You’ve taken the tests, requested the recommendations, completed the common app, and now it’s finally time to refocus on what you’ve been putting off: the essay.
While most students spend days, sometimes weeks, perfecting their personal statements, admissions officers only spend about three to five minutes actually reading them, according to Jim Rawlins, director of admissions at the University of Oregon.
High school seniors are faced with the challenge of summarizing the last 17 years into 600 words, all while showcasing their “unique” personality against thousands of other candidates.
“It’s hard to find a balance between sounding professional and smart without using all of those long words,” says Lily Klass, a senior at Milford High School in Milford, Mass. “I’m having trouble reflect myself without sounding arrogant or rude or anything like that.”
The following tips will help applicants make the leap from ‘average’ to ‘accepted’:
1. Open with an anecdote.
Since the admissions officers only spend a brief amount of time reviewing stories, it’s pivotal that you engage them from the very beginning.
“Instead of trying to come up with gimmicky, catchy first lines, start by sharing a moment,” says Janine Robinson, writing coach and founder of Essay Hell. “These mini stories naturally grab the reader … it’s the best way to really involve them in the story.”
Let the moment you choose be revealing of your personality and character. Describe how it shaped who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.
2. Put yourself in the school’s position.
At the end of the day, colleges want to accept someone who is going to graduate, be successful in the world and have the university associated with that success. In your essay, it is vital that you present yourself as someone who loves to learn, can think critically and has a passion for things—anything.
“Colleges always say to show your intellectual vitality and curiosity,” Robinson says. “They want kids who are going to hit the ground running—zoom to class and straight out into the world. They want them hungry and self-aware.
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3. Stop trying so hard.
“One of the biggest mistakes students make is trying too hard to impress,” Robinson says. “Trust that it is those every day, specific subjects that are much more interesting to read about.”
Colleges are tired of reading about that time you had a come-from-behind- win in the state championship game or the time you built houses in Ecuador, according to Robinson. Get creative!
Furthermore, you’re writing doesn’t have to sound like Shakespeare. “These essays should read like smart, interesting 17-year-olds wrote them,” says Lacy Crawford, former independent college application counselor and author of Early Decision. “A sense of perspective and self-awareness is what’s interesting.
4. Ditch the thesaurus. Swap sophistication for self-awareness
There is a designated portion of the application section designated to show off your repertoire of words. Leave it there.
On the personal essay, write how you would speak. Using “SAT words” in your personal statement sounds unnatural and distances the reader from you.
“I think most students are torn between a pathway dividing a diary entry and a press release. It’s supposed to be marketing document of the self,” Crawford says.
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5. Write about what matters to you, not what matters to them
Crawford recommends students begin by answering the question, “if you had 10 minutes to talk to them in person, what would you say?” The admissions teams are looking for authenticity and quality of thinking.
“Theoretically, I think anything could be ‘the perfect topic, as long as you demonstrate how well you think, your logic and ability to hold readers’ attention,” Crawford says.
6. Read the success stories.
“The best advice is to read essays that have worked,” Robinson says. “You’ll be surprised to see that they’re not winning Pulitzers; they are pieces of someone. You want your story to be the one she doesn’t put down.”
Once you find a topic you like, sit down and write for an hour or so. It shouldn’t take longer than that. When you write from your heart, words should come easily.
Rawlins recommends showing the essay to a family member or friend and ask if it sounds like the student. “Take a few days and come back to it. But only do that once,” Rawlins says. “Reading it over and over again will only drive you nuts.”
7. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.
While colleges tend to nod to disadvantaged students, roughing up your background won’t help your cause.
“It’s less about the topic and more about how you frame it and what you have to say about it, Robinson says. “The better essay is has the most interesting thing to say, regardless of a topic that involves a crisis or the mundane.”
The essays serve as a glimpse into how your mind works, how you view the world and provides perspective. If you have never had some earth shattering experience that rocked your world, don’t pretend you did. Your insights will be forced and disingenuous.
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8. Follow the instructions.
While the directions on the applications may sound generic, and even repetitive after applying to a variety of schools, Rawlins points out that every rhyme has a reason.
“They have to know that college put a lot of thought into the instructions we give them—so please follow them!” he says. “We’ve given a lot of thought to the words we use. We want what we ask for.”
9. Use this space to tell them what your application can’t.
Most colleges don’t have the time or bandwidth to research each individual applicant. They only know what you put in front of them. “If they don’t tell us something, we can’t connect the dots,” Rawlins says. “We’re just another person reading their material.”
Like Crawford, he recommends students imagining they are sitting next to him in his office and responding to the question, “What else do I need to know?” And their essays should reflect how they would respond.
At the end of the day, however, Rawlins wants students to know that the personal essay is just another piece of the larger puzzle. “They prescribe way too much importance to the essay,” Rawlins says. “It makes a massive difference—good or bad—to very few out there, so keep it in context.”
Paige Carlotti is a senior at Syracuse University.
admissions essay, college applications, Paige Carlotti, writing, VOICES FROM CAMPUS
The main question of all students who have to write a reflective or personal essay is whether it is possible to come up with such type of academic paper without sounding too egotistical. From one side, it might seem that there is nothing easier than writing about yourself. From time to time, even personal essays should stick to specific rules. For instance, the writing style is an obligatory condition.
