Telling Your Story: A Guide To The College Admissions Essay

Well, you’re doing it. After years of hard work in high school, you are applying to college. You’ve sent in your transcripts, taken your ACT or SAT, and are thinking hard about where you want to spend the next four years. But there’s a catch: you must write a personal essay with your college application.

The personal admissions essay certainly inspires a high level of anxiety in most college applicants, and with good reason. For many, the personal essay is the first time they have been asked to write about themselves rather than a researched academic topic or school project.

But, the intrepid applicant should have no fear! With these four simple tips, the personal essay can be a relatively painless (and perhaps even fun) part of the college application process.


A Broad Perspective

One of the most intimidating things about the college application essay is the way it is posed as a personal question. Many colleges and universities ask applicants to answer some variation of the question: What makes you different?

At first, this can seem like an impossible prompt. Many applicants report feeling nervous that their relatively “normal” life contains no interesting “differences” to write about. However, as this former college professor writes, many applicants indeed do have unique experiences that would make for a perfect answer to this question. The key here is to think broadly about your experiences. Rather than relate the question of “difference” to yourself (i.e. personal or family background), think about people or groups you have served with. Another option to consider is to write about a singular unique experience that you feel has shaped you in some way.


Think Positive

Apart from thinking broadly about the definition of “different,” another helpful tip is to think positively about writing the essay itself. Though it may sound cliché, keeping a positive attitude will greatly improve the tone of your writing. According to the admissions team at Carleton College, applicants will be well served to think of the personal essay as an opportunity, not a chore.

Among other tips, the admissions team at Carleton recommends that applicants consider the ways that the personal essay allows them to express themselves. Thus, the essay allows applicants to take at least some of the college application process into their own hands.


Rock The Boat

Another common source of fear for applicants facing the personal essay: I don’t want to sound too opinionated. As a result, many applicants create essays that, while well-written and grammatically perfect, are just blah.

According to U.S. News, (the publishers of the famous “Best Colleges” Lists), many admissions officers suggest that applicants take a stand on an issue or topic, especially one that relates to them personally. With this approach, not only will you be more invested in the essay, but any person who reads the essay will be entertained and encouraged to read more. Writing from your opinion is much easier and natural than forcing yourself to write “bland.” Ultimately, this is the goal of the application essay: to capture the attention of the reader while expressing yourself.


Remember Why

More than anything else, the most important tip to writing the personal essay is to remember why you are writing it in the first place. The personal essay is both a way to introduce yourself to the college of your dreams and the method by which the admissions committee can place you within the institution.

According to the college admissions experts at College Express, keeping your college dreams in mind while writing the essay will not only serve as a motivating force, but it will also help you see how your personal experiences directly relate to the university community you are eager to join.


Get Help From An Expert

Applying to College is a stressful but an ultimately rewarding process. Wherever you are on the road to higher education, the success masters at Presenting Perfection can help. Whether it’s preparing for interviews or a public speaking consultation, let Presenting Perfection help you be your best self. Contact them today!