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Think Before You Type: the Importance of the College Essay

A list of all of your classes, tests, and grades may tell someone who does not know you that you were a smart student, but it will not say much about your personality, interests, or work ethic. That is what your high school transcript essentially is: a list of all of your classes, tests, and grades that does not say much about your personality. This is why the college essay is such an integral part of your college application; it allows admissions officers to get a glimpse into your history and what makes you tick.

Your college essay demands plenty of time and work to get right. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your excellent grades alone will get you into your dream college. After all, there are thousands of other students jockeying for admittance into the same school as you, and even the biggest colleges only admit several hundred students out of the thousands of applications they receive. You need to stand out from the crowd to get noticed, and the best place to do that is to deliver a particularly stunning essay. Your essay is a reflection of your personality. Use it wisely.

Think about the essay prompt. Most essay prompts ask you to describe yourself or the reasons why you have decided to attend a certain school. Nearly all essay prompts can be answered and supported with a short story about something that you have done or experienced. Relaying a personal story is one of the best ways to make your essay interesting and to tell admissions officers more about you. If your prompt asks you to describe why you would like to go to that particular school, relay an event that made you decide to pursue your career path and how that school offers the best programs for that career path. Write vividly and your essay will sound much more interesting and insightful than the Plain Jane essays that merely answer the question with a few dry examples. Also, pick incidents from your past that let your best traits shine through. For example, pick moments when you showed exemplary leadership, confidence, and determination in the face of adversity. Your personal essay is a good place to let your best qualities shine.

Finally, make sure that when you are done with your essay to look over it again. Check for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as for sentence coherence. Also be sure that your essay sufficiently answers the prompt. It is good to tell the admissions officers about what makes you a good candidate for the school, but do not get so carried away that you forget to answer the prompt.

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