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Tips for writing a strong college essay


Thursday, July 12, 2012
A strong and engaging college essay allows a student to leave a lasting impression on college admissions officers. The essay provides the student with an opportunity to reveal himself as a whole person, not just a grade point average and an extensive list of extracurricular activities. To help prospective college students craft a strong essay, Patrick O’Conner, former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and a Huffington Post blogger, offers these four tips:

Be yourself

I think the first [tip], and I’ve heard high school counselors say this time and time again, is be yourself. You are not giving a speech; you are writing an essay, and the purpose of an essay is to have the college understand who you are. Try and keep the tone of your essay conversational and that’s what good writing really is - it’s conversational. It should have a good, strong structure but also show a little bit about your tone. Don’t talk yourself into thinking that they’re looking for something special.

Don’t pretend to be someone else to impress admissions officers

The second [tip] is really more of a "don’t," and that is don’t try to be someone else. I know that kind of sounds like the same thing, but a lot of times when students try to write essays, the first thing they say to themselves is, “OK, what do the colleges want me to say?” They then pretend to be someone they’re not. That is pretty much a guarantee that they’re going to have an unsuccessful essay because the goal of the essay is to show them who you are. The colleges want to hear your voice, so really think about it in terms of what you have to say as a person. Don’t think about what they’re expecting because all they’re expecting is to get to know you better.

Let your essay flow naturally

The third thing I would say is be careful about your topic. You want to make sure you talk about something you know a great deal about. You should not push too much humor. A lot of times students try to force a joke or force humor. Let the essay come naturally. If there is a humorous moment you’re talking about, that will show up by itself as opposed to you trying to push it. That is important.

Get a second opinion

The other thing I would say is that you have to show [your essay] to someone else before it goes off to the colleges. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an English teacher, but it should be someone who knows you and who has an understanding of basic grammar. We want to make sure that the student’s voice is there and also that it’s a polished voice. Showing it to someone else can really give you that approval that it is you and that it is your best voice.ADNFCR-16000756-ID-800817544-ADNFCR

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