How To Start My College Essay

Make the first half of the essay about you and your passions.If you start with an anecdote that shows them in action (rather than writing, “I love history”), you will draw the reader in.

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So, use your summer wisely, researching your colleges, getting excited about all the experiences you will have in college, and then expressing that enthusiasm in your essay: “Why this college? ” Francesca Huemer Kelly, the spouse of a retired Foreign Service officer and former ambassador, has worked as a freelance writer and an editor, and is currently coaching high school students on their college application essays.

She is a co-founder of You now get the idea: start with your passions, then transition to how those passions will blossom at college. But it’s one you can tweak with each college to make the essay personal.

Lest you despair because you are applying to 10 colleges, eight of which request the Why This College?

essay, here’s good news: you can use the first part of the essay for all eight colleges, and tailor the second half to each college. But before starting your draft, you will need to ... (And if you’re lucky enough to meet a college representative visiting your school or at a college fair, engage in conversation and follow up with an appreciative email afterward— another great way to demonstrate interest.) Once you have several pages of notes on each individual college, it’s time to write. Alas, many applicants knock off a quick, not-very-well-researched essay that says, “I really want to go to Whatever University because the campus is so beautiful and there are so many fun activities and I’m excited to take a lot of different classes and there’s diversity, too! ” Trust me, college admissions officers already know how great their college is.

These are some of the things going through admissions officers’ minds as they read your application, particularly the Why This College? The truth is, while rankings and enrollment are significant, admissions officers will tell you that they mostly just want students who will flourish at their school.

So, you need to show them why you and Wonderful College are a perfect match. First, let me reassure you about your writing demands here.Read the school newspaper, follow the sports teams, scan student blogs and view student art projects. After researching each college, you will write an essay that accomplishes two vital missions: illuminating who you are and demonstrating your interest—or enthusiasm.To do that effectively, the key is using .” Now that you’re getting the idea, let’s move on to ...Somewhere in the middle of the college application process, just when you’ve patted yourself on the back for finishing your main Common Application essay, you realize that many of your chosen colleges request at least one more piece of writing.Often, it’s what I like to call the “Why This College? The prompt for this supplement can be worded several ways, but the inherent question is clear: Why do you want to attend —a phrase admissions folks frequently bandy about. Demonstrating interest is important even if it’s because the college wants a higher yield (i.e., percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll).That’s because after they consider your transcript and standardized test scores, they start looking for “fit”: Do your interests and even your sense of purpose line up with the university’s? Because yield is both a financial and a rankings concern, it can be a determining factor in admission.When it comes down to two equally qualified students, the college will accept the student more likely to enroll.Bottom line: If you have your own personal style and approach, use it—as long as your essay (1) shows your passion for learning and shows the college who you are, usually through anecdote, and (2) demonstrates your interest in this college using specifics, not generalities.I can’t resist giving you this last bit of advice: write your essays this summer, before senior year starts.The two-section system—showing your passions, followed by how those passions will blossom at college—is tried and true. One of the most effective essays I read recently was written by a student who fell in love with her first-choice college’s library, and then wrote about all the libraries she has loved in her life and what she hoped to accomplish in that college library were she to be accepted.Another student homed in on the university motto and made that the focus of his essay, because it closely aligned with his own moral code.

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