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Making Your College Admissions Essay Stand Out

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The essay portion of a college application serves as an excellent opportunity for a student to make a positive personal impression on admissions agents. Students’ GPA and SAT/ACT scores continue to play two of the most important roles in the college admissions process, but these serve as quantifiable metrics that don’t allow for a person’s unique character to shine through. A vivid essay can help one student stand out over the other when both individuals have similar measures on other metrics.  

Admissions agents often are tasked with reviewing numerous submissions back-to-back, and this can cause many essays to blur together. When students draft essays that are creative, original, and impactful, their submissions are more likely to be remembered by the very people they are trying to impress, and this can tip the scale in their favor. 

If you’re a student who wants to craft a college application essay that stands out from the rest, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Create a Bold Opening

Most college applications ask students to keep their essays under a specified word count, and this means that students have limited time to engage their audience. As mentioned before, college admissions agents receive hundreds of submissions, and many of these essays begin with introductions that read quite similarly to one another. For instance, previous research examined thousands of college application essays and found that the statement “From a young age, I have always been interested in…” to be one of the most common opening sentences. Creating a bold opening helps pique the interest of your reader immediately, and doing so also makes it more likely that he/she will be eager to see what you have to say next. Effective opening statements are ones that are unexpected, such as an opening that states a strange fact or recalls an interesting anecdote, and they should also tie back into the main point of the essay in a unique but clear way. Sample essays with strong introductions can be found here

Be Specific and Use Examples in Your College Essay

Some college applications ask students to write personal statements that are completely open-ended. This means that you can write about anything that you feel will convince the admissions agent that you will contribute something of value to the college-in-question. Other schools ask that applicants respond to a specific prompt or choose from a list of several topics. 

Regardless of which form your essay takes, you will be more successful if you make a clear, concise point and back that point up with specific examples. If you’re asked to describe the person who has had the greatest influence on your life, you will leave a stronger impression in the mind of your reader if you relay a compelling anecdote rather than make a vague statement. For example, if you say that your greatest influence is your mother because she is selfless, try to describe her selflessness by using a vivid memory of her sacrificing something for the benefit of someone else. Descriptive stories are more memorable than generic ones, and rich details also help create a strong impression of who you are as a person. 

Show Your Personality

While you want to be specific and bold with your essay, you also want to come across as authentic. Experienced admissions agents can often tell when a student embellishes something, and they also notice when someone tries to forcefully work in a unique sentiment in an attempt to stand out. It’s best to tell your story in a way that reflects your unique character and values by being personable, writing in a way that mirrors how you speak (while keeping it professional, of course), or incorporating your sense of humor. In other words, the essay will be received favorably by admissions agents if it comes across as memorable without being gimmicky. You will be more likely to make a positive impression if your sincerity helps you craft an essay that could only be written by you and about you. You know yourself best, so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. 

Proofread Your Work 

Regardless of what major you plan to pursue, you will need to be able to communicate clearly with your writing throughout your college career, and your college application essay serves as additional evidence of whether or not your writing skills are up to speed. While admissions agents won’t toss your essay out of the ring over minor typos or grammatical errors, they do take notice of work that appears hastily written.

Try to write your essay far enough in advance that you have enough time to come back and revise your ideas, as proofreading your first draft immediately after writing it often leads to overlooked errors. Additionally, having a friend or family member proofread your essay, especially if you know that person has a solid grasp on the rules of the English language, is a great way to catch errors that you would otherwise miss. Having another pair of eyes look over your work also helps ensure that your ideas flow in a logical and cohesive manner. 

Work with a College Admissions Consultant

Students often find the essay to be one of the most daunting aspects of the college application process. Unlike with an SAT/ACT score or a student’s GPA, a quality essay is not something that can be defined by a rigid number. This abstract nature of where to take the essay can leave students feeling overwhelmed about where to start. If you resonate with this sentiment, you may find it beneficial to work with a college admissions consultant. Finding someone who has extensive knowledge of what qualities an admissions agent will be looking for can help you craft a stand-out essay that is memorable for all of the right reasons. A consultant can give you feedback on how to improve your essay’s structure, how to enhance its readability, and how to make it more intriguing. This professional insight can give you a significant advantage over other applicants, and a qualified consultant can also provide you with feedback on other aspects of your application

Closing Thoughts

Your college application essay allows admissions agents to understand who you are as an individual and what you hope to gain from your college experience, and this can help you make a positive impression. Hopefully these tips have helped you feel ready and able to tackle your essay. If you craft a bold introduction, use specific examples, showcase your unique personality, and obtain quality feedback from family and/or professional college consultants, you should have no problem writing a memorable essay that will give you a competitive academic edge. Good luck!

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