Tell us about yourself. Discuss an issue about which you are passionate. Explain why you want to attend our university. Talk about a time you overcame a challenge. Discuss your favorite academic subject. If you have begun writing your college application essays, the above directives will look familiar to you. It may be tempting to take these prompts at face value, but are schools really making their admissions decisions based upon your love of math? There are three unspoken questions behind the prompt that every successful college application essay answers.
1. Can you write?
Francis Bacon said, “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.” Similarly, universities live out this concept by requiring students to express themselves in papers and other written activities. The more competent the writer, the better and more fully knowledge can be expressed and exchanged.
According to Brown University, “Good writing is essential to learning. Across the disciplines, scholars, teachers, and students write to explore ideas, uncover nuances of thought, and advance knowledge. Writing is not only a medium through which we communicate and persuade; it is also a means for expanding our capacities to think clearly.”
The written word is the prime academic medium of expression. Of course, college admissions officers want to make sure that you have the tools to participate in the academic process; and writing is first on that list. So, for the love of Bacon, know how to use a semicolon.
2. What value will you add to our campus community?
If you have ever spent time on a college campus, you have likely seen signs of life outside of the library. From the skydiving club (they exist) to the volunteer center, universities are communities of whole people, not just academicians.
Admissions officers want to know the sort of person they are bringing into their community. Your essay is an opportunity for you to show that you are determined, compassionate, generous, reflective, active, ambitious, dedicated, focused, joyful. A focused and generous student will be a better community member while on campus and a better ambassador for the university as an alumnus than a directionless and self-concerned student. Show them what that you have the character traits they want (contact us at Empowerly if you need assistance determine which traits are most valued at your top school).
3. Who are you?
A good portion of your application consists of grades, demographic data, and test scores. As much as the college admissions process can seem like a numbers game, remember that the people stamping your application are people. They want to admit fully realized individuals, not resumes. Use this opportunity to put the flesh of personality on the numerical bones of your application. Outside of an interview, your essay is the greatest tool you have to present your personality and identity to a school.
Finding your voice as a writer can be difficult, but it is well worth the time if you look to stand out from the sea of formulaic essays colleges receive by the thousands each year.
At Empowerly, we can help you ensure that your essay answers all three of these questions; and ultimately, that you write a successful college application essay yourself. Whether you are looking for comprehensive guidance through the admissions process or just thoughts on your Common App essay, we have a solution for you.