College Essays: Five Questions You Should Ask Before You Submit Them

college essay writingAre you deep into college essay writing at this point?  YOU SHOULD BE!  It’s time to get those essays going, so you don’t have to spend your entire Thanksgiving (and winter?!) break working on your college applications.  Just a little time each day will add up to save you a chunk of time later!

Here are five important questions to ask yourself as you proofread and revise your essays:

Do I express something new about myself, something that the reader won’t know just from reading my resume or activities list?
Your college essay is your chance to go beyond your resume, explaining the significance of the things you’ve done in your life.  Don’t just rehash a list of your accomplishments.  They’ve seen that!  Give them some of your personality.  Tell a story that really shows who you are, and what you might contribute to their campus community.

Am I memorable and/or likeable?
This is really important.  When college admission counselors review your application file, they have to remember something about you.  They will most likely present you to a committee, so you need to help them be your advocate!  What can you give them that will help them present you in the most favorable light?  You don’t have to be an Eagle Scout, captain of the football team, first chair violin or the lead in every play.  But you have to be memorable in some way!

Do I tell a story that illustrates my personality traits, instead of just telling the reader that I have them?
What are you trying to show with your essay?  Are you trying to prove that you are resourceful?  Then tell a story that SHOWS your resourcefulness, so the reader can draw the conclusion that you are, in fact, resourceful!  SHOW, don’t TELL.  If you tell us you are reliable, that’s one thing, but if you relay a story that PROVES you are reliable, that’s stronger.  [Do you need a list of personality traits to get you thinking? Here it is:  Unpack Your Adjectives]

Do I write about stories that couldn’t be told by any of my peers?
There are a lot of you applying to college every year – and many of you have had similar experiences.  Sleep away camp?  Check.  Volunteering in a country with less-advantaged people?  Check.  Parents divorced/grandma/dog died?  Check and check.  You could write about things like this.  But you must do it in a way that differentiates YOUR experience from everyone else’s.  Even better – write about something that is uniquely yours.

Do I get deep enough?
This is the hard part.  But here’s the truth:  when you go deep, when you show a little bit of vulnerability, your human side, you’re likeable.  Every one of the colleges to which you are applying is looking for someone who will be a great roommate, teammate, and classmate.  They’re looking for human beings who will make their campuses better.  That’s you.  You just have to prove it to them.  Here are some ways to think more about that “going deep, getting vulnerable” part.  We know it’s hard!

If you want a few more questions you can ask yourself to make sure your college essay does what you need it to do, check out College Essay Guy’s Great College Essay Test.

And you should also check out Five Ways Your College Essay is Different From Your English Class Essays.

Good luck – get writing!


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