Be Yourself

by Lauren
(New Baltimore, MI, US)

Cornell University

Cornell University

I must admit that I was incredibly stressed and scared when I began applying to different colleges, both in state and across the nation. Each college offered a different experience, and I only offered one thing: myself. I knew it my test scores and grades were important, but I did not know how I could possibly win a college over with just an application. I wanted to look perfect to every college and did not know how exactly I would be able to pull that off.


While I did not look absolutely flawless to every school (I was accepted to four out of the six schools I applied to), I know what stood out about my basic application. My test scores helped, of course, but what will set any applicant apart from the rest is the essay portion. Writing a piece about any given prompt may seem like a daunting task, but there is a trick to writing these essays.

The key is to twist the prompt to fit what you want to write about. Some schools will give prompts asking you to describe a time you showed courage or responsibility or a time that changed your life. This might be a breeze for you, but perhaps you cannot think of any of these times. What you might want to think about instead is a time you were proud of yourself, or you did something out of your comfort zone. It might be easier to reword what the prompt is asking of you in order to answer it to the best of your ability. Other schools give a basic essay prompt asking for a “personal statement” describing yourself or an aspect of your personality. This might be equally difficult, because perhaps it feels awkward or unnatural to “brag” about yourself. I wrote my personal statement about what inspires me. I was able to twist the prompt in a way that avoided “bragging” and instead showed a deeper piece of myself that could be considered admirable or different.

Writing those entrance essays might be tricky. You don’t have to make yourself look perfect, but you do have to show who you truly are. The best way to do that is to write a piece that shows you in the best light possible. Remember to answer the prompt fully, but don’t be afraid to take a different approach and tweak it to fit your needs. Keep in mind that you are offering the best thing you have to offer: yourself.


Read more College Admissions Help from other students and parents who have been through process.



Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Lauren for sharing your college admission advice about your personal statement essay - Be Yourself. Your essay is one thing that is uniquely you, and I like your advice to twist the prompt to fit what you want to write about. What a great idea. Best of luck to you.


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The Admissions Essay: Metaphors, Grammar, and Thinking of a Topic

by Marina Tassi
(Bridgeport, CT USA)

Animal Farm. The Wizard of Oz. 99.99% of every poem you've ever had to read. What do they all have in common?

Metaphors. The English assassin. Point by point, it slowly kills off your decent grade in AP Literature with each literary analysis. The majority of us leave English classes never looking back at those mind boggling metaphors again. So why is it that every high school senior believes that a huge extended metaphor is the key to writing a personal application essay that every admissions officer will praise? Why is it that they think admissions officers will spend hours looking for the “deeper underlying meaning” of your breakfast every morning or your tendency to leave the bathroom sink on? Throw in a couple short obvious metaphors, that is fine. Turn your whole essay into a huge metaphorical piece about the struggles of everyday society through the views of your pet bird and admissions officers will most likely move on to the next application and never look back.

Unlike English class, small grammar mistakes do not get you 5 points off per error. It is okay if you submit an essay without perfect parallelism within your sentence, or with a misplaced comma. What’s not okay is basic grammar being completely ignored and slang thrown in for fun. Your admissions essay shouldn't be a twenty minute essay written in one go, submitted without a second thought.

Though the admissions essay shouldn't be under-edited and poorly written, you do not want to over think it either. From personal experience, the topic for my personal essay took me around a month to come with and three weeks to write. Now don’t get me wrong, some writer’s block is OK but you can’t forget about those supplemental essays. You will have many of them to write. If you’re taking two months per essay, you’ll never finish.

Lastly, we’ll take the most cliché admissions essay advice ever and turn it into something usable. Write about something you can be passionate for. Passionate. I always hated that word. I always hated that advice. However, when you get rid of the word passionate and turn it into the simpler terms of writing about something you like, it’ll show through your essay. Use your essay as a tool for showing something they won’t get out of your application otherwise. A specific experience that you got something out of will always be a good topic no matter how insignificant. And remember, if you can’t even slightly enjoy writing it, the admissions officers probably won’t even slightly enjoy reading it.


Read more College Admissions Help from other students and parents who have been through process.



Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Marina for reminding everyone how important is The Admissions Essay. This is where you need to shine and get noticed. Best of luck to you.


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Applying to College is Not a Form of Torture

by Hannah
(New York)

College may seem like a scary thing, like a dark, ominous cloud that falls under the intimidating category of “Your Future.” And applications may seem even scarier, as you come to realize that you are sending out bits and pieces of your life to an institution that you hope accepts you and makes itself a part of “Your Future.” But in all honesty, constantly proofreading, spending hours agonizing over the perfect phrasing, rewriting an essay 300+ times, and tearing your hair out over which extracurricular activity would look best won’t help you submit an essay that screams “Standout.” Don’t get me wrong—proofreading is important, revision and rewriting are sometimes necessary, and extracurriculars are often the shiny gold star on top of a winning essay. But many times if something seems overworked, it probably is.

The most important part of an application is that you’ve included your own voice. Your extracurriculars and robotically perfect MLA format essay aren’t applying to college, you are. Sometimes that requires a little humor, a little sass. And sometimes that means that the first idea that popped into your head when you read that essay prompt might just be your best. No need to analyze every possible option of that idea or its alternatives; just sit back with a pen or keyboard and let the words flow.

Of course you should read them over to make sure they make sense, but you might want to sleep on them first and see if you still like them in the morning. And if you do, congrats! You’ve just written a great college essay that expresses who you are (now just don’t forget to spell check). If you don’t, don’t stress it, troubleshoot. No one said these things were easy, but most likely they were not intended to be a form of torture. Decide what it is you don’t like about your essay and see what you can do to change those. Then get a second opinion. Parents are great (they did do this themselves once upon a time), but guidance counselors are even better (they do this a few hundred times per year). Words of advice can be very helpful in unblocking your college-essay-writing flow, but keep in mind that if you don’t like a suggestion, don’t use it. After all, you’re the one applying, not anyone else.

When it all comes down to it, you have 250 words to show a college who you really are. They’ve already seen the academic in you in your transcript, the athlete (or mathlete) in you from your activities list, the volunteer in you from your log of community service hours. You have those 250 words to show them another side of you—the hidden poet, the ironic cynic, the eager student, the master of words. You can prove to an admissions office that you are more than a string of numbers on a piece of paper: You are a voice that deserves a place at that school.

Read more tips on College Admissions Help from other students and parents who have been through the college admissions process.



Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Hannah for reminding everyone on the importance of the essays in your college application.


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