Although colleges give guidelines and general topics, students often struggle the most over the question(s), “what should I write about and what should I say about me?” Whatever the topic, colleges want essays that reflect something about the candidate.
1. Your friends know you best and are not as biased as your parents. Sit around with them and let them help think about you and your relationship with the topic.
2. Keep your eye on the brass ring. Write a big essay about a small topic, not a small essay about a big topic.
3. Unless you already know it, keep the first sentence for last, revisit it a number of times. First sentences can be door openers or door closers.
4. Write, write, rewrite. It’s not done until it goes in the mail (or email).
5. Make sure the essay is written in your “voice.” Read it out loud to a friend, have a friend read it out loud to you — does it sound like you?
6. Ask someone who knows grammar to proofread for errors; we don’t expect that everyone can write in perfect English, but we do expect that applicants will respect the process enough to think quality in their essays.
David Erdmann is Dean of Admission and Enrollment at Rollins College (www.rollins.edu) in Winter Park, Fla.