In Everything You Need to Know About College Applications
, I describe all of the moving parts to College Applications and describe how the entirety of the high school career prepares you for your undergraduate experience and the College Admissions process. While your high school transcript and test scores offer a measure of your ability to handle the academic rigors of the undergraduate experience, college essays are one the most effective way to set yourself apart from
thousands of equally qualified and interested peers.
College Admissions Officers want to know two things about every applicant– and your essays are how you will provide that information:
1 Who are You ?
What are your passions and experiences that can tell us something about the student you’ll become within a university campus community? What brings you joy? How will you contribute? Below I’ll share examples of essay prompts that are asking this type of question and how to respond.
2 What “Problem” do you want to solve?
What do you want to learn alongside your peers on our
college campus? This is a multi-part question. Knowing what you want to learn and being able to demonstrate “informed interest” about a specific university is an admissions advantage!
(It’s okay to be “multi-disciplinary” –in contrast-“undecided” – that’s not the message to present because “undecided”–doesn’t scream I WANT TO LEARN!!. Moreover, platitudes about esteemed faculty or dream schools mean absolutely nothing- read on- to understand more about what you need to show in your essays. All of this is truly a piece-of-cake if you’ve been engaged in directed and guided college research throughout your Sophomore and Junior years.)
SENIORS- ARE YOU READY FOR COLLEGE APPLICATION SEASON AND WRITING YOUR COLLEGE ESSAYS?
TIPS for College Admissions SUCCESS!
UNIQUE PRESENTATION MATTERS!!
This two-part series tells you more about your college application essays.
Whether you live in Boca Raton, Florida
, Boulder, Co
or New York City, San Francisco or a small town in the Midwest, two of the most important ways in which you’ll distinguish yourself on your college application from your equally qualified peers are your extracurricular activities (including honors and awards earned) and the content of your essay(s). Essays should reveal your strengths, passions and how you connect to others by sharing your experiences in a heartfelt and authentic essay.
Recognize that for each university, there are more qualified applicants than there are available spaces in the freshman class. A very large percentage of students have equivalent academic credentials including the appropriate/recommended high school curriculum and G.P.A., interesting and relevant extracurricular experiences, strong teacher recommendations and solid standardized test scores.
With acceptance rates in the single digits in the most selective undergraduate degree programs and your chances of acceptance at state flagship schools hovering at less than 50%, how do you make a difference and receive a college admissions acceptance letter?! (Learn More: Read the Myth of Acceptance Rates)
YOUR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS ESSAYS!
YOU SAID ESSAYS – How many essays are there exactly?
The short answer – there is at least one college application essay and for most colleges, there are as many as seven required responses to college-specific essay prompts!! Yes, you read that right!
Types of College Essays — Common App 2020-21
There are two type of essays:
Common/Coalition Application Core Essay (650 words)
College Specific Supplemental Essays (varying in length: 150 to 800 words – as few as one and as many as seven additional prompts).
and to OPTIONAL Spaces to provide more information:
— Anything Else? (650 max)
— COVID PROMPT (250 max)
Let’s discuss the differences and how to tackle your essay(s). Even at one-essay-only colleges, there will often be a supplemental essay to receive consideration for Honors programs and/or academic scholarships.
The College Admissions CORE ESSAY
Whether your application is being submitted through the Common or Coalition portals, nearly every university will require a version of a “Core” essay (CLICK for Common App Core Essay Prompts
), providing the student with an opportunity to reveal and share information that isn’t submitted elsewhere in your application materials.
The admissions essay is a very critical component of your application as it allows you to distinguish yourself from other students and to introduce yourself to the admissions committee. It is how to share and highlight your unique strengths and experiences in a way that your transcript and test scores cannot fully illuminate.
In my decades of experience reviewing numerous undergraduate and graduate applications as a university faculty admissions representative, I can attest to the fact that the content of your essay is often the deciding factor in being admitted, everything else being equal!
A good essay provides readers with a clear understanding of how your experiences have shaped your view of communities and your potential to have an impact on others. The essay is NOT an annotated resume nor an opportunity to restate the materials already noted on the important ‘Activities” section of the Common and Coalition Application.
Your essay is an invitation to tell a personal story that allows the reader to infer important personal characteristics about you based on the anecdotes and experiences you shared. Aim to showcase your personal interests and strengths, your character, your personality all by telling a story in an authentic and heartfelt way about people you’ve met, experiences you’ve enjoyed, and lessons earned.
I ask my clients to begin by thinking of experiences that may have brought humor, happiness or even sadness into their lives. The things you remember most are those that shape you – they make you laugh, cry, they are worth sharing because they tell a story that defines you and provides insights about where you want to go with an emphasis on what you hope to achieve during your collegiate experience.
Above all, connections you’ve made with real people – people you helped in volunteer work, teammates you inspired or who inspired you, family members who influenced you or friends, teachers and coaches who helped shape your values are all opportunities to reveal how you interact with others.
Admissions representative are forming a freshman class and while your transcript and test scores are predictors of your ability to succeed academically, your essay is necessary to determine how you as an individual add to the freshman class. Are you a community member ready to contribute to a vibrant global campus community?