As you know by now, the essay portion of your college application is probably the most important part. This is the spot where admissions reviewers get to see what you are like as a person and what you want out of life. Or, they simply get to see how you develop an argument and where your writing skills are in comparison to other applicants. Either way, the essay is extremely important and a good one can make your application stand out.
Writing an admissions essay involves much more than simply putting pen to paper. Here’s how to get through the process, from the first inkling to the final revision.
Do Your Research
Now, before you can even think about starting an admissions essay, you need to do some research on the subject. If the essay itself requires research, you of course need to conduct that as well, but I’m not referring specifically to academic research here. Rather, you need to come to an understanding about what the requirements are of an essay. What structure should you use? What needs to go into an essay? How can you decide what is fitting essay material and what is not? These are all questions you need to answer before you start writing.
Once you grasp how to structure an essay, you will need to brainstorm to come up with some ideas for topics. Even though you may be given a prompt on the application, you will still most likely need to come up with a unique and creative topic that allows you to write an interesting and compelling essay. Brainstorming involves more than coming up with a topic, however. It also involves seeing whether or not you can expand upon a topic. Basically, you have to determine whether or not a topic is worth writing about.
With your subject securely implanted in your mind, it’s time to do some preliminary writing work. You need to flesh out the topic into an outline for your essay. You can do this by thinking of the various approaches you can take on this topic. If the essay is to be argumentative, you will need to develop an outline that emphasizes the main argument and the supporting points you will make. If you are writing about your life, you may want to steer clear of the five-paragraph essay and go for something a little more linear or narrative in form, as though you were telling a story. The outline of the essay will mirror the structure the essay will take. And the structure the essay will take is based heavily on the content your essay will contain.
Talk With People
Now before you dive into actually drafting your essay, take some time to talk to someone in the know. Your high school counselors are there to help you with precisely this sort of thing, so be sure to take advantage of their services. If you don’t have a counselor, why not ask for help from an instructor? More often than not, they are delighted to help students that want to go to college.
You need to talk to someone before you set your draft down onto paper so you get an idea of what is at stake and what your competition is like. You will probably be able to get your hands on sample essays and your counselor can give you some hints and tips on what admissions reviewers are looking for. I can’t imagine going into the essay writing process without having this knowledge.
Write It Out
With all of this fresh knowledge in your head and outline in hand, you can finally begin drafting your admissions essay. I wouldn’t worry too much about structure at first. After all, you want to get your most creative ideas out on paper first before you start complicating it with structure. You have the ideas in your head, so just let them flow out as naturally as possible. Once you have it all down on the page, try to set the whole thing aside for at least a week—preferably, two. This way, you can come back to the table with a fresh perspective and look upon your own words without that territorial twinge and be ready for the next step.
Revision is seriously the most important step of the entire essay writing process. Actually, it’s the most important step of any writing process. When you revise your essay, you will be looking first at the content you have created. Do you support your points logically? Is your thesis clear? Is the focus of your essay concise? Do you provide enough examples for each point you make? Is any one point “heavier” in content than another? If you find issues in these areas, fix them first. You will also want to double check your facts, if any, at this time.
Next, you will need to revise for structure. Does your essay have a solid introduction, supportive body paragraphs and a strong conclusion? Do you make smooth transitions from one paragraph to the next? Does anything seem out of place? If so, rework these parts until they are clear and consistent. You want one sentence to flow logically to the next.
Once you’ve completed the big revisions on your essay, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty stuff like fixing grammar issues and spelling errors. Now is the time to read through your essay and to break out those proofreading marks you learned in high school. Cross out unnecessary words, fix punctuation errors, and watch your word usage. These may seem like nit picky things to be concerned with, but you have to show the admissions reviewers that you take your writing very seriously. And what better way to portray that aspect of yourself than by submitting an essay with near flawless prose?
Once you have gotten your essay as good as it can be, let someone else give it a once over. I know what you must be thinking. “But I spent hours on that essay! It’s perfect!” And even though that may be true, the fact of the matter is, no one’s perfect. There is always room for improvement in writing and another set of eyes can help catch those small mistakes you might have skipped over. Peer editors usually don’t catch big mistakes, but they do catch grammar faux pas and usage mess ups. Make sure you select someone you trust for this duty, like a counselor, teacher or parent.
After you’ve gone over your essay one last time it’s time to submit it! Check over your application once more as well and submit the entire package as instructed on the application. By putting in the work, you greatly increase your chances of being accepted by the college of your choice. Even though it may seem like too much work now, it will all be worth it when you receive that acceptance letter.