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Telling Your Story to Colleges

❶But a third recommendation that raves about you, just as your other letters do, will not necessarily enhance your application. You engage your community beyond the classroom.

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Tips for a Stellar College Application Essay
A Favorite College Essay Tip

Every applicant brings something unique to the admissions committee table. Perhaps one application stands out because of sparkling recommendations, while another presents outstanding extracurricular talent; maybe your personality shines through a powerful written voice, or maybe your keen mathematical mind packs more punch. Our goal is to assemble a diverse, well-rounded student body, and that means admitting exceptional individuals of all types. You may find this answer unsatisfying, but we assure you that it is true: This section of our website aims to help you submit the very best application possible.

We asked admissions officers to weigh in with their own thoughts on each topic and we have compiled their responses below. We know that the application process can be confusing, daunting, even overwhelming, and we hope this page proves helpful as you compile your applications, not only to Yale but to every school on your list. When you write your essays and short answer responses, write about something that matters to you.

Use your own voice. Do not worry about making a special effort to include impressive vocabulary words or overly complex sentences. If you sound like yourself and discuss something you care about, your essay will be more effective. Pick topics that will give us an idea of who you are. We have read wonderful essays on common topics and weak essays on highly unusual ones.

Your perspective — the lens through which you view your topic — is far more important than the specific topic itself. In the past, students have written about family situations, ethnicity or culture, school or community events to which they have had strong reactions, people who have influenced them, significant experiences, intellectual interests, personal aspirations, or — more generally — topics that spring from the life of the imagination.

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well — such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend — and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit.

Interviews are another way to help your application stand out. An interview is not required, but if you are offered the opportunity to interview, we strongly encourage you to take it. Although the interviewer will get the ball rolling with questions, come prepared to be an engaged conversationalist. Rather than answering a question with a one-word, direct answer, approach each question as an opportunity to elaborate on various aspects of who you are.

Share whatever additional information you feel the admissions committee should consider in order to fully appreciate your ideas, intellectual curiosity, character, and values. Interviewers can also learn about candidates from the interesting, thoughtful questions they bring to the table. Recommendations tell us a great deal about the way you think and learn, how you contribute to your school community, and what you add to a classroom dynamic. The best recommendations are not always from the teachers in whose class you earned the highest grades, but rather from those teachers who know you best and can discuss the substance of your intellect and character.

We are as interested in your intellectual curiosity and resilience as in your innate ability and work ethic. This sounds counterintuitive, I know. But the prompts give you enough freedom to write whatever story you want to tell about yourself. Choose a slice of your story that represents you at your very best and tell it in excruciating detail. You can always address word count and trim the details later. If you feel you simply must use one of these topics, know that you will need to make your essay extra compelling.

Are you enjoying what you are writing? Does the topic come easily to you? The feeling you have as you write will be the feeling you give to your reader. Bored writers make for bored readers. Excited writers make for eager readers.

Allow yourself at least two drafts to get your story out. Once you like your first draft, start to cut or add words. If the maximum count for the essay is words, but you have said all you need to say in words, you will either need to have supreme confidence in yourself as an amazing writer, or you are leaving money on the table and not sharing enough about yourself.

Choosing what to write about in the essay is important and it is doable. By Stephanie Klein Wassink August 3, Professors are notoriously hard graders.

The school boasts 34 Nobel laureates among alumni and faculty. Recent grads tend to get high-paying jobs. With 1, undergraduates, Pomona features close student-faculty relationships. Clemson was founded as an agricultural college, and while agricultural science is still a specialty, more general programs such as business are more popular today. Most every one at this rural campus is united by an enormous amount of school pride, especially around the football team.

UCLA produces a lot of stars: The school also supports ordinary students as well, with more than one third from low-income families.


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The tips below will help you win big with your essay. Also be sure to check out these tips for the seven personal essay options on the Common Application, this advice for improving your essay's style, and the sample essays.

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Get insightful tips on how to write an effective college application essay and set yourself apart from other applicants.

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Your essay can give admission officers a sense of who you are, as well as showcasing your writing skills. Try these tips to craft your college application essay. A Favorite Essay Tip From a College Application Veteran by j9robinson | Jul 6, I loved a recent post by my friend, Lynn O’Shaughessy, who is a fellow journalist and now the international guru for creative ways to pay for college.