What Makes a Strong College Essay?

High school students should think of the essay as a chance to convey information not included in the rest of their application.
Writing a college essay could very well be the most high-pressure part of the college application process.

At some point, there is little students can do about grades, extracurricular activities and what will and won’t be said in their recommendation letters. The essay is the one component of the application students can control fully, and provides one last chance to leave a lasting impression.

Students who want to write a compelling essay should keep several things in mind.

Crafting an effective essay takes time.

This is not an exercise that can be procrastinated and done successfully. It takes drafts sometimes and it takes reflection, sometimes some deep personal reflection. [1]

The best personal essays tell the admissions committee something about a student that they wouldn’t otherwise pick up from an application. The strongest pieces not only have great descriptions of people and events, but ultimately explain how those experiences have affected the student.

 Effective essays also need to be well written.

Students should be sure to seek out a thorough proofreader. But students who rely too much on a parent, counselor or other person for writing help may face negative consequences.

An essay is a personal statement, so a student should be sure to make it his or her own words.

Excerpts: (Devon Haynie is assistant managing editor, overseeing cities coverage at U.S. News)
[1] John Gaines, director of undergraduate admissions at Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University