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College Admission Essay Writing

This is a website about persuasive writing. We discuss brochure writing, advertising copywriting, and marketing writing. We talk about speeches and memos and proposals. The common theme is that this is a website about selling a product or a service.

Why then are we talking about college admission essays?

Every year about half a million high school seniors apply to college and most of them are required to submit an essay along with their application. Fifty percent of applications will not be accepted by the college of their choice and overall, only about 10% of applicants will be admitted to the name colleges.

This all means that the college admission essay can be an important factor in deciding whether to further consider an applicant or reject the application.

Is this fair? Probably not. If an essay is so important it stands to reason that a great student with poor writing skills may well lose out to a lesser student who is a better writer.

But rather than complain about the unfairness, students who want to gain admission to a good college can look upon the importance of admission essays as a great opportunity.

The truth of the matter is that applying to college is a kind of marketing. If you want to get into a prestige college you are the product. Your goal is the sell the product to the college and the way that you do that is to “brand” yourself and differentiate yourself from the competing applications.

The good news is that a great college essay can do just that.

Here is a short list of tips to help you write the college essay that can move you to past the competition to the front of the line.

  1. Think of the reader. As an applicant you have only the one essay to write. But the poor reader at the college has a huge pile of essays to get through. This is an opportunity for you to make points. If your essay is more interesting and more fun to read, the poor overworked reader will appreciate your efforts and reward you with a positive evaluation.

  2. Differentiate yourself by being yourself. This is important. The class valedictorian or the captain of the football team can set themselves apart by reason of their accomplishment. But there is a much more powerful way to set yourself apart. No other applicant is like you and it is up to you to tell your story in a way that brings you to life in the mind of the reader. Finding the details that define yourself requires some hard work and soul-searching. But it is the key to writing an essay that will work for you. The actual content doesn’t matter. You can have passion for insects or American history. You can be a dedicated environmentalist or dedication to the rule of law. You can be concerned about the future of healthcare or be fascinated by social networking or computer technology. It doesn’t matter so long as you bring your passion to life in your essay in a way that is sincere and convincing.

  3. Follow the instructions.  If the application asks for 10 pages, don’t write 8 or 12. Comply with all application instructions. Edit and rewrite mercilessly. Write your essay, put it aside for a day and re-read it and make your edits. In addition to the main objective of bringing you to life in the mind of the reader, the essay must also demonstrate your mastery of grammar, sentence structure, organization, and logic. This is the easy part. Take your time and make it perfect.

Make it look good. Your essay should look good as it sits on the page. This may seem silly but neatness counts. It sends a message that the writer cares enough to make the essay as attractive and easy to read as possible.

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