If you haven’t started working on your personal essay for the college application, it is time to get started. Here are some things to keep in mind and some resources to help you write the best essay you can.
Admission officers at a number of well ranked colleges offer the following advice:
Let us get to know you. The personal essay is an opportunity for you to share who you really are, beyond grades, test scores and activities. What matters to you? What inspires or challenges you? How do you think? How do you perceive the world around you? Share yourself and round out the picture painted by your statistics.
No subject is too mundane. Not everyone has a dramatic or life changing event to write about and that isn’t necessary. Admission officers note that some of the best essays they’ve read have been about mundane topics: riding the bus to school, a part- time job, taking up a new sport and the correlating change in life outlook that came with the change. As long as you can bring your personal insights to the topic, or share what you’ve learned, or how the experience changed you in some way, you’ve got a good subject to write about.
Spend a lot of time. A well written essay that is insightful, thoughtful, reflective and well written takes time. This is the only part of the application process that is personal and open-ended. Don’t short change yourself by leaving it to the last minute. Let one or two people you trust and who know you well read your essay and comment on it. The danger of having too many readers and comments is that you may edit out your “voice”, and you want your “voice” to shine through the essay. Take a break and reread your essay in a few days. See what you think now.
Finally, proof your essay carefully. Do not rely on spell check. Admission officers share funny, but cautionary stories of essays where the word “bunnies” was substituted for the word business as in: I’m interested in your bunnies program. And, make sure you use the name of the correct college! Most likely you are applying to a number of schools and will reuse your essay. Although admissions officers know this, it does not please them to read how you are very interested to attend another institution when applying to their college.
Click on this link for a list of books at the Marin public libraries that can help you with your essay: http://bit.ly/pdmrVf
Good luck! You can do this.
Shereen Ash, Teen Librarian Fairfax Library