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Your one-stop resource for studying in the United States. International students can search our directory of over 4,000 American educational institutions. Find the right college, university, or other school for you, and study abroad in America! Let us provide application forms as well as information on tuition, scholarships, grants, financial aid and much more.

 
 

 Prepare Yourself

About Writing Essays

College essays are often required when applying to United States colleges and universities.  Essays are considered an important part of your overall application package — and a poorly written essay will give a negative impression, even if the rest of your application is top quality.

Warning: There are web sites and books available that provide students with pre-written college essays to increase their chances of admission.  You should never use these pre-written essays and try to submit them as your own.  School representatives read hundreds of essays from students annually.  They can recognize a copied answer and will judge you very negatively.  It's important that you write your own essay and that it reflects your point of view. 

What Schools Consider

When evaluating your essay, college admission staff will consider three areas:

  1. Your ability to write properly in English. Was it written grammatically correct and presented neatly without mistakes?

  2. Your ability to convey your true feelings or opinions about subject. Were you able to express yourself in a compelling and meaningful manner?

  3. Your creativity and originality.  Would you bring a fresh perspective and viewpoint to the college that would enhance the overall atmosphere?

Typical Topics

Essays often ask the student to describe the following subjects:

  1. An important experience or achievement: This question shows the school what you value and what you hope to achieve in the future.  Often the best essays are about modest accomplishments.  It's more important what you learned from the experience than what you actually accomplished.  Focus on how you grew as a person.

  2. A personal, local, national or international issue and how it was important to you: This question considers how you feel about a certain issue and how you relate this issue back to your own life.  Why do you personally care about this matter?  You should have a strong opinion, yet demonstrate that you understand both sides of the story too.

  3. A person that influenced your life: This question can be tricky.  Colleges don't really want you to write a long essay about another person's life.  They want you to focus on your own life, and to explain how this particular person helped shaped your values.  The admission officers will be especially interested in how you describe this person.  For instance, why is this person your role model?  In many ways your description of the person is more important than the person you've chosen.

  4. The reason you're applying to that particular school: This is an opportunity to demonstrate what you know about the school and to express your personal goals.  You don't want to use this essay to flatter the school about its programs.  You want to present a sincere and honest impression by demonstrating how specific programs at the school correspond with your own interests and future goals.

Other Tips

Keep in mind when writing your essay:

  • Answer the question right up front.  You'd be surprised how   often students forget this basic principle and never actually answer the question in their essays.

  • Be yourself.  Express your beliefs honestly and clearly in your writing.  Try to strike a balance between confidence and objectivity about yourself.  Tell the truth and avoid exaggerating or overstating your abilities.  On the other hand, don't be over-modest about yourself.  This essay is your chance to differentiate yourself from other student applicants.

  • Write clearly and concisely.  To have a well-written essay, you may have to write and rewrite it several times.  In fact, experts say the best essays can require at least 2-3 weeks to get it in the proper form — maybe longer.  Always have at least one native English speaker read over your essay for accuracy. 

  • Use examples and anecdotes to make a point.  If you are "fascinated by engineering," explain why.  Did a family member work in engineering and take you along on various projects?  Have you already participated in summer programs in this area?  The more specific your examples, the better you'll communicate your story.

  • Avoid repeating information (e.g., grades) found elsewhere on your application.  You don't want to waste space with a chronological history of your life.  Instead, select a few aspects about yourself and explain how various life experiences have helped shaped the person you are today.  

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