Writing the "Perfect" Essay
First of all, let us debunk the myth. There is no such thing as a perfect essay. There, we've said it. Now you can clear your mind of the anxiety that typically accompanies students as you sit down to write. Instead, you can focus on using the essay as a tool to let the Committee on Admission learn more about you as an individual.
Many of us feel that in the fall of your senior year, the college essay is the only portion of your application remaining on which you can still have a significant influence. Granted, you will need to continue working hard in your classes, but you have already met people who will speak highly of you in a recommendation, you have already been involved in various extra-curricular activities, and you have likely completed your standardized examinations. The one remaining portion is the college essay. We realize how hectic your senior year is, but take advantage of this opportunity.
The best essays that we read are ones that tell us not only about a specific event, mentor, excursion, or accomplishment, but also tell us how the writer has been affected by their experiences. For example, a typical essay might inform the reader of a trip to France that the student took the previous summer. It might focus on the challenges faced in getting to their destination, the French culture, or even the people that the student met. The better essay, however, takes it to the next level. It makes the experience personal. The student might choose to explain what surprised, frustrated, or inspired them about the trip. The student might choose to focus on how they now view the world a little bit differently after this newfound international perspective.
Another common example is students' essays on a person who influenced their lives. Frequently, we read essays about applicants' grandparents, for example. Many essays simply focus on the attributes that a grandmother has that make her special to the applicant. They may focus on the challenges that a grandmother has overcome or the successes she has enjoyed. They leave the reader knowing that the student loves his grandmother, but not knowing anything more about the student. The better essay, however, might also focus on the way the writer has attempted to emulate these admired qualities. The student might choose to share how learning of his grandmother's life experiences has helped him better understand the world. This allows us to learn more about the student and what makes the student special.
As you can see, in both of these examples, the first essay simply tells us of an experience, but the second essay shows us more about the individual. We walk away from it knowing a bit more about the qualities the applicant possesses and how he or she might fit into our campus community.
We hope that you will not view the college essay as a roadblock between you and your college choice, but as a unique opportunity to be in the driver's seat in the college process. Let your qualities, characteristics, and personality shine through. Best wishes as you begin your journey.