For many colleges, essays are a key factor in the admissions process. It is very common for colleges and universities to require students to write an essay as part of their application. These essays can give you the chance to set you apart from other applicants and show the admissions officers something unique about yourself.
GET STARTED EARLY
One of the best ways craft a strong essay is to create multiple drafts. It is always a great idea to start brainstorming ideas and writing them down as you go. You don't even need to start at the beginning! Jotting down your thoughts on the essay prompt lets you get your ideas on paper, and you can go back and organize them later. Creating a rough draft, then a first draft, and then a final draft gives you plenty of time to re-read your essay, tweak your ideas, and improve the overall quality. Stretching this out over a long period of time can help, as you may remember certain things you missed or generate new ideas between drafts. Starting early also gives you plenty of time to have someone else edit your paper, which we will talk about later.
KNOW YOUR REQUIREMENTS
Knowing what to write is important, as well as when you need to write it. Checking the deadline for your essays is paramount. Waiting until your deadline is right around the corner can lead to anxiety, writer's block, limit your time to improve your essay, and have it edited. It is hard to go through the draft process when your essay is due in a day or two and you haven't even thought about where to start. Always give yourself more time than you think you need, and remember, getting an essay done early is never a bad thing.
After you identify your due date, looking at the prompt is next. You may find that quite a few schools have similar prompts, while some may have vastly different things they want you to write about. If the prompt asks a question, make sure you understand exactly what it is asking. If you are unsure, it is important to reach out to some and get clarification. Your CAA coaches are a great source to ask if you’re unsure.
Lastly, be sure to check for word count limits. Some essays have a minimum word count requirement, and some have a maximum. Staying within the limits is a must, as your essay maybe disqualified if it fails to meet those requirements. The draft process is a great way to help make sure you essay says everything you want in the right amount of space.
BE HONEST, AND BE REAL
A common mistake that students make is writing what they think admissions officers want to hear. In some cases, this can backfire. Be sure to answer the question or prompt honestly, and truthfully. Remember, the essays are a tool to showcase your personality and give a unique feel to your application. Answering with a generic response towards the counselors can diminish your application.
On the other hand, don't feel the need to over-brag either. Most applications have section for awards and accomplishments, so you don't have to cram all of those in to your essay again. Admissions counselors aren't always looking for a grand tale or extreme story. Instead, you want to use a certain event or accomplishment to give a behind-the-scenes look in to who you are as a person. How do you think? How did you adapt? What do you stand for? What makes you tick? These are the things that can be answered and give you a unique voice on your application.
EDIT YOUR ESSAY
Getting started early, going through multiple drafts, and understanding the prompt can lead to an outstanding essay. However, even the most experienced writers can miss things in their own work. Staring at the same essay can get tedious after a while. You might miss minor things that blended in after reading it so many times, or in some cases, you might have totally misunderstood the entire question and didn't realize it. This is where editing comes in to play.
Having a second set of eyes, and a second opinion, is invaluable. Almost every time you have someone look over your essay, there will be at least a few things you will have missed. Sometimes these are minor, and sometimes they are major, but having a mistake free essay is key for making a strong impression to a college. Editing can take time, so it is important to have your essay done early in order to give enough time for someone to look over you work and give you feedback. It is also great to receive feedback, then make changes and send it out again for review. This back and forth feedback process is a great way to polish you essay and get it exactly the way you want.
Follow these steps and you should end up with an excellent essay. Scholarship and admissions essay editing is one of the many services that CAA offers to students, and as always, the coaches are always here to answer any questions you may have!