Don’t sweat the essay


Madeline Egan

Flags from numerous colleges are displayed throughout New Berlin West’s guidance office

Madeline Egan, Opinion/Editorial Editor

A glance outside the window and one can view an array of trees changing colors as their leaves are falling. This certainly parallels the life of senior students around fall as many are entering new realms of possibilities, yet; feel that they are falling under the pressure. The shock that this time next year the senior will be off on their own is finally starting to settle in; although many cannot await this day, it brings about seemingly endless uncertainties. First and foremost, is the student even going to be accepted to a college? The application process certainly can be a long and tedious one, but it is absolutely essential. Within this application lies the ever-dreaded essay. However, students should consider looking at the essay in a more positive light, as it is their chance to tell colleges about the person that is behind all of the numbers and statistics.

So what are colleges looking for in the essay? Typically, colleges are searching simply for a work that is personal, authentic, and well written.

Molly Wanamaker, a senior at New Berlin West who has already gone through the process, says, “not to over think the essay” and suggests that students “write something that sounds like you; if they [colleges] wanted ordinary and boring, they wouldn’t even ask for a personal statement.”

But before students can accomplish this, they must be sure that they are fully answering the prompt that is in front of them. Each college has specific questions for their applicants to answer, and it doesn’t show very well for the student if he/she can’t even clearly answer the prompt. Another easy aspect that students surprisingly often miss is including the correct name of the college that is being applied to. If you happen to insert the wrong name by some, don’t fret; you will certainly catch it throughout your numerous proof reads and revisions. After completion, be sure to have an adult that knows you well read your essay and offer you corrections and or advice. This way you can be sure that your essay is written in your voice and truly portrays you in the most positive and full light. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to have your English teacher read over your essay and help you to make it as fluent, cohesive, and concise as possible.

Before beginning your essay, it is a great idea to brainstorm your personality traits and define your strengths. According to the College Board, it is key that throughout your essay you provide specific examples to express how your strengths are utilized or tested in daily life. The topic of your essay doesn’t really matter, so long as it connects to you personally, however; colleges tend to favor those that are unique and creative.

Ellen Hughes, an admissions advisor from Platteville, expressed that “70% of essays revolve around sports.” This is not to discourage students from writing about sports, however; the student needs to be sure that he/she describes how it made a difference in his/her life. Students can find some consolation in the fact that “colleges don’t compare one essay to another.” Hughes emphasized that at Platteville, the admissions advisors holistically review each student individually versus pitting one applicant against another.

In some regards, the application essay is similar to a job interview. The admission advisors are deciding whether or not the student would be a good fit for the college, and evaluate what he/she has to offer to the campus. Instead of having the advisors make inferences, state in your essay what you have to offer to the campus, so too enrich their community. Perhaps do some research on the college and incorporate their core values or other stand out factors and how they connect to you. It could also help to include what you personally love about the college, or something that stood out while you were visiting. Essentially, if you express that you are very passionate about a college and why this is so, the college is more likely to welcome you with open arms, or at least, mail you that lovely acceptance letter.