You want to stand out. The application essay is your chance to let your college admissions office know who you are, and why you would be great at their school. Yet, on the practical side, you’re a busy senior with a calculus test on Friday. Here are five ways to create an interesting essay in a streamlined fashion:
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Between college and scholarship applications, you may have several essays to write, and many of them may ask the same type of questions. So don’t start from scratch each time you compose an essay. After you write your first essay, see if you can pull out sections that you can re-work and apply for other essays. It’s not just cutting and pasting, of course, you’ll need to modify each section according to the essay you’re writing.
- Spend more time editing than writing. Your essay should reflect some of your very best writing, which will require some serious editing time. Get your thoughts down fairly quickly. Starting with a simple outline, write first without worrying about things being perfectly well-said or in the perfect order—that’s what editing is for. Once you’ve got a very rough draft written, go back and re-work things. This is the time to fix your grammar, move things around, and consider whether some sections need tweaking. Take a break from it and come back the next day. You’ll be surprised at what you see with fresh eyes and how much easier it is to focus on editing, rather than shooting for perfection out of the gate.
- Get their attention. Remember that the people who will be reading your essay likely read hundreds of them. You want to stand out. Spend some time to make sure your title and opening paragraph are interesting and attention-getting. Imagine you only have a few seconds to grab their attention. What would you say? Consider your style for getting someone’s attention. Do you say something simple and intriguing? Or are you prone to bold statements? Maybe your style is more quirky. There are many ways to capture attention: say something unexpected, ask an interesting question, or spin a story that draws a person in. Choose what works for you and go with it.
- Let your voice come through. While you certainly want your essay to be interesting and attention-getting, you also want it to sound like you. Be genuine. Use your best grammar and punctuation, of course, but let your style and personality shine through. Start out by writing how you actually speak—pretend you’re talking to a friend. Then go back and edit it for grammar, etc.
- Get feedback from someone in the know. Once you have completed your best possible work, have someone else also review to make sure you didn’t overlook anything. This could be your English teacher, your parent, or another adult with good grammar and writing skills.