When it comes to college applications, the hardest and most time-consuming part is the essay(s). This is also the part that will set you apart from others. It is important to get good ACT/SAT scores, a solid GPA, and have some interesting extracurriculars, but the essay provides a lot of insight for admissions officers and gives you a chance to make your application stronger! There is the main 650 word essay for the common app that is sent to most or all of your colleges, and then there are the shorter ones that have different prompts from each college.
My advice for the main essay:
- There are usually 5-6 prompts every year and they don't change every year that much
- I recommend choosing 2 prompts and brainstorming ideas for both
- Once you get farther into brainstorming/drafting, see which one you think will be stronger or tell more about yourself
- Once you have chosen a prompt and started drafting, make sure to keep the following in mind:
--- this essay should be about YOU and what you have done/accomplished/learned
--- use action verbs (sometimes onomatopoeia is a really popular thing to have in essays too? heard this from my high school counselor)
--- make sure the experience you are writing about says something important about you (don't just write a pretty, pointless anecdote)
--- try to focus on one experience/idea and focus on a few things that you did/learned/etc based off of the experience/idea
--- don't write a pity story unless it has truly impacted you (if you do this make sure most of the essay is about you and not about what happened to a close friend/tragedy/divorce etc. Usually admissions counselors like positive stories, and they will not accept you just because they feel bad for you.
--- try to use an attention grabber at the beginning of your essay - they read thousands of them so try to pull them in!
--- don't let your parent write this for you- they can tell if your parent did write it!
--- have a nice closing that shows progress/change from the experience you talked about in the bulk of your essay!
My advice for the shorter essays:
--- the prompts usually overlap for some of the colleges (why do you want to study xyz? what is the extra curricular that you enjoyed the most and why?). For these you can copy and paste chunks from one prompt for one school to another similar prompt from another school. If it makes sense under both prompts, you might as well make things a little easier for yourself!!!
--- make sure not to put the wrong COLLEGE's NAME in your essays if you copy and paste = automatic turnoff for admissions officers if they are from UVA and your essay says you are excited to study xyz at VT!
--- these essays have very tight word limits (150/200), so be sure to only include necessary information that is important to answering the question, and again, tells more about YOU!!!
--- If you are talking about why you want to study something - say you are very interested in that colleges program for your major - this shows you did the research and shows commitment to your major and interest in the college
--- If you are talking about an extracurricular you did in high school, maybe add that you see yourself continuing this at that college - "the community service outreach programs at UVA is something I am interested in being a part of on campus so that I can continue to impact my community in the future...".
Hope this helps!