Once you have the academic record that shows the college that you can do the work at their college, the essay is what the deans of admissions look at to choose which of the qualified applicants they are going to accept.
Writing the Essay
Your college essay is your best opportunity to distinguish yourself from the other qualified applicants. You have a chance to show your ability to think and write, and also what your values, beliefs, and aspirations are. Here is what Harvard’s Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons is looking for in your essay: the quality of your thinking, your questioning nature, your openness to ideas, and your unique way of expressing your ideas. And if Harvard is looking for those qualities in your essay, you can be sure you are on the right essay track with all of the college deans.
Your college essay must be a lot more than a description of an event or activity, it must be an essay about what you’ve learned from the experience. No matter how technically correct your essay is, it’s your creative intelligence that the college is trying to measure. “It’s the thoughts that you have, your unique way of putting ideas and events together, learning from literature, and your life of the mind that will distinguish you in the selective applicant pool,” advises Harvard’s Fitzsimmons.
Don’t be too politically correct choosing to write about the environment, community service, or the economic crisis. What about your struggle with chemistry, your disappointment in your test scores, your argument with your best friend, your love of snow-shoeing? Now those are your things. No one else in the applicant pool is going to have your point of view on your issues!”
What Deans of Admissions Look For
Now seniors. Don’t write about the upcoming presidential election for this year’s essay! When a major national or global event happens, such as a hurricane or the refugee crisis, thousands of students will write about the same events. Think about it, how many essays do you think the deans will read about Donald Trump, the cost of college, or the baseball World Series? No matter how unsure you are, try to trust your own idea of what to write about.
A Reflection of You
The admissions dean wants to know about you, not the people and events in your life. In other words, if you write about your dad, or grandmother, or a bike trip through Montana that you took last summer—no matter how dramatic—tell about the person or event in a short paragraph and use the rest of the essay to tell what you learned from the person or experience. How you’ve changed because of it. No matter what the question—who or what has influenced you the most—the task is not to write about the “who” or the “what.” The college admissions dean wants to know what fascinates you about the “who” or the “what.” Your college essay documents how you stand out from your friends and all those other seniors applying to Selective U!
Be yourself and go with the essay that has the most “you” in it, not necessarily the most politically correct essay. Trust me. No—better yet, trust you.