Five recommendations for your college application essays

College Admissions

Beautiful student writing an essay in a libraryAfter your SAT and ACT scores and your GPA, your essays are the most important part of your college application. Why? Because they are the only part of your whole file that encompasses you and your personality entirely. Your essays let schools see how you think, what you find important, how you write, and how you choose to present yourself. This makes essays extremely important--and that means they should be given a fair amount of time and consideration on your end.

Here are five things you have to do when you're writing your college essays:

Brainstorm

Sure, you might have a great idea for an essay right away, but that doesn't mean you should start writing about that idea immediately. Take some time to brainstorm a few different options--you never know, you might come up with an even better great idea. And brainstorming will also help you really flesh out each thought and ensure you have enough to write about. Just sit down with a pen and paper, focus on the essay topic, and let your mind do the work. Trust me--it will help! 

Outline

Once you've picked out an idea, outline it. I know, I know--outlining is dull and you'd rather just be writing the essay. However, outlining will help you keep your essay on track when you start writing it. Your essay needs to be clear, cohesive, and linear in order to really capture and captivate your readers, and outlining is the best way to get that done. 

Write multiple drafts

There's a saying that many writers abide by: "There's no good writing--there's only good re-writing." This holds true for application essays, too. You might be tempted to write a first draft and call it a day, but if you just walk away from this first draft for a day or two (yup, that long--it works better than if you only step away for a few hours) and then come back to it, you'll be surprised at how many things you'll see that you can switch around or change--and these switches and changes will almost always improve your essay. 

Proofread

Proofing means you read extremely carefully for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. If you're unsure of how to spell a word, use dictionary.com--it's a great resource. And if you're not sure of a particular grammatical construction or punctuation mark, recruit your most English-savvy friend to help. Trust me--it's worth it. Nothing erodes the quality of your essay as fast as poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation usage. And don't rely on the spellchecker in your word processor, either--while it can catch some errors, it won't catch things like "to" instead of "too" or "butt" instead of "but." 

Have others read it

Once you've done all you can to get your essay as perfect as possible, have others read it. Involve your friends, family--even teachers. One of the great things about having others read your essay is that you can have a fresh pair of eyes take a look at everything in your essay, from topic choice to spelling (and everything in between). Ask your readers to not just read for content and topic, but to keep an eye for errors and inconsistencies, too. Since they haven't been staring at the essay endlessly (as you probably have), they are much more likely to catch any errors you may have missed. 

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It may seem like that's a lot of work for just one essay, but trust me: it's worth it. When you consider that those essays hold more weight than most everything else on your application, you start to see that spending that time and effort on them not only makes sense, but is absolutely necessary. Take your time and do those essays the right way--it will help elevate your application and may even clinch you a spot at your top choice!

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