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How to Write a Striking Admissions Essay

Your essay should catch the attention of admissions personnel and show that you are a good fit to the school

How to Write a Striking Admissions Essay

All of us would love to land a spot at our dream college. You have your grades, your activities and your test scores. But there is one last hurdle to jump on your way in – the college admissions essay. You’ll want an essay that catches the eye of the admissions committee and demonstrates you’ll be a good fit for the school. Here are some tips to help you develop that perfect essay for you.

Choose Your Topic Wisely

A good topic you are passionate about will translate into a great essay. Choose a topic that you both care about and know well. If you already have one in mind, great! Go ahead and start your research. However, most of you will need to take some time to reflect on many potential topics you have to choose from. One suggestion is to follow the approach taken by students crafting their UPenn supplemental essays, where a student considers his/her intellectual capabilities and academic interests while choosing a topic. For many, it might be smart to choose a topic you have written about before so you are starting in your comfort zone. If you have a strong sense of what you want to study, select a topic that is related to your career and communicate your passion for the field. If the prompt is open ending, try to choose an interesting topic, one that is inspiring, insightful, and reasonably funny so that you can engage your audience accordingly. The admissions committee reviews thousands of applications and you want your essay to grab their attention.

Hook Your Audience

The admissions committee reviews thousands of applications and you want your essay to grab their attention. They need to be inspired and excited by your essay so they are looking forward to reading it to the very end. Design a good introduction to reel in your reader from the first paragraph. Given the number of applications, the first impression of your essay matters. If you lose your audience on the first sentence, you risk them tuning out by the next sentence, let alone carefully reading the entire essay. An engaging hook will leave your audience waiting to read every next sentence and eager to get to the end.

Set The Pace

One approach is to start your essay in the middle of a critical scene using very descriptive language and dialogue. Make your readers feel as though they are watching a film from your essay and the film is just at its peak. This is a good way to attract more attention and make your readers want to know both how you got into this situation and how it ends. After you’ve closed the scene, let the readers in on the plot to help them understand the relevance to the essay.

For example, an anectode is often a great way to catch the readers’ attention as well as a good way to set the pace for your essay. Were you successful as a student athlete? Then set them up a critical play in a memorable game and segue into what that sport means for who you are today. Was there a challenge in your personal life that deeply affected you. This can start the story of who you were as a student and who you hope to become. Of you could be explaining how you developed a particular skill set that will be relevant to the field you want to pursue. This could be a dramatic series of events that sets your reader on edge or a slow build up that talks about the person you will be as a student at their school. But the tone and pacing of your essay will from this introduction.

Ask Questions

Asking questions at the beginning your essay is a good strategy to involve your audience and let have them think in parallel about how they would answer the question while you reading about what you did. You are challenging your readers to invoke their critical thinking just as they observe yours. Be strategic and ask the right questions that will have the readers thinking about it even a few days later. That kind of memorable essay is likely to come up in an admissions committee meeting.

Your college entrance can be the last key to unlocking the door to your college of choice. It is a chance for you to communicate who you are, what your passions are, what drives you and anything else that is useful for the admissions committee to know about you. And it is unfiltered and in your words.

To get started with your essay, therefore, choose a catchy and exciting topic that you feel comfortable to write about. It has to speak to who you are as a person, as a student and what would make you stand out as a member of that school’s community. Create an essay outline to help you organize your essay and not get bogged down in one section. Remember to hook your audience at the start so they are reading every word with eagerness. Integrate your personal experiences in your own voice. You are selling yourself to the school with earnestness and hopefully humility. Think about how you want to set the pace for the readers and hold them through your essay to the end. One approach is to ask your reader to consider a thought-provoking question. It is a good way to engage the reader by tickling their brain. Avoid choosing common, predictable essay topics. Colleges receive thousands of applicants and you want to stand out in that crowd and explain who you are and want you would bring as a member of that school’s community.


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