The Essay

  • Colleges ask for essay from applicants for just two reasons:

    • To know you better
    • To assess your writing ability

    What do colleges want to see in this essay?

    • They want to know more about you than what your grades and test scores tell them.


    • Show, don’t tell.
    • Speak from the heart. Speak with your unique voice. Does it sound like you?
    • Use anecdotes, textures, images, examples to carry your “story.”
    • Explain extenuating circumstances: LD? ADHD? Some poor grades? Significant problems that affected your grades? 
    • Avoid beginning sentences with “I”. Avoid “there is/are”.
    • Don’t repeat information found in other parts of the application.
    • Start with an anecdote or an image.
    • Let one incident in your life or one experience be a metaphor for the whole.
    • Have a good writer read your essay to critique it. Also, ask someone who doesn’t know you well to read it. Ask them if it tells them something about you.
    • Write about something you care about.
    • Length? Follow the restrictions set by the college.


    • DID YOU ANSWER THE ESSAY PROMPT?  Often prompts are have multiple parts.  Did you answer each? 
    • “Too much information”: your sex life, your religious convictions, the details of your parents’ bad marriage
    • Humor – if you are good at it – is fine, but what is funny to you may not be funny to an admissions officer.
    • Respond to the question(s) from your unique perspective.