Have you written it yet?

The “it” of course implies the essay, the dreaded topic of conversation for many high school seniors this time of year…“Have you written your college essay yet?”

Often the essay is the first part of the application started and the last finished. I’ve talked to a number of students this week who report their application to UVM is all done… except for the essay!

There is little I can say to take pressure off the process of writing. But it may help to know that the essay is probably the most enjoyable part of application review for me, and I believe most of my colleagues. It is a chance for each student to come alive in his or her own voice.

You can find many resources providing guidance on writing an effective college essay.  You might take a look at a wonderful piece written by Martha Merrill for The New York Times; and a succinct list of pointers on the College Board web site.  Here are few of my top tips for good essay writing, developed from reading thousands of throughout the years:

  • Ultimately, write about yourself and something that is important to you. You can take an direct or indirect approach to this – but at the end of the essay we should know something more about you, your views and your passions,
  • A good essay takes time to percolate.  Be sure to provide time to write, walk away, revisit and revise – several times.
  • Write something that represents your writing ability and writing style. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of editing and checking spelling.

The reality of a selective admissions process is that a fabulous essay will not make up for an academic record that falls below the competitiveness of an applicant pool. The more selective the institution, the more this is true. At an institution like UVM that admits more than half of our applicants, the essay does provide another important piece of information that helps illuminate a student’s background.

My final advice is to relax and write. You know yourself best and we simply want to know more about you in your own (grammatical) words. I look forward to reading your essay.


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