In this article, I will try to reveal the basics of writing an essay about yourself so that you may use these tips in your academic life.
Tricks and Tips on How to Write a Personal Essay
We have gathered several life hints that can help every student to prepare for writing an essay on yourself. First of all, you should try to focus on your personal life experience. People would like to learn about the things you have gone through instead of some imaginative things.
Second, you should describe an experience which is related to your education. Describing your first wedding ceremony or gig with the music band is not the best idea. It is better to dedicate time to the things you've learned from school, college, or other educational institutions. If you have a specific person who inspired you to enter target college or work in the certain field, reflect this role model.
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Even though the essay about you should be focused on your name and deeds, do not start writing with the trivial phrases introducing yourself. It is still better to put an intriguing question which requires an answer in the end or begin with an interesting fact/quote/joke.
Third, let your family read the final draft once you are finished with your writing. Sometimes, you know yourself worse than people around you so that you can trust them.
Finally, try to avoid sensitive subjects like:
- Political situation
- Race and nationality
- Income level
How Do You Start an Essay about Yourself
As a rule, an essay about yourself contains up to 400 words. Although you can think that there is no specific topic for such type of paper, sometimes tutors assign particular subjects to discuss.
For example, you may be asked to write where you picture yourself in five or more years. It is your chance to prove that high school or even college education is not enough.
You should start telling personal things. However, use the great words you know to explain why you deserve the place in the target educational institution or company. Avoid making up a story; you should be as sincere as possible. Come up with the story describing the challenges you faced as a surgeon's assistant. Tell about the personal struggles you have gone through to accomplish your internship as a bank cashier. Provide the background of your sports achievements.
However, whatever you decide to recall, make sure it has a connection with your future profession. You can include an interesting part related to your hobbies, but don't go much into details.
On the whole, make sure to highlight your:
- Educational background
- Work background
- Skills and knowledge
- Life goals
For the affordable price, you can get an eye-catching introduction of any reflective essay.
10 Simple Tips on How to Write a Personal Essay
- Choosing the best topic
Go to the section with great topic ideas to discover new and time-tested examples.
- Formatting your paper
When writing an essay on yourself, you don't need to add abstract or reference page. The structure of personal statement is much easier. At the same time, you have to mind your:
- Its size
In other words, a paper dedicated to your life should look accurate and structured.
- Manage your time
Any academic paper has a deadline. A paper describing yourself has a strict deadline as well. It is better to start writing as soon as you are assigned the task. Thus, you will have more time to proofread and edit your draft. By the way, you should involve several drafts.
- Get your family involved
No, I am not telling you to use your family members as writing guides or something. It is better to get professional writing assistance from the corresponding service. I mean that recalling the stories related to your family or personal experience is a good way to appeal to the heart of your readers. You may share a story of your family member who used to cope with the serious disease. When you work on the paper about yourself, it is important to stay sincere and honest. So, if you have some really good life stories to share, feel free to do it.
- Find inspiration
If you have no idea what an essay depicting your person should include, you may get inspired by another person. It's okay if you don't have a rich experience or amazing story to share with your audience. Find people who were once students like you or describe the fate of your friends. You may also find ideas from the:
- Internet blogs
- Social networks
Find more inspiration after reading these ways to make your college essay great!
- Focus on the needs of university
If you are writing a paper about yourself as a part of your admission, describe your personal skills and university goals equally. Give them an overall idea of what you can do well, and describe how you can contribute your knowledge to the prosperity of that particular college or university. In order to sound less egotistical in the essay about yourself, please look through this advice.
- Avoid using complex words
Don't type the words you don't know - your Word will most probably fix all your grammar mistakes, but you need to know what every word means when you use it in the essay about yourself. Choose synonyms to make your text richer, but replace difficult terms with simpler words.
- It's all about great introduction
Forget about general phrases like "My name is..." or "Everybody loves.." When you compose an essay about your life, you don't have to sound trivial. Use statistics and interesting facts to begin your paper. Various quotations might also work. It's just important to choose citations that are related to your story somehow. You may read more about composing powerful introduction and other parts of this article.
- Keep away from sensitive subjects
Writing a paper that reflects yourself should not hurt the feelings of other students, tutors, or people around. The worst topics you might find for your personal paper involve gender, racial, political, and religious issues. It is recommended to make your essay more positive even if you prefer to recall a hard time of your life.
- Always revise the paper and double-check the grammar
A finished draft is only half the battle. Download grammar checker or use online checkers to have a text free of grammar, spelling, or punctuation errors. You should also get anti-plagiarism software to find out whether your content is 100% original.
College Essay Examples about Yourself
We have discussed so far how to start a essay about yourself and the overall structure recommendations. Here we go with the top topic ideas for the personal essay. If you want to avoid difficult argumentative essay topics, you may find some great ideas on this blog. Choose one of them:
- My early days at school
- How I survived my college years
- My first work experience
- Looking through the mirror
- How my friends influenced my interests
- The art of telling lies
- Learning English (a good topic for international students)
- The impact of my brother on my life
You can search for more topic examples as well as personal essay samples here.
One more thing: in case you still have some doubts regarding the quality of your paper, you may contact a professional online writing service and order a full job written from scratch.
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