The personal essay is perhaps the most important part of the entire college application process because it allows you to distinguish yourself. If it weren’t for the personal essay, you could assume that the admissions process would eventually become automated, providing all weight on grades and test scores.
So what does the admissions committee look for in a successful personal essay? They look for creativity and originality. And one effective way of getting these qualities across in your writing is by providing great examples to support your claim.
Great personal essays are often compared to creative writing. Your descriptions should be detailed and evocative. Whether you choose to use an anecdote or an important experience, be sure to express your goals, skills, and personality with exact details. Well-thought out, detailed descriptions will captivate a reader, compelling him or her to move further.
A great exercise to help you write with more detail is to take your experiences and write out the who, what, where, when and whys. Be as specific as possible, even if you can’t quite find the right word. Approach each experience as though you were writing a separate story. When you’re done you’ll cut out the fluff but find several descriptors that add to your writing and overall effect.
We’ve all heard the writing advice “Show. Don’t tell.” And it’s just the approach you want to take to make your personal essay better. Don’t tell the admissions committee that you are a hard working student but include examples that show this characteristic in your essay.
If an essay prompt asks you to say why want to go to their university a decent response might be to mention that it has a great writing program. A better response is one where you state that the university offers and international writing program, which fuses your love for travel and memoir. Make it personal and unique. Practice writing about it by coming up with a few examples and focusing on the one that explains a personal quality or characteristic you want to highlight.
How one responds to an essay is an intensely personal matter. While there are some practices that are accepted as reasons for making an essay great, you shouldn’t merely try to copy a specific approach but remain as original as possible. The more descriptive you are in writing your examples the more distinguished and better your personal essay becomes.