posted Jul 30, 2010, 6:39 PM by Glenda Durano   [ updated Aug 27, 2010, 11:30 AM ]
College admissions essay…the very words strike fear into every high school student’s heart.  So much rests on the essay; it can be the deciding factor in admission, and it plays an enormous role in institutional merit scholarships.  What can a student do to create an extraordinary essay?  And how can a parent help?


First of all, the college admissions essay is a personal statement, with the emphasis being on the word ‘personal.’  Show yourself through your essay.  Don’t just write about something; have something to say.  Be enthusiastic.  Tell a story about yourself, avoiding stock answers.  Never write about something just because you think that an admissions committee would like to read it.  Write about a slice of life.  The essay doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, but it does have to be about YOU.  When it comes to the college admissions essay, a university wants to get to know the person behind the paper.  That’s you—so always be yourself.


Fear and dread accomplish absolutely nothing in writing the college essay.  You’re going to have to write that essay one day so you might as well do it sooner rather than later.  Because most applications (with their essays) are posted on the web year-round, there is no reason to procrastinate.  In fact, summer is a great time to write college essays.  Unfortunately, however, many applicants put off writing their essays until the last minute, hoping that they will go away.  Surprise!  They won’t.  Nevertheless, many students procrastinate for the sheer insecurity of not knowing what to write.  In that case, my advice is, in the words of the Nike advertisement, “Just do it!”   


This is where the parents can help.  Create a relaxed atmosphere where you and your student can brainstorm ideas (translation: pizza, ice cream, etc.).  Do a little work beforehand and peruse the essay topics on your own.  Write a list of events that would make good stories within the topics.  After all, you have been the activities director for the last 17 years!  Get together with your student, talk, and take notes.  Walk down memory lane by re-living relevant anecdotes and memories—humorous and serious—whatever is more your student’s style. Sometimes the most difficult step is the first one.  You can help your student by brainstorming.   


If at all possible, demonstrate a passion for something that the college offers in your essay.  For example, if a university has a unique program in marine science, but no symphonic orchestra, you might choose to write about your passion for the environment as opposed to your passion for the oboe.  Allow the admissions officer to see that you are a good match for the school by incorporating information about the university’s programs and resources, but first and foremost, make it personal.


Grammatically and technically, an admissions essay should be perfect.  Proofread, proofread, proofread.  It’s always a good idea to get another pair (or two) of eyes to read it through, too.  Vary your sentence structure and use more than a 6th grade vocabulary.  How you write is important, but even more important is what you write.  Your technical skills can be verified by your standardized test scores and letter of recommendation, but your passions cannot.


Every college-bound Christian is capable of writing an extraordinary essay.  Quite simply, the reason is because every child of God is extraordinary so, at the risk of ending a sentence with preposition…write on!