How To Write A Killer College Essay

You have reached the final step. The last obstacle between you and submitting your college application, and you are probably celebrating, but not so fast. This is the last chance you have to make yourself standout.

It is time to write your personal statement.

Clear your mind of filling out FAFSA forms and recording endless lists of extra curricular activities, and think about what makes you, you.

The majority of universities provide you with a topic they require you to write about in your personal statement or college essay. However, while it is crucial that you stick strictly to the topics you are prompted with, this is still an opportunity to demonstrate your style, creativity and to emphasize why your experiences are truly unique from others’.

The college essay/personal statement portion of the application process looks something like this:

Please select one of the following topics and compose a 300-500-word essay.
1. Describe where you come from and how this has helped shape you
2. Describe the importance of diversity in society today
3. Describe how a recent book you read significantly influenced you

Topics you may be asked to write about will likely look similar to the topics listed above.

Since colleges often ask you to choose just one topic, selecting the right topic is critical. Before choosing the one that “looks easiest,” reflect briefly on extraordinary experiences you have had, encounters with diversity, or anything that has profoundly influenced you, that being a book, a movie, a person or an experience.

I would recommend reflecting on your experiences before even looking at the topics. This will help you brainstorm about what really makes you unique, free of outside influence. If done correctly, the topic that will fit you best will jump out at you, and choosing will be less difficult.

The number one way to kill a good college essay is writing it without sincerity.

For instance, if you read, “To Kill a Mocking Bird” in high school, but it didn’t have a significant affect on you, don’t write about how it did. Remember, the people reading your essays are determining your future; they’re smart, and they can sense insincerity.

On the other hand, if you have performed volunteer work in Nigeria and want to write an essay on diversity and how it has impacted your life, you sound much more credible. See the difference?

Which brings me to my most important tip for writing personal statements and essays.

Let me tell you a story…

I am from Ann Arbor, Michigan, a city known for its diversity, so you can probably guess which topic I chose when presented with the diversity option. I thought it would be cakewalk writing about diversity when the very city I am from is home to a world-renowned university (University of Michigan), I attended the largest high school in the state, and the city is rich with different cultures.

Then it hit me.

Every student from my high school, which was one of the most competitive high schools in the state, was going to write about Ann Arbor’s diversity. How would I stand out?

So instead of rambling about my cultural experiences in my hometown, though they would have been sincere, I wrote about my trip to Spain with my Spanish class junior year, and how I experienced another culture first-hand, through food, language and history.

I cannot stress enough the importance of setting yourself apart from the thousands of other applicants.

Assume this (because it’s partly true): every student applying has had significant cultural experiences, every student joined the National Honors Society and other service clubs, every student was the captain of their sports team, and every student has read classic literature.

It is okay to have had the same experiences as others, but you must emphasize a unique aspect of them and highlight ways they affected you that will jump out to college admissions staff.

Every team captain can flaunt their leadership skills or they wouldn’t be the captain, but if you write about how being the captain of the soccer team inspired you to speak to children’s camps about leadership, THAT’S what colleges want to see. Get it?

I have probably added an immense amount of pressure to your application process, so take a breather. The best way to write is with a clear head, a sincere heart and a thesaurus.

Now go tackle those essays!

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Madeline Fetchiet

Madeline Fetchiet

Madeline Fetchiet is a sophomore at Michigan State University, studying journalism and philosophy of law. Aside from reporting, Madeline enjoys tae kwon do, reading, writing, researching and traveling, and can be considered a music enthusiast. Madeline currently works as an intern for, and is a banquet server at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, MI. Perfecting the storytelling side of reporting is something she looks forward to in her future career as a journalist.
Madeline Fetchiet

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