Admissions Essay Tips

Female student writing while using laptopNot all colleges require an admissions essay, but for those that do, what you say about yourself can set you apart from other applicants. The personal information you include in your essay makes you more than just a compilation of test scores and transcripts. You become a unique individual with skills and talents to contribute to a college community.

Here are some quick facts and tips along with some sample essay questions.

  1. Essay topics often fall into one of two categories: a personal statement or a structured question.  If you can choose which to answer, you might want to brainstorm and outline a response for several questions to see which is best for you.
  2. Start working on your essays early, with plenty of time for revisions.
  3. Seek feedback from a counselor, parent, or trusted teacher to help you revise and edit your work.
  4. Make sure you answer the specific essay prompt for each application and don’t just rehash facts about yourself or reuse an essay you wrote for another college.
  5. Represent your ideas in the best light by checking your essay thoroughly for correct usage, spelling, and punctuation.
  6. Stick to vocabulary that is familiar to you. If you rely too heavily on a thesaurus in search of bigger and better-sounding words, you risk sounding pretentious as well as unintentionally misusing words.
  7. Remember that essay readers are trained to spot plagiarism.  You can learn from other essays, but you don't want to copy them.
  8. Be truthful. It can be tempting to stretch the truth when you are trying to impress someone, but the purpose of the essay is to tell a reader what sort of person you really are.

Sample Essay Questions:

How will the experiences of higher education assist you in becoming a leader in the 21st century?
– Brevard College

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, or risk that you have taken or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.
– Davidson College

Discuss an issue you once thought you knew with certainty that you have since re-evaluated. What prompted you to change your opinion?
– Elon University

“Science and art belong to the whole world, and before them vanish the barriers of nationality.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Provide a specific example of either instance.
– Wake Forest University

Tell us about a friendship you have forged with someone from a different race, class, religion, or background. How did this friendship develop? What has it taught you?
– UNC Chapel Hill

Please provide us with a typewritten essay (500 words) that expresses who you are and why you want to attend Bennett College for Women.
– Bennett College

What is it about Warren Wilson that makes you think it might be a particularly good match for you?
– Warren Wilson College