Honesty is the Best Policy in the College Admission Essay

One of the most important characteristics of an exceptional college admission essay is honesty. Be real. The old adage ‘be yourself’ could not be more true in this case. The admissions boards of your prospective colleges will literally read thousands of these essays. They can spot an insincerity at twenty paces. In other words, don’t pretend to be someone you’re not simply because you think it sounds more impressive. You are impressive. Show them why.
The admissions committee already has in front of them your grades, your extracurricular activities, your intended major, and where you are from. The college admission essay is your time to give them the person behind the statistics. If your grades were poor in a particular subject or dropped for a semester or so because of a personal event, explain what happened. Your intent is not to elicit their pity or sympathy, but to show them how this trial made you a stronger person and a better student overall. If you have nothing of interest to add to the information on the application, don’t bother bringing it up.

If your personality is dramatic and chatty, use that to add flare to your college admission essay. If you are contemplative or philosophical, write seriously about your interests, hopes, and accomplishments. Don’t try to change your style, accomplishments, or interests. It won’t work. Choosing an event that really happened, anecdotes that hold real meaning for you and your choices as opposed to one you made up will add an authenticity that you can’t fake.

You will make the best impression with your own unique, funny or touching anecdote about your family, childhood, role model, or event that relates the one great, sad, hilarious, intense, scary moment that you realized who you were, what you wanted from life, who you wanted to become, the importance of – whatever. It doesn’t matter. As long as it’s real and as long as it gives a great impression of you as a person, someone whom they would be proud to have as a student.

Before you decide which of your real and fabulous moments to share in your college admission essay, take a moment. Imagine what everyone else will answer and try to veer away from those topics. The more original you make your essay, the more it will stand out, and the better chance you will have of being accepted. Originality starts, however, with your authentic voice and experience.

This is the only aspect of the application process that you have any control over by the time you are a senior. Grades are in, sports and clubs have been participated in or not, and school elections have been won or lost. Your college admission essay is your chance to shine. With the right words, you can outweigh an average GPA with your sparkling wit or override a lack of community involvement with your intense personal drive to achieve. Your opportunity to do this is in the form of the personal college admission essay. Don’t let it go to waste.


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