No pressure – just remember a bad essay topic can destroy your chances of getting into a selective college, however, a strong essay topic will be in your favor for a positive admissions decision.
You need to look at this as your chance of a lifetime! It’s one of the things in your admissions packet you can control. Actually, next to deadlines, it’s the only thing. Improving grades or test scores, could happen, but would probably take too long and time is not on your side in the college admissions process. So, let’s get at this and figure out what you can do to improve your admissions essay.
Practical Items: no typos, spelling errors, grammar errors. I was on a scholarship committee and read several hundred essays, I’m not the best writer in the world so when I found an error I quit reading. Seriously, why should I continue to read your essay/application when I have a stack of 40 other applications? I shouldn’t. You should respect your reader and submit an application that is error free. I’m not joking. My co-workers thought I was crazy, but I quit reading. Done. No more chances for you! Remember this as you are writing your essay. Have someone else check it. Word of caution, be careful how many suggestions you have on your essay. Don’t lose your voice! Once you start getting people to change your grammar, you might end up with a hodge-podge of writing styles that don’t flow.
Entertain me: Please don’t make your essay boring. I know, you are freaked out that your writing is being judged. But be yourself. Think about this paper you are currently reading… do you get a sense of my personality? I sure hope so. Although it’s not a formal paper, I am communicating with you and you do get a flavor of my personality. This is important! Remember the stack of essays I read? Your application needs to stick out of that pile. So be yourself. Write from your heart. Write about something you have passion for because it will come through on the paper. Let us know who you are through your writing and by all means, don’t bore me!
Be different: Just don’t be too different. I had an art teacher in 5th grade that would always tell us, “look beyond the obvious”. This does not mean write backward, or in secret code. That will annoy me. What it does me is use a controversial topic. You won’t offend the reader. They may disagree with you, but if you use the opportunity to develop a thesis with topic sentences, arguments and you can justify your point without spelling errors it will work in your advantage. Some of the best essays I read were about topics I disagreed with and you know what, they presented their arguments and justified them. Now at the end of the day they were wrong, because I’m right, but their application was helped by their passion in their writing.
Watch what you say: Oh crap, did you read the last sentence I wrote. I sound snobby. I admit it! But guess what my tone doesn’t matter as much as yours. I’m trying to learn you something… You must express your opinion without offending! Use caution to make sure your personality comes though with out being condescending, materialistic, snobby, elitist, or simply sounding like a jerk. I’m right about this. (Again, there I go with the tone)
Finally, Stop! Stop already. Don’t write too much, if you can condense two paragraphs into one, that’s the way to write. Respect your reader, they’re tired and probably bored by the 50 applications they just read. Imagine if you had to pay a dollar a letter, you would conserve the number of words. And FYI why would anyone use text-speak? Don’t.