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So How Do You Impress that Admissions Committee?

October 5, 2011 by Mike in Admissions Essays

If it’s October, it’s the World Series, it’s Halloween, and it’s college application admissions time. And if you’re a high school senior intent on winning admission to a selective college or university, relax. Writing the college application admissions essay shouldn’t be as scary as your weird neighbor’s haunted house — it should be as much fun as a 9th-inning win in Game 7 of the Series. And this blog will explain how you can make that happen.

The thing is, far too many seniors forget who they are and what they have to say once they begin writing their college essay. It’s as if their personality and character evaporate and some musty, generic humanoid is all that’s left. If you’re one of those, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place. We’re your ProofreadingPal for a reason.

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In more than 25 years of teaching, I’ve helped seniors write successful admissions essays to just about every one of the most selective colleges and universities in the world, from Harvard and Princeton to Oxford and Cambridge. So here are a few tips:

Be yourself. Respond to the prompt. Tell a story only you can tell.

This may look like three tips, but they all work together. Of all the goofy things otherwise clever, honest, mature seniors make in their college essays, the worst is trying to sound like some grad school pseudo-philosopher instead of the witty, empathetic and insightful high school senior they really are. So back away from thesaurus.com. Now. Drop the pontificating. Think less PBS and Time and more Stephen Colbert and Sports Illustrated. But most of all, be yourself.

Too many seniors worry about what the admissions committee is looking for. There is only one answer to that, and it’s powerful in its simplicity: That committee, whether at Duke or Stanford, the University of Virginia or Texas at Austin, is looking for only one thing: You.

So write from the heart. Be the intelligent, authentic you. No one else in the world can do that. Use precise and concise language, but language that fits you as comfortably as your favorite pair of sneakers. Tell your story with anecdotes and dialogue, key details and action-image verbs. Take the reader with you. Show us what happened, don’t just tell us about it.

Don’t try to figure out what they want. All any of those bleary-eyed, over-worked and underpaid admissions folks want is to read a good story from a real human being. Give them one and you can be sure you’ll have the essay edge.

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