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For high school students across the country, college essays are almost like a rite of passage. Often touted as one of the most important deciding factors in the college admissions process, college essays are also the most questioned part of the process. Many books have been written as guides to writing these dreaded essays, but as someone who has been through the process, I believe my first-person comments serve to be more helpful and truthful.

First of all, it is often a misconception that just having the good grades and good SAT score will guarantee a placement in the college of choice. That is simply not the case. College admissions officers need something besides numerical data to determine if an applicant has the qualifications needed to enroll at a particular institution. Recommendation letters, extra curricular activities, and most importantly, the college essay, all serve to provide an additional perspective for the admissions officer to help them in their decision. Needless to say, the final decision is one with bias, however, the key to writing a good essay is to sway that bias to work in one’s own advantage.

Writing the college essay is a time-consuming exercise. Do not expect to complete it in a day or even a week. Start in the summer before your senior year, and begin planning out what you will write about. Become keen at picking out memorable phrases from materials you read, as they will be invaluable contributions to your pool of ideas for brainstorming later on. Keep a notepad and jot down ideas that pop into your head immediately. Preparation is key to writing a good essay, and by the time you receive your college applications with each college’s respective essay requirements, you will be ready to start writing.

Most experts suggest that a revealing and truthful personal description is key, however, through personal experience and those of friends around me, I have found that these experts may be wrong. College admissions officers need to be impressed by an essay. If the essay merely describes a personality in detail or one’s life events, it becomes just as mundane as the loads of test scores and grade points that they are already inundated with. If at all possible, try to think of a topic that relates to your own experiences, but on a larger scale, is applicable universally. Use concise diction and clear phrasing and always get to the point of your essay. Your theme or thesis should be clear and referred to at the end. Finally, your style should be mature and reflective of the characteristics that a successful college candidate should possess.

With these pointers in mind, let your brain wander free and your pens roam wild, because in the end, the more you expose of your own self, the more notable and memorable your essay will be. Good luck.