The personal essay can help you improve your chances for admission. It may be as short as 250 words, but the words you choose can mean the difference between a “maybe” and a “yes”. The essay tells the admissions committee how and why you are different from everybody else.

While there is no exact formula for the perfect admission essay, here are some tips you should consider when trying to make a lasting impression on someone who reads 50 to 100 essays a day:

Write about yourself. The admissions committee isn’t looking to learn about the American Revolution or Bioresearch, they’re looking to learn about you – your achievements, your obstacles, your goals, your values. Whatever topic you choose to center your essay around, make sure you shine through.

Focus on one facet of yourself. Pick one project, one activity, or one passion. Don’t try to cover too many topics in your essay, or you’ll end up with a laundry list of details and activities that won’t give the admissions committee what they’re looking for in the essay: an in-depth look at you. The magic is in the details.

Tell a good story.
Demonstrate how you are compassionate – don’t just tell readers you are. If you had a difficulty, don’t tell the admissions committee your complaints, tell them how you overcame them.

Keep it real. Don’t make things up. If you speak from the heart, it will show and your essay will flow more easily. Choosing something you’ve experienced will also give you the vivid and specific details the admissions committee is looking to see in your essay.

Share your opinions, but avoid anything controversial. You don’t know who is going to be reading your essay so you want to appeal to the broadest audience possible. That’s means write nothing about your opinions on what’s wrong with governments or religion, please.

Don’t repeat information already in your application. If you’ve taken 7 AP courses in one year, don’t list that you’ve done it or that you did it because you “love to learn” unless this relates directly to the focus of your essay. Admissions officers want to learn something about you from your essay that they can’t learn from reading the other sections of your application.

Spend time on your essay. Hemingway didn’t write his stories overnight and neither should you write your essay overnight. The admission committee is looking to see what you can do given the time to brainstorm, rewrite and polish. They are looking to see what topic you chose and what you did with it. An essay won’t help you if it’s sloppy and uninformative.

Check your grammar and spelling. Yes, this counts. You can write conversationally, but the grammar and spelling still need to be correct. And don’t solely rely on your computer’s spell check. Often times, the wrong word (spelled correctly) can slip by. And nothing says last-minute essay more than the wrong spelling and grammar.

Show the essay to someone who can give you objective feedback. Sometimes you can get too close to the essay and be unable to see it clearly. Other people can often tell if there isn’t enough being revealed, or your essay rambles, or if the humor is falling flat, or if you’re not making the impression you’d want to. Remember, this essay is going to someone who doesn’t know you and is going to be making a big decision on what they’ll learn from it.

College counselors Miami to NYC at International College Counselors are available to review your essays and help you brainstorm topics. To hop on the calendar for our NYC or Miami college advisors, call or email Mandee Heller Adler at International College Counselors. The number is 954.253.5719. The email is

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