Make Your College Essay Stand Out From The Crowd!


As a former dean with over fifteen years of admissions experience, I can tell you that the college essay can make or break your application. This is the one opportunity you have to “talk” directly to the admissions officer whose decision will decide if you get that “thick” envelope every applicant covets. The hard part is that same admissions officer has a huge pile of applications to review and yours is buried somewhere in the middle. Your essay has to stand out amidst the crowd of other applicants. Use these strategies to make sure yours jumps up, grabs the admissions officer’s attention, and gets you that offer of admission!

First, you’ve got to think of the audience that will be reading your work. Most likely, it will be a fairly recent college graduate just starting their career. Not the chairperson of the English department. So, throw out your thesaurus. Don’t use words like “plethora” or “analogous.” Your essay is not a vocabulary test!

An admissions officer will probably have thirty or more applicant files to review that day so your essay has to get their attention. Make yours be like guzzling three cans of Mountain Dew! Seriously. You can’t afford to be boring. The best way to avoid that is write about something that is interesting to you and to make it personal.

Goal number two is to make an emotional connection with the person reading it. They are going to “vote” on whether or not you should be allowed to join their exclusive club. To get a “yes” vote you need to get them to “feel” that you belong. Do that by having your essay reveal something about who you are, what you are like, or how you think.

Make Your College Essay Stand Out From The Crowd!Most of your application is full of papers that report impersonal data. Grades, test scores, courses completed. The essay is THE golden opportunity for your application to come alive and “speak” directly with that admissions officer. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity. Pretend you are having a conversation with a family friend. Write using the first person. But, do be careful not to start every sentence with “I.”

The best way to connect with your reader is to tell a story. A really interesting story that paints a picture. A vivid picture with specific details. Give your reader the feeling that they are actually there with you.

Finally, make an effort to tie your essay in to why that individual college is the best choice for you. Do this for each college application. Be specific. Don’t just use the same old generalizations everyone else does. Show you’ve done your homework by explaining exactly why their learning environment is the right one for you.

Yes, it will take some work to impress those admissions officers. But, your essay is important. Getting that thick envelope later on will make it all worthwhile!