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Composing Excellent College Essays

November 19th, 2010

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Gaining admission into a college may take a little more than just sending your high school transcript and SAT scores. A typical accompaniment requested by admissions offices is an essay, which serves several purposes. It allows you to set yourself apart from your peers, exhibiting your skills as a writer and organized thinker. It also allows you to describe your qualities and experiences that have shaped you into a student worthy of studying at a good school. Essays put a human face on an otherwise informal process.

A good essay is simple and personal. It's important to be yourself and not try too hard to impress. In a way, it's like a first date — you don't want to present an impression of yourself that isn't authentic because ultimately you want to be accepted on your own merits. Starting off on the wrong foot could be a recipe for disaster. In order to ensure each essay is personal, colleges typically provide different topics, allowing students to choose the ones they like the most. The topics should reveal your subject preferences, values and creativity, the latter of which, if done well, can really get you noticed. The College Board provides several sample topics taken from different colleges, including this one from Bates College: "How would you describe yourself as a human being? What quality do you like best in yourself and what do you like least? What quality would you most like to see flourish and which would you like to see wither?"

Because you have time to compose the essay, you should make the process multi-tiered, creating an outline and then carefully writing at least one rough draft. It doesn't hurt to undertake a little bit of research, even if it's about your own characteristics. When writing your essay's first draft, you'll need to ensure it's well-structured, clear and easy to read. Of course, there should be an introduction, body and conclusion. It can introspective or in narrative form, telling a story that reveals your character.

Obviously, you'll want your essay to be mistake free, so the editing process shouldn't be taken lightly. After writing it, take a couple of days off and then comeback to it with a fresh mind. Make sure all of your points are made clearly. Your spelling and grammar should be perfect. When you're finished with it, give it to someone you trust to edit it, like your favorite English teacher. Once you have an essay about which you're 100 percent confident, your chances of gaining admission into your college of choice will be enhanced.

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