPA and the test scores. Basically -- write about the topic in which you are the expert -- that is, YOU! You don't need to search high and low for a totally unique topic -- just tell us something about your feelings, perspectives, and observations in your experience. Use lots of details to draw the reader into your story, and don't worry about using "big" and "fancy" words. A compelling essay that is genuinely from the heart doesn't need to rely on SAT-type vocabulary.

David Allen
Managing Director Global College Counselors Ltd

Big Question

This is a HUGE question. Many applications have specific questions they want answered, choose the one you think you can answer best. It is best here to focus in on a specific thing/event/person in your own life and go into details about how that/they has/have affected your life/character/academics. Write from the heart and make sure that the way you are writing makes the essay sound like you talking- get a friend to read it, not for content but for voice. Never, never, get anything from the net - everyone has similarity detection software nowadays!

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

Tell a powerful story, a true, self-written powerful story

Many international students hire people to write their essays. That is a major mistake as colleges can smell adult written essays. So international students need to write an essay that matches their English writing skills as revealed by the TOEFL or SAT. These essays serve to show your writing and your life experiences. More importantly, international students need to reveal some core qualities that will show admissions officers how you will contribute to campuses. So focus on an activity or an experience that enables you to demonstrate your leadership and initiative. Please talk about recent experiences and please tell only stories that are true. Follow our into, through, and beyond approach and tell a story that makes you pop off the page.

Helen Cella

I am an international student applicant, how do I write an effective college admissions essay?

Tell your story from your heart

Nicholas Umphrey

I am an international student applicant, how do I write an effective college admissions essay?

This is where you have a distinct advantage when applying to colleges in the United States. Most colleges and universities look for diversity on their campus. Any student from any part of the world applying to colleges must approach the essay with one purpose in mind. To show the admissions committee what makes you unique. Tell them in 250-500 words what unique traits you will bring to their student body as a student and as a person. As a student, they have hard data (grades, test scores, recommendations, etc) to size you up. As a person, talk about your hobbies, your passions, and how this could apply to their school.

Woodrow Dunn
Academic Counselor Freedom High School

Effective college admissions essay

1. Allow plenty of time 2. Make yourself appear to be a likeable person. 3. Demonstrate the story within you! 4. Make sure your essay demonstrates some conflict and is actually coming from your life! 5. Proofread it at least three times.

Ted Skowron
Counselor Brophy College Preparatory

be honest

The goal is writing an effective admission essay is to represent yourself in writing and highlight your interests, talents, drives/ambitions; therefore "be yourself". The essay should tell the reader information about yourself that makes you stand out from the crowd so consider choosing those things that make you unique. Put attention to detail as well, meaning that the essay should be well structured with theme and topic sentences.

Mark Gathercole
University Advisor Independent University Advising

Be yourself, not who you think they want you to be.

The guidelines for writing the essay are no different for international students than for anyone else: Be genuine, write from your own experience, and use your own words. An effective essay is one that allows an admissions person to get to know you better. You don't have to write an "important" essay - just one that offers a glimpse of who you are.