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Essays

Last week I presented a workshop to high school students about college essays. My sense is that you may have many of the same questions asked during the workshop.  What makes a good essay? What should I avoid? How long should my essay be? Do all good essays come from a tragic life experience? What does the selection committee want to hear? As you can imagine, there simply is no “right” or “wrong” answer when it comes to your college essay. There is no denying that your essays are personal and important pieces of your college applications. You may recall from last year, Angela Herrera blogged about The All Important Cornell Supplement, and how the selection committee values your academic interest essays. Demonstrating your academic “fit” with Cornell is important, but there is more involved in writing a successful essay. Here are some tips to help you along in the process:

  • Be sure to answer the question that is asked.
  • Write in your voice – not your teacher’s, parent’s, friend’s or sibling’s, remember this essay is about YOU.
  • Be sure to edit, don’t just rely on spell check. It is ok to have a parent, teacher, friend look over your essays.
  • If you choose to write about a current event or common topic, make sure that your content is personal and unique to you. Your essay should not be a news report.
  • Use language you are comfortable with, your essay is not a thesaurus.
  • Be personal. If you are a funny person, be funny…but don’t be funny if it isn’t genuine.  The selection committee wants to get to know you, how you think, how you approach learning, and how you will contribute to the campus community.
  • Make every word count. You have a limited number of words to make a big impact, so choose carefully.
  • Have fun! This is your time to tell us something about yourself that we don’t know and that may distinguish you from the rest of the applicant pool.

Most importantly, take your time, start early, and don’t be afraid to continue revising your essay. Writing your college essay is a process and there is no need to rush it. The best essay is well-written, concise, gives a glimpse into who you are, and one that you are proud to share!

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