The college admissions essay is a milestone for many high school students. And though people generally tend to enjoy writing about themselves, the admissions essay is usually viewed a little differently. Its often surrounded by a lot of anxiety and uncertainty as it relates to being accepted to a particular college or university-which can definitely be justified.
So what is the purpose of the admissions essay?
In many cases, the main idea of the admissions essay is for students demonstrate to the admissions department or review committee that they are a good match for the school and worthy of being admitted (based on the many things that they have to offer).
The second major aim of the college admissions essay doesn't have much to do with 'selling' or 'proving' anything-it simply involves letting the school know who you are and what makes you unique and different from everyone else. This can be considered the 'lighter side' of the admissions essay that is sometimes forgotten. Overall, the main goal or purpose of the admissions essay can be explained with three main objectives.
The Three Main Objectives
Though descriptions given about admissions essays may vary from school to school, in a nutshell the basic objectives of an admissions essay are as follows;
- To provide the review committee with information that can't be found elsewhere on the student's application
- To identify what makes them special, unique, and sets them apart from others (this may also include specific hobbies and interest)
- To share the student's life goals and aspirations, to get a better idea of what they would like to achieve and how the particular college or university can help them achieve that
These goals and objectives are generally made quite clear in the various questions asked within most college applications. Along with knowing the main goals of the essay, it may also help to simplify it into five general sections
Five Parts to the Admissions Essay
1. Who are you?
This section may likely come at the beginning of your essay in the introduction or early on in the writing; it provides the reader with some basic background information on you. What you supply should be useful and appropriate, and just enough to provide the reviewer with a context for your essay. For example, if you plan to talk about your struggle with learning English as a second language, you should obviously first explain to the reader what your first language is, where you are from, how long you've been living where you are and so on.
2. What major things have impacted your life?
College questions will usually ask about a specific influence or impact from your life experience. In helping to paint a picture of who you are its very important to know what helped to make you the person you are today. Many things influence our development and major life choices, they generally include; environment, close relationships, social status/class, and special happenings or events.
3. Why are you applying here? Why this program?
These questions may appear a little blunt, but essentially the admissions committee does want to know, why them? why here? Even though many students may just select schools for very simple or superficial reasons, reviewers generally don't want to hear that you've chosen their school because your best friend is also applying or because its close to home. They obviously require more thought-out, planned, and in-depth responses. So instead of making up an answer (which will likely be pretty transparent) take the opportunity to actual investigate the school you are applying to-it may turn out that its not the best school for you! And in doing so you can provide real, genuine answers in your essay to demonstrate that you've actually done your homework and you know what the school can offer you and why it would be a good choice for you at this time.
4. What are your plans for the future?
In this section students can focus on specific educational plans as well as general life goals. In many ways this section is connected to the previous question as schools are usually concerned as to how their school or program in particular will work into a student's long term life goals and aspirations. Though non-educational goals may be included, such as raising a family, moving to another country, or other than that, they should be restricted to appropriate topics that are in some way connected to educational and career-related objectives. This may not always be the case, but generally speaking it's best to keep the tone of the essay friendly and professional without being too personal, and career and education aims are easy ways of achieving that.
5. Would you like to explain anything specific about your record?
This last section may actually be more suited for the admission essay objectives list. Because in many cases one of the goals of the essay is to address unclear or ambiguous concerns not apparent in the application. So for example, if there is a gap in education (for instance with transfer students) or a poor academic report, low test scores, or something of this nature, the admissions essay is a chance to clarify and explain these issues. Though a specific question may not be asked regarding this, if there is a real pressing concern that you'd like to explain, there should be a way to work it into your essay one way or the other (or simply add an additional note or section to the essay).
Sample essay questions
In addition to the general objectives mentioned earlier, as well as the above section guidelines, some students may also benefit from practice essay questions. Practice is great for many things and with the admissions essay it can lessen some of the stress and anxiety connected to applying for and being admitted into college.
Below are a few sample questions/request;
- Provide one example of how your socioeconomic background influenced your decision to apply to this college.
- How will your attending this school help you achieve your educational goals?
- In what ways do you think that you will contribute to our institution?
You may have noticed that in some way the above questions touch on issues covered in the main objectives (though they may be presented slightly differently and demand concrete examples or a brief elaboration on some points). With that being said, in general, if you are able to fulfill the three main admissions essay objectives clearly and precisely in your writing, you should be able to easily address most questions posed in any college admissions application.
Some tips on getting your answers right
Its worth mentioning that even if you've already explored some of the issues mentioned in an essay question or prepared some portion of your essay ahead of time, its important to write a unique answer for each application. This will help to ensure that you directly and accurately answer the question that was requested of you.
So for example, a few generic paragraphs describing your educational goals is not sufficient to answer question number #2 above; because you must also research what the school offers and incorporate specific attributes of the school into your essay to properly answer this question (by stating how the school can help you attain your educational goals).
In some cases students do actually get so involved in their writing that they may forget to answer the question! So be mindful of that when preparing answers; constantly check the question to make sure you are on track and strive to create a unique and personalized essay for each school. Generic essays usually appear as so and may be looked at unfavorably by your admissions reviewer.
Starting the first day of your academic journey, you are making an impact on your future. What are your educational goals? Maybe you are working to finish your degree for a career promotion, or maybe you’re simply an avid lifelong learner. One of your educational goals may be to have a new perspective on the world, to think more critically, or become well-versed with writing, reading and working with numbers. We all have hopes of achieving our academic goals, but it’s not always clear how to make those goals become a reality.
In order to make the most of your college education, establish goals from the beginning of your educational experience. Determine which institutions or degrees will help open up doors for your professional development. Set yourself up for success by ensuring that your previous college credits or professional training can transfer in as academic credit. This will help put you one step closer to achieving your educational goal.
Tips for Setting Goals
- Enjoy What You Do: Orient your goals around topics that you take great interest in. The more you enjoy diving into a certain topic, the more successful you are bound to be.
- Plan a Realistic Schedule:Assess what other responsibilities and commitments you have in your life and compare this to how much time you will need to dedicate to your studies.
- Create Specific Goals: Know exactly what you are striving for.
- Make Attainable Goals: It is difficult to maintain motivation when working toward a goal you may believe to be unattainable.
- Set a Date: Put a time limit on your goal to help keep you focused.
How to Achieve Your Goals
- Seek Support: Get your family and friends on board with your educational goals, to ensure their continuous support throughout your academic venture. If you share and plan for your goals, you will likely increase your chances of reaching them. Also, educate yourself on what helpful resources are available to you, such as academic services and faculty members.
- Stay Focused: Keep an organized space and dedicated quite time to study. Work to manage your time by creating a to-do list to help yourself stay on task. Don’t forget to include breaks though – this time will help invigorate your mind and body.
- Be Engaged: Whether you are in the traditional classroom, or in a virtual classroom, your engagement is vital to your success. Actively communicate with your instructors and peers. It’s also important to be engaged in discussions around your field of interest.
- Maintain Flexibility: Set goals that allow you to achieve some success even if you don’t achieve your entire goal.
Soon you will find that your personal and professional aspirations are becoming a reality as a result of your hard work. The educational goals that you have personally selected can be milestones that you will achieve. Completing goals will help you feel fulfilled and the rewards may be greater than you ever imagined.
Remember to take time to celebrate your accomplishments – from your small, short-term goals all the way up to your long-term educational goals! Rewarding yourself will help build your confidence for future goals and provide closure on completed goals. Celebrate however you want, whether it’s sharing the news with close family and friends, heading out for a weekend hike, or going out to dinner. Good luck!