Applying to college can be a stressful experience. The application, requesting transcripts, ordering test scores, and pleading for recommendation letters might feel easy when compared to the daunting task of writing the essay. The admission essay is your opportunity to captivate an admissions officer and convince them that you would be a wonderful addition to their student body. It should be interesting to read, give insight into your personal values and passions, and be clear and coherent, proving your ability to write at a college level.
The Common Application has used the following prompts for a few years (they will be used in the 2012 application cycle for Fall 2013 admission):
- Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
- Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.
- Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.
- Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.
- A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.
- Topic of your choice.
Take a look at the essay prompts for Stanford applicants during the 2011-12 application period:
1. Stanford students possess intellectual vitality. Reflect on an idea or experience that has been important to your intellectual development.
2. Virtually all Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate–and us–know you better.
3. What matters to you and why? [New question]Admissions Essay Tips
- Avoid listing activities or awards in the essay, that information is requested in the application. You might choose to expand on one particular activity, explaining its significance to you.
- Use the essay to tell the college something they should know about you, but that the application doesn’t already ask. Think about it like this: If you and one other applicant have identical grades and test scores, your essay can give you that added boost.
- Don’t plagiarize. Some university admissions counselors will run your essay through a plagiarism checker, automatically denying acceptance to any student caught cheating on their application essay. For more information on what counts as plagiarism visit www.plagiarism.org