In some ways, the essay, or personal statement, is an opportunity to convey things not captured elsewhere in the application. It should be unique to you and reflect your personality.
Your essay will not gain you admission to a college if the rest of your application is not up to par. It’s much harder, and thus much more impressive, to demonstrate excellence throughout high school than it is to do it once in a single essay. So don’t worry about rumors of other students having parents or ghost writers draft their essays. They aren’t going to get your spot because of that. Not only do colleges compare essays to other work, including SAT or ACT writing scores, in order to make sure the applicant did not receive improper aid, they also actively look for essays that sound uniquely like the applicant and nobody else.
Write your essay from the heart. Think of it as opening up a part of you to a close friend. You have to be the one telling the story. This isn’t something someone can do for you. The most they can do is make sure your essay is coherent and free of grammar mistakes. -Hebing W., Duke TIP alum
Think about it this way: the point of the essay is to tell colleges something you want them to know about you. It’s to highlight your personality so they understand more about the other application information. Remember:
- You should focus, above all, on communicating your own experiences. The essay should sound like a teenager wrote it.
- Don’t rest on platitudes and clichés. Take advantage of the essay to reveal an important element of your experience—something admissions officers wouldn’t know otherwise—that will make you a better college student.
- More concretely, you should answer the essay prompt you’re given (or choose, depending on the school) by telling the college about yourself.
- Describe specific examples and anecdotes so the people reading it can get a clear and specific sense of who you are.
- Don’t just say you’re driven by a love of helping people; discuss specific times in which you’ve helped people and how those experiences affected you.
- If you want to highlight how driven you are to reach your goals, describe a specific instance when you had to overcome an obstacle.
For more advice on crafting a great essay that reflects you, review the the following articles on the College Board website: