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Moving Your College Application Essay from the Junk Pile to the Dean's Desk

The first impression of yourself that you give the college of your dreams may be through your application essay. That’s why you can find so many digital and print resources dedicated to the topic. While there are several things you can do to improve you chances of acceptance, stressing out over it is not one of them. Just follow these tips and tricks for college application essay success and let the chips fall where they may.

Getting Your Application Noticed
In an effort to better judge the number of students desiring to go to particular colleges, most have created an early decision / early action stage of the application process. These two periods occur earlier than regular admissions and are an excellent opportunity for you to get your application noticed. Here’s how they work:

��� Early Decision. Once you’ve been accepted under an early decision, you’re committed to attending that school unless your financial aid package is too low. You can apply to one school under early decision and other schools under regular admission.
��� Early Action. This admission is similar to early decision accept that you’re under no obligation to attend. The rules for early action vary from one school to the next, so it’s up to you to confirm. You can still apply to other schools under the regular admission process.

Another obvious, but nonetheless vital method of standing out from the crowd is to follow the application directions explicitly. That means meeting word requirements, including all requested pieces, and leaving no blank spaces. While colleges may contact you to get the missing pieces, it certainly won’t gain you favor and it might get your application tossed.

Avoiding Essay Fatalities
One of the surest things you can do to ensure that your college application essay passes the test is to keep from making the numerous mistakes identified as essay fatalities. Some of the ways to make the most of your application is to avoid clownish humor, making general statements, or including information that doesn’t support the direction of the essay.

In addition you should check for misspellings, grammatical mistakes, as well as ensuring you completely answered the essay question. Getting a second opinion is paramount, as many applicants are unable to get outside of their point of view well enough to spot inconsistencies.

Putting Yourself into Your Application
Perhaps the most potent advice you can heed is to wholly personalize your college application essay. The purpose of the piece is to provide admissions specialists with a snapshot of you as a person and as a student. To do that, you’ve got to put yourself out there–and that means sharing your life. You may want to create a “self-outline” that lists your best traits along with pieces of evidence from your life that prove your point. Find patterns and connections in your notes that can serve as a framework for why you should be accepted.

Above all, don’t relate rejection from a particular college as a rejection of you as a person. There’s a great deal of luck and subjectivity involved–meaning sending the right message to the right admissions specialist at the right time. If you stick with a quality writing process, you can be sure to strike a chord with one of your collegiate choices.

Accepted, Ten Dos and Don’ts for Your College Admissions Essay
CollegeBoard, Three Steps to a Great College Essay

Publish date: February 2, 2009