What Admissions Officers are looking for:
You: Reveal something about yourself that you have not revealed elsewhere in the application; offer another, more personal look at yourself.
Surprise: Approach the topic of your essay from an unexpected angle-even if the experience is ordinary.
Genuineness: Write without pretension and without taking yourself too seriously.
Thoughtfulness: Write what you think about your experience and its meaning to yourself or to others (or to both).
And how to help them find it
- Think about who your audience is. Probably five or six recent graduates of the college and a director of admissions are reading your essay, all of whom have spent the last month reading thousands of applications.
- Think about your purpose. Instead of thinking about "selling yourself" or "getting in," focus on being yourself, which usually means writing about yourself in human, rather than superhuman, terms.
- Focus. Instead of generalizing about your experience ("I like sports"), be as specific as you can. (Write about a single baseball game that you will always remember, whether or not your team won).
- Use precise and economical language.
- Give your essay momentum. Make its parts work together and move to a point.
- Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Be sure to proofread your essay.
Looking for a new approach? A different angle?
Try using one of these questions to get your essay going.
- Recall a snatch of conversation you overhead while standing in line, waiting for a movie to start, or riding a bus. Why did it catch your interest?
- Did you ever get something odd in the mail?
- Which bones have you broken and how?
- Which childhood possession do you still own?
- What do you remember about the first person who ever gave you a valentine?
- Have you ever told a lie you wish you could take back?
- Have you ever received praise from an unexpected source?
- Have you ever been someone’s hero?
- If you had to start collecting something, what would you collect?
- Do you have a hiding place?
- Have you ever had an idea for an invention?
- Which section of the newspaper do you always read first?
- When you and your classmates are reminiscing at your tenth reunion, which one of your escapades or accomplishments do you think you will be remembered for?
- Name one thing you were taught in high school that you do not believe.
- Is your best friend from ninth grade still your best friend?
- Have you ever traveled to a place you want never to visit again?
- Have you ever played it safe and regretted it?
- Have you ever taken a chance and regretted it?
- Have you done something recently that you laugh about every time you think of it?
- Has someone ever turned to you for help because you have a particular talent, skill, or kind of knowledge?
- Have you ever pulled a great practical joke? A successful scam?
- What unusual features would you include in the design of your ideal house?
- What is the worst time you have ever had at an event where a good time was the point?
- What is the most embarrassing thing you have ever done?
- What is the dullest thing you have ever done?
- What is the best advice you have ever received? The worst?
- How did you learn to ride a bike, or ice skate, or drive a car?
- After your last argument, what did you wish you had said?
- Do you ever wonder what a famous person does when no one is looking?
- Have you ever experienced an irrepressible urge to laugh in a formal circumstance or during a solemn event?