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5 Secrets to Help You Write an Unforgettable College Essay

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Your college essay allows admissions officers to learn more about who you are as an individual. If you want to get noticed, you'll need to write an essay that leaves an indelible impression. Here are five secrets to writing an unforgettable college essay.

Writing with the Right Attitude

After all of the SAT prep you've engaged in, standardized tests you've taken, and college admissions forms you've filled out, the last thing you may feel like doing is writing a college essay. However, a college essay is more than just another form to fill out. Instead, your college essay is your chance to shine! It's a blank canvas on which you can paint a dynamic picture of who you are…a memorable image that admissions officers will keep in mind when deciding who will be in their next freshmen class.

Secret #1: Research and Plan Your Essay

If possible, visit the school beforehand, so you can incorporate some personal recollections of the visit into your essay. If you can't arrange for an in-person visit, take a virtual tour of the college online. Jot down detailed descriptions and personal impressions to make your essay more vivid and memorable.

Jot down ideas for your college essay.

These notes can help you brainstorm essay topics. Once you've picked out the best of your ideas, organize them into an outline using a mind-mapping technique. Mind-mapping is an effective way to take a loose collection of ideas and group them together in a structure that makes sense and is easy to follow.

Secret #2: Write a Unique Essay for Each College

You don't want your admissions essay to read like a form letter. Unless you're using the Common Application to apply to all of your prospective colleges, you'll need to submit multiple admissions essays.

When faced with writing a separate essay for several different colleges, you might be tempted to create a generic essay to use as a template. Even though this may seem like a time-saver, it could result in a forgettable essay—not the kind that will help win you an acceptance letter from your dream school.

So use your research notes to include authentic details in each essay. Even if your essays more or less tell the same stories, writing each one from scratch can help to ensure that they're more heartfelt, which will make a clear difference in the quality of your writing.

Secret #3: Use a Storytelling Approach

College admissions officers have thousands of applicants to vet, so you'll want to write something that not only conveys key information about you as a student but also helps you stand out from the crowd. When writing your essay, imagine that you're having a conversation with your favorite teacher or coach. If there's a funny or moving story that you'd like to tell him or her, consider including it in your essay.

Brainstorm ideas for your college essay.

Personal anecdotes can also be used as a means of persuasion. Reflect on the college's culture and values, then think about a story you could share that would make you seem more relatable to the college's administration.

Through these anecdotes, be sure to highlight your skills and talents, although in a modest way. The point is not to flaunt your achievements, but to show how your extracurricular interests may be a good match for your chosen institution's programs.

Secret #4: Tug on Their Heart Strings

Make a connection with your readers by engaging their emotions. For example, you could write about a personal challenge you overcame or a sacrifice that one of your family members made for you.

If you're having a hard time coming up with ideas, try using a list of writing prompts to get you going. As long as you're honest and sincere, heartfelt anecdotes can make your essay stand out.

Secret #5: Make the College-Career Connection

The admissions officers who read college essays are looking for students who appreciate what their school has to offer, whether it's the best nursing program, most prestigious pre-law program, or most rigorous computer science courses. Emphasize how the school's renowned programs could serve as the foundation for success in your future career. For instance, you could say something as simple as, ''Ever since I was a child, I've dreamed of becoming a doctor, and I can't imagine a better place to do that than Hippocrates University.'' A little flattery never hurts, as long as it's genuine praise.

Your college essay should show the real you to admissions officers.

Aim for a Big Picture

Finally, think of your college admissions essay as a self-portrait. If you do so, you're more likely to create a college essay that highlights your character traits and talents, ones that will inspire admissions officers to sit up and take notice.

If you want to get a jump on your college education while waiting for your acceptance letter, try Study.com's College Accelerator and start learning and earning credits now!

By Michelle Baumgartner
June 2018
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