7 Simple Steps to a Successful Essay 150 150 Brad Bailey

7 Simple Steps to a Successful Essay

The essay is a vital component to your college application. Here are seven tips to help you write the perfect essay.

1.) Be Prepared

Remember that time when you stayed up late to finish a homework assignment hours before it was due? (If you’re anything like me, that question only requires your short-term memory). Well, no matter how well you argue that you “work best under pressure”, the college application essay is different – just consider the fact that application essays are released several months ahead of the deadlines. If you want to write a successful essay, you must start early! Take the time to look over all the essay prompts, thoroughly brainstorm what you want to write about, and write several drafts. The entire essay process takes a lot of time, so be sure to start well in advance.

2.) Be Unique

Your essay should uniquely add to your application, not reiterate what the rest of your application already says. For example, suppose you have to write an essay about a significant accomplishment in your life, do not write about getting straight A’s your junior year, as that will already appear on your transcript. Do not write about the time you won first place at the regional math competition, as that should already appear in your resume. Do not write about making the tennis team if you plan to write about that in another short essay or have your tennis coach write you a letter of recommendation. Use your essay to explain something significant about you that does not appear in the rest of your application.

3.) Be Interesting

Just about the only thing worse than reading a boring college application essay is reading 34,302 of them (that’s the number of applicants Harvard had last fall). The chances are high that your admissions dean will be reading your essay after he or she has already read hundreds, if not thousands of others on the exact same topic. Make sure that you can stand out to your reader by writing an essay that is both interesting and memorable. Consider using creative metaphors, unexpected twists, or even tasteful humor to captivate your reader and draw him or her into your essay.

4.) Be Descriptive

Being descriptive does not mean using a gargantuan overabundance of flowery, ornamental adjectives and adverbs that you unmistakably generated in painstakingly obvious fashion from the ever useful and practical yet overused, hackneyed, and sometimes altogether unintelligible “synonyms” tool in Microsoft Word (don’t act like you don’t know what I’m referring to). Rather, being descriptive means using words to depict a vivid picture of whatever you are writing about. Your descriptions should allow the reader to gain a deeper understanding of your specific subject as if he or she were there, sensing and experiencing it in person. Choose your adjectives and adverbs purposefully, and not just to add words or to show off your (or Microsoft’s) impressive vocabulary.

5.) Be Concise

You have a limited number of words to describe yourself fully. Don’t waste precious space with unnecessary words or irrelevant commentary.

6.) Be Correct

It is critical that your essay be well written and error free. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes will be noticed by your reader and could severely detract from an otherwise strong application. Ask your parents, teachers, friends, and others to read, edit, and critically analyze your essay. Make sure you are prepared to write and re-write several drafts before you submit your final essay.

7.) Be Yourself

Don’t forget that the whole purpose of this essay is for the college admissions deans to learn something about you as a person. Your essay is effectively the college’s window into the person you are at your very core – something that isn’t expressed in transcripts or test scores. For example, if you choose to write about an activity, make sure you focus on how it changed you rather than simply stating what you did or accomplished. If you choose to write about an event, describe the event briefly and use the rest of the essay to explain why that event had a profound impact on your life. If you write about someone who has inspired you, don’t spend more time describing their life than yours. Finally, be honest and accurate and don’t simply write what you think college admissions deans want to hear. Not only can the admissions deans spot the difference, but also the colleges that are the best fits for you will ultimately accept you based on the person you really are.

*For additional tips or for help brainstorming and editing your college application essay visit our store for 1-on-1 sessions.