5 Tips to Writing the Perfect College Application Essay

A guest post from our friends at Grammarly.com–enjoy! 🙂

For those of you studying for your SATs, all the best, and remember, if you are not satisfied with your scores the first time round, you can take the test again. Hurray for second (and third) chances, I say.

What you don’t get a second chance at though, is your college application essay. Put yourself in the Admissions Officer’s shoes, sitting at a desk, sifting through application after application, looking for something that is interesting and original. Their job is to select students who will be the right fit for their college. Your job is to write an essay that will convince them that that person is you.

So how do you do that?

As part of my work at automated online proofreader Grammarly, I spend a significant chunk of my time researching – both offline and online – how people write. One thing I’ve noticed is that good writers understand who their target audience is. They write for a specific person or group of persons, and do some research before writing.

Here are five tips that will help your college application essay get noticed (in a good way), and boost your chances of getting accepted into the college of your choice.

1. Research, research, research.

Find out more about the school you are applying to, not just through official channels – like the campus newspaper and the college’s website – but also through informal means, like online student forums or student blogs. Get a sense of what the college’s culture is like, and what its student community cares about. This will be very useful background information to have when writing your essay.

2. Celebrate difference, embrace flaws.

Playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Wise words indeed. Of course, being yourself in a college essay setting isn’t always easy. So think about showcasing who you are, not who you think the Admissions Officer wants you to be. Ask yourself, what makes you different from your friends, your peers, your classmates? I’m not suggesting you focus on your weak points in your essay, but that you highlight the things – your views, values, passions, interests – that make you unique.

3. Think like a movie director and story board your essay.

Think of some of your favorite movies. Now, imagine your essay is made up of a series of scenes in a movie. What scene should you begin with? The one where you first got off the plane to South Africa as a high school exchange student? Or the scene where, two months into your overseas study stint, you contracted Malaria? Your choice, but the sequence in which you tell your story is as important as the content of the story itself.

4. Be original, but avoid gimmicks.

While it’s tempting to try to be inventive and creative in your college application essay, make sure you don’t go overboard. You may love the idea of writing your essay as a series of Tweets, but chances are, the person reading it may find it gimmicky and off-putting. So remember, don’t let the form of your essay distract from the content.

5. Thoroughly proofread.

And regardless of what you choose to include in your admissions essay, remember that good grammar and error-free, accurate writing will give your essay an edge over shoddier pieces of work. Make sure you thoroughly proofread your essay before sending it out. Better still, get a relative or a friend to cast their eyes over your essay to offer a fresh perspective. Or run your essay through proofreading software like Grammarly to help with those blind spots.

All the best, and may you enjoy the journey ahead!

By Nikolas Baron

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