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7 Tips for a Strong Admissions Essay

While working on your college to-do list, you will need to make time to make your college applications stand out.

Standard college applications, SAT or ACT tests and your current transcripts are straightforward ways college admissions officers judge if you would fit in well on campus and whether or not to offer you a spot.

The other element is your admission essay, if the colleges you are applying to require one. With it, you have a chance to show these officers that you are more than your grades and test scores. Make your essay shine with these tips.

Choose a topic you're passionate about.

Whether you're asked to answer a question, focus on a specific topic or write anything you want, if your essay is about something important to you, your writing is likely to be better than if you don't care about the subject. Try to find a way to make the essay about your life's passions, and bring that topic to life.

Start strong.

You want to engage the person reading your essay as quickly as possible because he or she probably has hundreds more to read. Begin with an amusing or vivid anecdote that fits your essay or focus on a compelling introduction to capture the reader's attention.

Stay focused.

Spend time brainstorming what you want to say before you start writing and determine the main message you want to convey. Once you've written your essay, review it several times and look for places where you might have strayed from your message. If you have time, don't look at your essay for several days so that you can take a fresh look to find ways to improve and keep the message on track.

Avoid your weaknesses.

Overcoming challenges or weaknesses in life is a wonderful thing, but more than likely the college admission officers have read plenty of essays like that. Plus, you don't want to draw attention to anything that may diminish you in their eyes.

Try to look at your essay from the college's point of view.

After you've written your essay, try to look at it from a different perspective. Imagine that you're an admissions officer and ask yourself what you think of the essay. Is it unique, engaging and error-free?

Skip the big words.

It's a smart thing to use adjectives to help your essay come to life, but you don't want it to be obvious that you went for the $25 word in the thesaurus. When it comes to verbs, choose ones with meaning. “I picked the crimson rose blooming in the garden” provides depth without being both vague and fussy, unlike “I got the rubicund rose from the garden.”

Give yourself plenty of time.

It's best to avoid rushing through the essay process. Brainstorm a lot (over a couple of days up to a week or more) before starting to write, be sure to review several times and leave plenty of time for a parent or other adult to review your final piece for any typos or other errors. Using a checklist or calendar of to-do items can help ensure you stay on track.

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