Periodically, in a feature called “Tip Sheet,” The Choice will post short items by admissions officers, guidance counselors and others to help applicants and their families better understand aspects of the admissions process. As an inaugural post in this series, Martha C. Merrill, the dean of admission and financial aid of , and a graduate of the class of 1984, encourages incoming high school seniors to begin contemplating their college essays this summer. She also offers perspective on what she looks for in an applicant’s essay.
Another reason to focus your summer energy on crafting a quality essay: at this point in the admission process, it is one of the few things you can still control. This is your chance to show us what you are capable of when you have time to think, prepare, rewrite and polish.
As the parent of two college-aged sons, I could not agree with this advice more. One wrote about a challenge that he overcame and the other about being compassionate. Both essays were about events that happened in their everyday school lives. Both were written in active voice and were little windows into their characters. Neither used the words challenge or compassionate. I am convinced that it was the strength and sincerity of their essays that opened the doors at the top schools that said “Yes” to my sons. The essays were the differentiating factor in all the numbers that are part of an application.
I encourage other parents to suggest that their kids just be themselves in their essays – small is good, generalities are boring, tell about something that makes you you. Oh, and read The Gatekeepers – – it offers the best insights into the college admissions process of any of the dozens of books I read on the topic.
Ms. Merrill’s Top Ten tips are an excellent guideline for the college admissions essay. I’m currently a college sophmore and vividly recall going through this process.
One additional tip I would add is keep it lite. I think college admissions panels are tired of reading about how you spent your summer wielding a hammer for Habitat for Humanity or ladling soup in a homeless shelter.
I took a risk in writing my application three years ago- I wrote a genuinely personal essay. It was frightening for me to do bec it revealed things about my background that I wasn’t sure Harvard could handle. But it was a risk that paid off.
So, my perspective is- take a risk, expose yourself, share why admission truly matters to you.
While there is no magic formula for the perfect admission essay, there are a few things prospective college students should know. Here are my Top Ten tips:
A personal essay, such as “Why I Want to Be a Social Worker,” is often one of the easiest and most fun sorts of essays to write. You don’t need to do any research. You don’t need to quote experts. All you need is self awareness, passion, and the ability to articulate your feelings and opinions. Nevertheless, some students have trouble with the basic question. They have never really asked themselves why they want to be in this particular field. If you know exactly why you want to be a social worker, then congratulations: you can begin writing right away! If you have no idea why you want to be a social worker, don’t worry. You might be surprised that once you begin writing, ideas will just start coming to you. Writing is a great way to concentrate the mind. The first thing you should do is to brainstorm. Write down all of the ideas in your head, no matter how incomplete or silly they might seem. Write down all the possible reasons why someone might want to be a social worker. The ones that are not true for you will feel false to you right away, and the best answers will leap right out at you.
Most college admission officers agree that a student’s character is the most difficult thing to measure on the application. College essays are the place for students to reveal their personal stories in an authentic, engaging and sincere way . In addition to what has already been mentioned, it’s important to read the essay prompts carefully and understand the intent of the question.