How to write application essays: being a pro in this matter
Applications essays are unique in terms of academic assignments, because they aren’t graded—but that doesn’t make them any less important than a graded assignment. In fact, in many ways, they can be considered to be far more important. For example, even a graded essay exam is of limited importance: it’s only for one class. An application essay, however, is important because it can result in a student be accepted or denied interest to a program which could make or break their academic career. The following tips will help students write winning application essays that, with the right application materials, can contribute to their being accepted to the best programs.
- Follow the application essay instructions in the packet to the letter.
- Be honest.
- Be specific.
Students sometimes think that because application essays aren’t graded that they can be lax about their standards in terms of minimum and maximum lengths, formatting, and content. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, application essays will be scrutinized much more closely than other types of assignments, in many cases. Students need to understand that choosing to ignore the instructions given will make an immediate, negative impression on the person or committee tasked with reviewing their application. Why risk undermining an otherwise great essay simply by not following the given instructions? It’s not worth it.
Sincerity and authenticity are traits that application committees are looking for, and they read hundreds, if not thousands of these essays—they have a good eye for people trying to embellish. By all means, students should talk themselves up—but only by using honest points! Even a small exaggeration or embellishment would be more than enough, if investigated, to result in the entire packet being thrown out without a second thought. Like not following directions, this is just not worth it. Be honest and be yourself.
Since the student won’t be listing fabricated accomplishments, they’re going to need to put their best foot forward in another way. The best way to do that is for the student to be specific. When explaining that they, for example, volunteered at a multicultural event to broaden their horizons or support the community, they need to explain how they accomplished that goal, and why they had that goal in the first place. It’s easy to impress an admissions committee—for students who approach their application essays with a professional attitude.