What Is The Purpose Of The College Essay

So, just what are colleges looking for when they read your college application essay? 

When reading your essay, admissions committees want to see:

Evidence of your writing abilities – they want to see that you can write in a clear and organized way. The essay showcases your writing skills, and your ability to organize your thoughts into a coherent, structured narrative.  You will be doing a lot of this kind of writing in college, and admissions committees want to see that you’ve got what it takes.

Evidence of reasonable goals and expectations – they want to see that you can clearly convey what you want to study and why.

What you can bring to a college campus — the essay will reveal your unique personality and character.  The portrait you paint of yourself says a great deal about both your qualifications and your individuality and uniqueness.

Your essay is meant to reveal what you think and feel is important about your world.  Colleges want to know about your preferences, your values, and your thought process.

Colleges want to gain insights into you that aren’t revealed in your test scores, transcripts or letters of recommendation. They want to know what makes you unique.  Your GPA and test scores may paint you as a stellar student, but the essay will tell the admissions committee something special and interesting about you they don’t already know from reviewing the rest of your application packet.

So, your essay needs to:

~ Persuade the admissions committee that you are worthy of admission

~ And show the admissions committee that you are more than a GPA and a standardized test score — you are a real-life, unique and interesting person.

And this is where brainstorming and pre-writing come in.  Through brainstorming exercises, you’ll begin to see connections that define the person you are, and from there, narrow down your topic choice to something you can write about persuasively and effectively, that reveals the real, and unique, you.

(To grab your FREE guide on how to write a stellar college application essay, please visit my website at http://www.theessaymentor.com/ to download your copy today!)

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This entry was posted on June 16, 2011, 2:05 pm and is filed under essay writing guidance. You can follow any responses to this entry through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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Now that application deadlines are just around the corner, today we’ll take a look at the main types of admissions writing. These terms get thrown around a lot at this time of year, so it may be helpful to dissect each and provide a bit more in-depth information.

Application Essay, Admissions Essay, and Admission Essay

These three terms are often used interchangeably when describing an essay featured as part of an application. These essays can range from 100 to 1,000 words in length and almost always have a very specific prompt or question, which vary widely depending on the specific school:

- Why do you want to attend our school?

- Write page 273 of your autobiography.

- Describe a time when you failed at something. What did you learn?

Admissions essays are most commonly found on college and MBA applications.

Tip: When writing an admissions essay, make sure that you read the prompt or question carefully and fully. Many have multiple parts, and you need to address everything in your response.

Personal Statement

A personal statement is a general type of admissions essay, most commonly found on applications to medical schools, residencies, graduate programs, and law schools. The average personal statement is 500-1,000 words in length and is meant to provide a fairly broad overview of the applicant. Topics covered include where an interest in the field of choice developed, how skill and experience have been built in that field, and goals/plans for the future.

Tip: Avoid covering information in your personal statement that is included elsewhere in your application. Things like grades, employment history, and test scores should not be included unless you are elaborating on them.

Statement of Purpose

While the terms “personal statement” and “statement of purpose” are sometimes used interchangeably, there is technically a difference between these types of admissions writing. While a personal statement provides a fairly broad overview of an applicant, covering elements from the past, present, and future, a statement of purpose is usually more tightly focused on the future. In a statement of purpose, applicants have the chance to detail their plans for study in a given field along with their short- and long-term career goals. Length, as with a personal statement, is most typically in the 500-1,000 word range.

Tip: When writing about goals, use language that emphasizes your readiness to accomplish those things. Instead of saying, “I hope to do X” or “I plan to do X,” pick a specific skill that you have or will earn and use it to present the goal: “With the finance abilities I build through my internship, I will be ready to do X.”

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Ryan Hickey is Managing Editor of Peterson's & EssayEdge and an expert in many aspects of college, graduate, and professional admissions. A graduate of Yale University, Ryan has worked in various admissions capacities for nearly a decade, including writing test-prep material for the SAT, AP exams, and TOEFL, editing essays and personal statements, and consulting directly with applicants. He enjoys sharing his knowledge to aid others in achieving their educational goals and, when he gets a break, loves hiking and fly fishing with his wife and two border-collie mixes.

Posted in college admissions essay, EssayEdge, graduate school statement of purpose, law school personal statement, MBA application essays, medical school personal statement, writing tips | 2 Comments »

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