You’ve probably been putting it off all semester, but you can’t procrastinate any longer — it’s time to write your college application essay. But do you know the real facts on how to make your essay stand out?
We talked to Monica DePriest, Senior Associate Dean of Admissions at Occidental College in Los Angeles. With eight years of college admissions experience and six years of high school counseling, DePriest was the perfect person to dole out great advice on writing a college essay.
We’ve compiled her words into a quiz below. Use it to test yourself on how well you can put together a compelling personal statement.
0 of 10 questions completed
Discover how to make your essay shine.
You have already completed the quiz before. Hence you can not start it again.
Quiz is loading...
You must sign in or sign up to start the quiz.
You have to finish following quiz, to start this quiz:
0 of 10 questions answered correctly
Time has elapsed
You have reached 0 of 0 points, (0)
The essay is one of the most important parts of your college application.
Most of your other materials– test scores, grades and recommendations — speak for you. The essay gives the student a chance to speak for him or herself, in his or her own words, says DePriest.
An applicants essay is usually read by one counselor.
At most universities, at least two counselors look at all the materials in a students application.
During the busiest time of the year, admissions counselors can read more than 50 essays a day.
January through March is typically the busiest time of the year for admissions counselors. I once read 60 essays in one day, DePriest says.
Admissions counselors count the words in an essay to make sure the student is following the application guidelines.
We dont count the words, says DePriest. Instead, they look at the whole essay to see if its well developed. The word count is a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule at most colleges.
If you cant come up with an inspiring story that happened in your own life, you should borrow something that happened to a friend, or something you read about– as long as you make it detailed and interesting.
If youre using the story, chances are dozens (if not hundreds) of other students are too — and that means counselors are seeing it over and over again. Be honest, says DePriest, and tell a personal story.
You should tailor your essay to what you think the admissions counselors want to hear.
Dont predict what a counselor wants to hear, says DePriest. She suggests writing about something personally interesting to you. If youre genuinely interested in your own story, it will come through in the essay.
Over-writing is one of the most common mistakes an applicant can make on his essay.
Be clear and direct, DePriest says. Dont use unnecessary words. She warns against getting buried in the writing– make sure the substance is greater than the length.
You should avoid familiar subjects like winning the big game or losing an important election.
You might not think so, but even a familiar story like winning the big game can be compelling for an admissions counselor. Its all about the treatment– how you do it, says DePriest. Be as specific as possible. Focus on the moments within the big events, not the event itself.
Humor is extremely tough to pull off in a college essay.
But what if youre funny? Does humor work? Sometimes, says DePriest, but its rare that its done exceptionally well. Your best bet is to come across as yourself. If youre funny, it will show in the essay. If not, the humor will feel forced and contrived.
You should let your friends proofread your essay.
DePriest suggests you show your essay to teachers, counselors and your friends. Ask them, Does this sound like me? she says. Dont let everyone see it, though. If theres too much feedback, the essay can lose its authenticity.
I’ve been wondering what would make a good college essay! I’ve been dreaming of college my whole life and thanks to this, I know exactly how to get in!!