USA Today did a great piece on 5 top college essay blunders. I’m going to add some of my own: One mistake I see kids making is trying to cram everything they know/want/think into one essay. An entire life experience – whether you an octogenarian or a teen – can’t really be fit into 250-500 words. An essay is not a résumé, after all. Rather, one thought, one quirk, one person or book who moved you in a unique way gives you a better opportunity to explore – and explain – your thinking. Zelda Fitgerald once wrote that what she missed most about her father after he died was the particular way he tented his fingers when he spoke. That single detail brought all of her emotions – loss, love, the power of memory – to light. What is the one detail or anecdote that can become the focal point for your essay? It is worth taking the time to think about that before you write. For more thoughts, go to
Your test scores and grades may be good, but so are those of many other applicants. In fact, the average scores at many of the top institutions in the nation are remarkably high. Because of that, plus the fact that some colleges no longer even require standardized test scores, the admissions landscape has changed drastically for college applicants in the past decade. Today, college application essays have become the most influential component of the application process in many ways. Your college admissions essays are your best opportunity to communicate directly with the admissions officials, who look to college essays to find reasons to select one candidate over another. When you’re reviewing files from two candidates with equally impressive scores and grades, and you only have room for one, you have to use something to make your decision. That’s where essays come in.