What Do Colleges Look For in Application Essays

Most universities and colleges ask for application essays as a part of their admissions process. Many students get stuck wondering what to write to make a good impression. It’s hard to decide where to apply, let alone while writing an application essay. This essay is meant to provide the members of the admission with a snapshot of you – who you are and how you’ll fit in the college. This doesn’t mean that you need to tell your life story though. Here’s our guide to what colleges expect when they’re reading your application.

Don’t forget, though, that you can always search for a website that writes papers for you if you’re really stuck!

What does a college application essay look like?

College application essays can take on many forms and the requirements will be different for each of the schools you apply to. There are lots of different types of essays that you might be able to do.

Here are some examples of the types of points you could write about. You can also learn more about college application essay format requirements here.

  1. A background essay: this is where you write about a piece of your identity, background, talents, or interest that is meaningful to you. This is a personal essay that reflects the points you really want your college to know about you. It’s a chance to share your story; for some people, this makes up an essential piece of their application.
  2. A challenge essay: this personal essay recounts a time in your life when you might have faced a failure, setback, or challenge. It’s a chance to show how you overcame obstacles you encountered and share what you learned along the way.
  3. A belief essay: this type of essay allows you to reflect on something that you challenged or questioned. Perhaps something prompted you to raise a question. This is a wonderful opportunity to share a side of your personality.
  4. A gratitude essay: this paper will reflect on something that you’ve experienced and are grateful for. Perhaps someone acted kindly towards you, and it motivated you to do something yourself.
  5. An accomplishment essay: in this type of essay, you would discuss a realization, event, or accomplishment that sparked the growth or a new understanding.
  6. A topic essay: in this type of essay, you would discuss a concept or topic that you find engaging and captivating. You might discuss how you have explored the topic to extend your knowledge and why you think this topic is valuable.

With all of these suggestions, it’s clear to see that all application essays will look different. There won’t be a fixed way for a college application essay to look. It’s essential for you to have an idea about what your chosen college is looking for so you can tailor it in a particular way.

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Who reads college essays?

Usually, a college essay will be read by an admissions officer. This might be a staff member, a professor, or even a selected student. Though it might seem scary to know that your essay is being read by a professor, remember that they are humans too and will read 100s of these essays.

A list of accomplishments, transcripts, and test results can be bland and boring – they all blend into one after a while. However, your essay is where the admissions officer gets to “meet” you and see who you are. Essentially, they’re looking to recruit students who have the greatest potential for their college.

What do colleges look for in an essay and a student?

Each year, universities and colleges will receive applications in their thousands. Lots of these will look almost identical when you look at your grades, strength of curriculum, and admissions test scores. This is why your college essay is important. It allows you to speak to the admissions office directly. You can tell them what sort of person you are and why you want to go to their college. So, although your scores et al do matter significantly, your admissions essay plays a crucial role too.

In terms of grades looked at, the admissions team will likely look at your high school class rank and GPA. If your grades are consistently high, that’s great. But don’t worry if they aren’t – especially if you took challenging classes.

If you’ve taken Honors Classes and Advanced Placement (AP), then this will garner their attention too. Above all, it will show that you are ready to take on the challenge at the college level. Finally, they will likely look at your SAT scores too.

Don’t forget, however, that extracurricular activities make a huge impression too! Ensure you include all the little extras you’ve done over recent years. Topics like debate teams, academic clubs, political organizations, community projects, music groups, and sports are all points that demonstrate your intellectual curiosity.

What do colleges want to get out of your essay?

For students, such essays reveal their character and perspective through their real experiences, not contrived situations. To impress admissions officers, you’ll want to ensure your essays are well-written.

It’s crucial, therefore, that you check the spelling and grammar of your personal statement and other college essays thoroughly. Think of the college application as a job interview. It’s also advisable that you get someone else to check your writing too.

In terms of content, here are some ideas for a basic college essay. You should include:

  • Who you are – this should be a short description of what type of person you are. It’s an ideal opportunity to sell yourself to the college.
  • What makes you different from other prospective students? – this should be a short description that makes you stand out from the crowd.
  • Why do you want to go to that college – what is it that you want to achieve by going to college there? What can you offer the college, but also what can they offer you in terms of extracurricular events, for example?
  • Personal growth – what are you hoping for (besides a college qualification)?
  • What things are most important to you?

Basically, they want to see a glimpse of your personality and your authentic voice. Yes, your grades and test results matter, but having a personality is crucial too. There are various types of attention getters you can use.

The essay writing experience also shows the college that you can support your ideas with solid arguments and can write well. You don’t need to worry about using big words or having an extensive vocabulary. It’s not so much about showing off, rather, it’s allowing the officers to come up with a conclusion about the level of hard work you are willing to put in.

What is most important is that you write coherently and concisely to address your ideas. By all means, show off the strong writing skills you’ve developed, but don’t let that take anything away from the message you want to put out. If you want help from a reliable admission essay service, look no further.

Final thoughts

Though college admissions are tough, they’re worth it. You shouldn’t just do one draft and send it off – keep on working on your essay and ask another student or a teacher to look through it for you. The more help you can get, the better. If your chosen college gave you a writing prompt or outline, ask them to read it with that in mind.

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