THE BLOG
08/10/2012 08:32 am ET Updated Oct 10, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know About the College Essay

One of the most important parts of the college application is your college essay. Your essay gives admissions officers insight into who you really are. They help make you more than just a GPA and SAT score. Many students fret upon hearing the words "college essay" because they don't know what they want to write about. Additionally, once they know their topic, they aren't sure how to actually write it. Here are some tips to help you out.
  • If you're applying to a university through the Common App, you can chose five pre-chosen topics or chose your own topic and write about anything you want.
  • If you're having trouble finding a topic, talk to family, friends and your college guidance counselor for ideas. They may not give you the topic you end up using in your essay, but they'll help get the wheels inside your head turning.
  • Keep your "hook" in the front of your mind. Your "hook" is that thing that makes you different. It could be starting a local charity, newspaper, being a volunteer firefighter -- anything that makes you different. College admissions officers are looking to create a diverse class of people from many different background and abilities. Highlighting your unique background/skill(s) will help make you more appealing to the admissions officer.
  • While writing your essay, it's imperative that you keep checking your spelling and grammar. It doesn't look too great to a college admissions officer if you don't take the time to proofread your application/essay.
  • Be yourself. College admissions officers want to know who you are and what makes you different. Don't pretend to be someone you're not.
  • Don't use a thesaurus or go searching online for "fancy" words to make it sound like you're smarter. Admissions officers want something simple and straight to the point.
  • Don't Brag. It's okay to show off your accomplishments, but do so in moderation. You've already listed your achievements and extra-curriculars in the application. If you want to talk about a situation that lead to your receiving an award/position, that's fine, but remember, no one likes a show-off.
  • Try to stay away from topics that are too controversial. Topics like death, camp and sports (in most cases) are also topics to stay away from.
  • Imagery, transitions and use of quotes can help enhance your essay.
  • If you're applying through Common App, some schools require that you fill out a supplement essay, which is an essay for the particular school you're applying to. This essay is not to be taken lightly, as the essay topic gives admissions officers insight into why you want to attend that specific school.
  • Some admission officers have to read 600+ essays a day. Don't make you essay a doctorate thesis. Keep it succinct and to the point.