College Applications.  There are few things that cause more anxiety for high school seniors and their parents.  Navigating this process can be daunting between gathering transcripts, getting letters of recommendation, taking last minute SAT tests, and trying to recall four years of extra-curricular activities.   One aspect of the process can sometimes get lost or saved for last—the admissions essay or personal statement.  As the college admission’s process continues to get more competitive, increased emphasis is being placed on the essay.  Having a strong essay can help you stand out among your peers.  Here are some easy tips for helping you write a successful essay:

 

 Engage the reader immediately.

Remember that admissions’ staff are reading thousands of essays during the college application season, draw your reader in right from the start by crafting an effective introduction.

How do you create an effective introduction?  Try one of these:  1.  Make it interesting by using imagery and unique word choice. 2. Ask a question or start by sharing the middle of your story where the action or conflict takes place.  3.  Maintain the suspense factor-let the story unfold slowly rather than sharing all of it at the beginning.

 

 Use your own voice.

Let them get to know you.    Your personal statement or college application essay is your chance to show the admissions’ staff that you are more than your transcripts or SAT score reports.  What do you want them to know about you?  Your first priority should be showing them who you are.  Find a balance between being completely formal and overly casual.

Not sure if you have succeeded in using your own voice?  Have a friend, parent, or teacher read it to see if it sounds like you. Or, try reading it aloud to yourself—does it seem unnatural to you or is it easy to read?

 

  Think about what has shaped you.

It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of writing about topics that you think the admissions’ staff wants you to write about instead of writing from the heart.

Think about events, activities, people, and lessons learned that have influenced, changed, or molded you into the person that you are today.  Don’t dismiss something because you think it may be insignificant.  For example, maybe the time spent helping your elderly neighbor during the summers shaped you more than being the president of the National Honor Society.  Writing from a place of genuineness and honesty will help you connect and sound authentic.

 

 Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.

Even the most profound essay can quickly become overshadowed by mistakes in grammar.  It’s easy to rely on auto correct for spelling and other grammar mistakes but many mistakes can still slip through.  For example, there vs. their or your vs. you’re are mistakes easily missed by a computer.

Leave yourself plenty of time to have someone else take a look at it, such as a teacher, guidance counselor, parent, or tutor.   After spending so much time working on the content, you don’t want to be overlooked for silly grammar mistakes.