Published April 15, 2019
Your admission essay should showcase the quality of your writing as well as your style, thoughts and ideas. The best essays will offer you a “voice” and an opportunity to illustrate your contributions to the community. Since most college boards want to know a little more about the person they are considering for admission, the number of admission essays that are required will vary from school to school, as well as the topics themselves. Here’s a short run down of what you can expect:
State University System (SUS) Application – The common application for a state university system offers three essay choices from which students are generally asked to complete TWO. The essays are an important part of the admissions process and should be no longer than 250 words each or a total of 500 words for both essays.
- Describe an activity, interest, experience, or achievement in your life (this could be a book, movie or an activity or experience at work, home or school) that has been particularly meaningful to you.
- How has your family history and culture influenced who you are?
- From your perspective, what have been the most important developments during the past twenty years that have improved the quality of life for our society and for other societies in the world?
The Common Application (100+ schools including Harvard accept this application) – Discuss in 250-500 words one of the following:
- Evaluate a significant experience or achievement that has special meaning to you.
- Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
- Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
- Describe a character in fiction, an historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
National Merit/Achievement Scholarship Application – In your own words, describe personal characteristics and accomplishments, as well as plans and goals that you feel are important to readers in forming a comprehensive picture of you as a person. What sets you apart? Include major contributions to your school and community, primary interests, and volunteer and paid work. Must be typed and approximately 500 words.
Private/Selective School Application
- What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced? How did you respond to it?
- If you were given the time and resources to develop one particular skill, or talent, or area of expertise, what would you choose to pursue and why?
- Let us know something about you that we might not learn from the rest of your application (Limit your response to one page. Students generally write about family situations, ethnicity or culture, school or community events to which they have had strong reactions, people who have influenced them, significant experiences, intellectual interests or personal aspirations. There is no “correct” way to respond here, but write about something that matters to you as this will convey a personal sense to the college board).
- Using a piece of wire, a car window sticker, an egg carton, and any inexpensive hardware-store item, create something that would solve a problem. Tell us about your creations, but don’t worry, we won’t require proof that it works (Again there is no right answer here).
Here are some tips that you will want to keep in mind as your write your essay:
- Write from your soul, write from your heart, and reflect upon your experiences.
- Be personal.
- Select a subject you can write about with feeling and authority, yet unusual enough to distinguish you from the mass of other applicants.
- Use vivid and precise language; avoid typos, misspellings and grammatical errors.
A few more admission essay recommendations:
- It is easy to write about one’s parent(s) as influential, but it is difficult to make a defining difference between your wonderful parent and all the other influential parents the readers will snooze through.
- The death of a grandparent can be moving and emotional but not unusual.
- It takes time, thought and some intellectualism to write about a particular book, world/local issue or historical figure; perhaps you might interest the reader in your ideas, feelings and analysis of such items.
- Choice of topic is not as important as the level of insight as long as the meaning and analysis is offered.
- Tasteful humor is always appreciated; arrogance or fluff turns the reader off.
- Personal adversity that affected your academic performance can be the topic of an essay but not as an excuse or to be whined about.
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