Writing successful scholarship and college admissions essays

    It is one of the most dreaded parts of the college admissions process–the essay. Increasingly, the application essay is becoming a required part of the process. Why? There is a growing consensus among educators that traditional measures of a student’s worth are either unfair or simply inaccurate. Grade standards vary too widely among high schools for GPA to be truly meaningful. And with grade inflation common in many high schools around the country, college administrators simply cannot rely on grades too heavily. The SAT and ACT are under attack for race and gender bias. Besides, a good test preparation class can boost standardized testing scores considerably, so relying on them gives wealthy students (who can afford prep courses) a marked advantage. The typical college applicant is likely to write several essays, some as part of the college admittance and others as part of scholarship applications.

   While each essay will have its own unique requirements, we have some general advice that will serve you well in almost all cases. Here are some quick tips:

   Grammar, style, and form are all important, but remember that this is not a grammar class assignment. More than any other factor, you are being evaluated on the content and substance of your writing.

    Follow the essay prompt exactly. Do not stray from the assigned topic or ignore rules regarding length or format. You will often be asked to write on a controversial topic. Do not be afraid to state your own view. It is not necessary to try and guess what the reader of your essay may believe and then try to please him/her by agreeing. However, always show due respect to opposing opinions and avoid anything that may seem intolerant or extreme.

    When possible, let your personality and interests shine through. Remember, you want to make an impression as a real person, and distinguish yourself from the competition.

    While the above advice is highly recommended, do not go overboard with too much personal information. Revealing something too intimate may make the reader uncomfortable or lead to serious questions about the appropriateness of your essay.

    Write in a style that reflects your true nature. For example, if you have a good sense of humor don’t be afraid to use it. If you feel passionately about the assigned topic, it is ok to let that show too. 

Finally, make sure the essay demonstrates your seriousness as a student. Make it the best you are capable of writing. Whatever you choose to write, the reader must be able to see that the author put some thought and effort into it. Show that you care about what you are writing, and not just completing the application.