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Write a Great College Essay

Posted on: September 25th, 2014 by Lori Greene

If you are applying to a selective or highly selective college, you’ll probably be required to write an essay or a personal statement. Chances are you’ve already started to write them. But if you haven’t, don’t panic. The essay is your chance to bring your application to life.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Read first. What is the question? How many words can you use? This is one of the biggest mistakes applicants make: submitting an essay that doesn’t answer the question or fails to stay within the guidelines.
  • Brainstorm. Think about what you want to write. If you only had a few minutes to share something unique about yourself, what would you say? Use your essay to tell admissions counselors how you stand out. Something you learned, a novel approach to a problem, or an experience that shaped who you are today—these are all things that can set you apart.
  • Stay away from the resume. Don’t use your essay to reiterate your resume by listing all of the sports, clubs, and organizations you are a part of in your school or community. Think of the essay as a great cover letter or an opportunity to tell a story.
  • Be honest. This probably goes without saying, but be truthful and passionate. Paint a picture for the reader as if he or she is there. You don’t need to use a laundry list of adjectives. Build the story by sharing something about yourself or your point of view.
  • Take a risk. Some of the best essays I have ever read started with an unusual statement. To this day I still remember an essay that began, “Old people are stinky.” The student brought to life his experience volunteering at a senior living home, where his initial bias changed due to some great chess games with a war veteran named Charlie.
  • Remember the basics. Spell check. Read your essay out loud for grammar and transitions. Use an easy-to-read font size. If you used the same essay for a different school, take the name of that school out of the essay. If you e-mail the essay or upload it to your application account, put your name and address on it. Sending something from “girllovespink@hotmail.com” doesn’t help the admission office match it to you application.

As you prepare to apply to Loyola, I hope you include a great essay that will make me walk out of my office and share it with other admission officers. Each year, we are amazed by students who take the time to tell their unique story. And we look forward to what these talented students will bring to the Loyola community in years to come.

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