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Successful admission essays: 3 things colleges look for

by Story2 Staff, on Jul 21, 2021 1:49:18 PM

Colleges say that after grades and test scores, personal essays are the most important factor in college admissions decisions. This was even more true last year, with more and more schools -- in light of COVID and inequities around standardized testing -- going test optional or not looking at test scores at all. 

In a survey of 48 admissions officers from selective private colleges, admissions officers told us that they look for three things when reading your essay: a unique perspective, strong writing, and an authentic voice.

Let’s look at each of those more closely:

1.  Unique perspective

Your unique perspective is how you see the world and what difference you have made through your actions. How can you show that?

  • Find moments when you learned a key lesson, changed in a fundamental way, or made a difference in the lives of others. What did that look like from your point of view? 
  • You can also reflect on simple, everyday moments, like a family meal or a late night conversation with a close friend. What are those like for you?
  • Try to focus on the things you did, not concepts you realized or believe in.
2.  Powerful writing

Colleges prefer essays based in action, rather than ideas:  

  • Does your essay have a strong narrative arc?
  • Reflect on moments when you took action or did something new for the first time. 
  • Show a time you did something that made a difference for others. 
3. Authentic voice

An authentic voice sounds like an individual. 

  • To access your authentic voice, start by telling your stories out loud. 
  • Telling your stories out loud builds a powerful emotional bridge between you and your audience. 
  • StoryBuilder walks you through this process step by step.

A bonus tip: don’t repeat your achievements in your essays; they already show up in your transcript and lists of awards and activities. Essays provide a unique opportunity to add another dimension. Which stories show who you will be as a classmate? Roommate? Fellow leader of a campus activity?

Go to College Admission Essays Made Easy.

For more info about college admission and scholarship essays and interviews, sign up for self-paced courses and our award-winning StoryBuilder writing platform FREE Want to stay up to date on the latest tips and resources? Follow us @story2 on Instagram!

Topics:college admissionscollege essayscommon app