What makes a great college essay?

Application Process

Our counselors answered:

What makes a great college essay?

Angela Conley
College Admission Expert VentureForth

What makes a great college essay?

Memorability makes the difference. I absolutely endorse spell checking, at least one second read for grammar and, of course respect for the word limit. However, having read some 5000 or so application essays, poignancy counts. There are essays I read in the 90's that I remember because they were artfully rendered, made me laugh aloud or moved me to tears. Do not attempt that at which you are not proficient! Write what you know, felt or experienced. Few folks who opined regarding politics, social commentary or world peace are successful. Do your best to add "living color" to your topic and remember, that in 90% of the cases, it's the one and only way admission reviewers hear your voice. Make that voice as sultry and memorable as Etta James' "At Last!"

Reecy Aresty
College Admissions/Financial Aid Expert & Author Payless For College, Inc.

What makes a great college essay?

Here are some favorite topics & subjects to write about: 1. Overcoming adversity 2. A life changing experience, whether religious or otherwise - one of my students wrote about her trek up Medjugorje, and it was awe inspiring 3. Why I must attend XYZ U! 4. We all know what ABC U has to offer the world, let me tell you what I have to offer ABC!

Kristina Dooley
Independent Educational Consultant Estrela Consulting

What makes a great college essay?

A great college essay combines creativity, excellent writing, and honesty. The person reading your essay should feel as if they know more about you from reading your essay and they should feel confident that you will be successful with any writing assignments you may be given as a student at their institution. It's important that your essay be a solid reflection of you as a person and as a student, and that you follow the guidelines provided in terms of topic and word-count.

Allen Regar

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.

Benjamin Caldarelli
Partner Princeton College Consulting, LLC

What makes a great college essay?

College application essays are a special literary genre, but they are of course personal. They add further dimensions to an individual's record and great ones need to be creative, thoughtful, and well written. Most importantly however, a great essay will reveal an aspect of a self that a student has chosen to highlight and a voice that is unique to that self.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

What makes a great college essay?

A great college essay is one in which the student's voice and though process comes through clearly. It should be consistent with the rest of the application and showcase an aspect of the student not highlighted in the rest of the application. It is also well written and grammatically correct.

Chris Powers
College Counselor and Philosophy Teacher Powers College Counseling

What makes a great college essay?

TYPICAL ESSAYS REQUIRED MAJOR ESSAY (500 words), YOUR ACADEMIC INTEREST, YOUR MOST IMPORTANT ACTIVITY, and WHY THIS UNIVERSITY THE BEST FOR YOU The most important element in each essay you write is YOU! After all, there is only one person exactly like you ... with your experience, your ideas, your actions and reactions, your feelings, your mental acuity, your philosophy of life, your passion for sports, music, helping those less fortunate than you ... you possess a genuine uniqueness. It is YOU that the admission's committee is trying to evaluate. Therefore, what better way to communicate the very essence of you than by writing an original and truly impressive college essay. GUIDELINES Take TIME ... time to explore ideas, think about your many choices, and time to write and re-write. You can complete your application form in an hour or two. Writing your major essay and several auxiliary ones takes many hours. Aim for BALANCE. If your write a comical, ironical, or satirical essay, be sure that you show a serious or thoughtful side of yourself as well. Use realistic VOCABULARY. The Thesaurus can be your worse enemy. Real people read your words, and your words must reflect a real person, not a dictionary. Use the STYLE that exemplifies your strength. Don't attempt to be funny when you have never written a funny essay in your life. This is definitely not the time to take a risk. If possible, use ANECDOTES, or examples, when you write your essay. When you write about a person that influenced your life, tell a real story. If you have participated in a meaningful community service project, make it come to life with specific examples. Give people names, describe places, and relate feelings. Any reference you make to literature, current events, historical events, must be absolutely accurate. Never offend the reader. Avoid political opinions, religious references, ethnic references or unacceptable language. The technical and grammatical aspect of every essay must be perfect. Grammar, spelling, usage, and vocabulary should be correct. STRATEGY Follow directions. You will be evaluated on whether or not you answer the question that is posed on that particular application. While it is good strategy to adapt your essay to fit several essays, be certain to answer the exact question asked. Write a clear, concise, and interesting essay. Don't count the words unless it is necessary to do so. Grab the attention of the reader! If you have not engaged the curiosity of the reader after the first sentence, you are in trouble. Remember that you are actually engaging the reader in a one-way conversation. You are answering his question; write in a direct and personal manner. In addition to always answering the question, follow any other specific instructions. For example, if you are asked to use 'only the space provided do just that. If you are asked to limit your response to 300 or 500 words stay within these parameters. Create an essay that can be modified and used for several different schools. WRITING Don't try to cover too much. Stay on track and stick to the thesis. Think about the things your have read and enjoyed. Writing is usually interesting because of details, not generalities. Keep in mind the 'why' and 'how' as you write and don't get lost in the 'what, when and where'. Be personal. This is your application, your personality. These are your thoughts, your interests, and your experiences. The admissions committee is trying to get to know you through your own words. What you say as well as how you say it are both important. A great idea poorly expressed is wasted. AFTER WRITING PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, and PROOFREAD. Neatness, accurate spelling, and punctuation, are important. Limit the number of people that you ask to review your essay. Honesty counts! This is YOUR essay. Someone else can read your work for technical accuracy but too much revision removes your personality and creativity. REMEMBER that everything you write, each essay or short answer will be read and evaluated. Your essays are your only true voice in the application process.

Rebecca Joseph
Executive Director & Founder getmetocollege.org

What makes a great college essay?

A great college essay grabs your attention from the first sentence. It takes readers into, through, and beyond the story in 500 words or less. A great essay tells a a unique story that communicates key qualities you can offer the college. That is why a great college essay is personal.This great essay is very visual and helps make you become 3-D for the reader. It starts right away with a specific story from running a marathon in the rain to spilling water on customers--twice-- and keeps us engaged from the first word to the last. You can contact me for samples as I collect great essays from the students with whom I work.

Megan Dorsey
SAT Prep & College Advisor College Prep LLC

What makes a great college essay?

A great college essays is uniquely YOU. It is well-written with college bound vocabulary and style, but easy to read and somewhat unassuming. Like great works of fiction, these essays clearly paint a picture in the reader’s mind. The main character (YOU) is developed with depth and detail. Great essays are memorable because they distinctively portray their subjects without relying on clichés or formulaic topics. They convey on paper a sense of who the writer is as a person. After reading a great essay, I feel as if I have just had an enlivening conversation with the person even though it was entirely on paper.

Heather Tomasello
Writing Coach The EssayLady, LLC

What makes a great college essay?

Students ask me this all of the time. The answer? A great college essay is PERSONAL. It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering. We haven’t all pulled babies from burning buildings or sailed around the world in a catamaran. That’s okay. Tell a story from your own life that shows something unique about you. Be honest and even a little vulnerable. The story that your friends perk up to listen to- that’s the stuff that makes for great app essays. More than anything, officers want to get to know you through your essay. There is no room for stuffiness. You will end up sounding like every other applicant.