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Writing the Essay

The college essay, or personal statement, is your opportunity to tell a story only you can tell.  The goal is to give a college a fuller picture of who you are than your grades, test scores and completed application can provide.  The essay should be a reflection of you.  If it looks like Madison Avenue, the admission committee will probably assume that it is your mother’s or father’s or their secretaries’.  Write a serious essay, from the bottom of your heart, in the most mature manner possible.

  • DO start early.  Leave plenty of time to revise, reword and rewrite.  You can always improve on your presentation.
  • DO read the directions carefully.  You will want to answer the question as directly as possible, and you’ll want to follow word limits exactly.  Express yourself as briefly and clearly as you can.
  • DO tell the truth about yourself.
  • Do focus on an aspect of yourself that will show your best side.  You might have overcome some adversity, worked through a difficult project, or profited from a specific incident.  A narrow focus is more interesting than broad based generalizations. Don't just talk about the incident, tell how it effected you.
  • Do feel comfortable expressing anxieties.  Everybody has them and it is good to know that an applicant can see them and face them.
  • Do tie yourself to the college.  Be specific about what this particular school can do for you.  Your essay can have different slants for different colleges.
  • DO speak positively.  Negatives tend to turn people off.
  • DO write about your greatest achievements.  You should be proud of them!
  • DO spell check and proofread several times.
  • DO have someone, who knows you, read your essay to give you feedback on what your essay is reflecting about you. Have someone who doesn't know you read the essay.

BUT ………..

  • DON’T repeat information given elsewhere on your application.  The committee has already seen it and it looks as though you have nothing better to say.
  • DON’T write on general impersonal topics – like the nuclear arms race or the importance of good management in business.  The college wants to know about you.
  • DON’T use the personal statement to excuse your shortcomings.  It would give them additional attention.
  • DON’T use clichés.
  • DON’T write a “gimmick” essay.  The committee will be amused but unimpressed.
  • DON’T go to extremes; too witty, too opinionated.