How can I write my best college essay?
The question of how best to approach your college essay is so important, in part because it is one that a lot of high school students struggle with.
Why do I need to write this anyway?
Before I get into the “how’ of essay writing, I’d like to explain why you are asked to write an essay at all as part of your college application.
The job of admission officers is to help craft a community. Who we bring to our campuses, their identities and experiences and values, are the things that make our campus culture what it is.
We already see many of your accomplishments and interests in your application — your transcript, your list of activities, your awards — and that's really wonderful and impressive and helpful for us. But a community isn't built on accomplishments alone— it's built by people and their backgrounds and the stories that they have and their vast and varied experiences and values. The college admission essay is an effective way to give admission officers some sense of who you are, what you believe, and what you stand for.
Who are you?
To help us learn more about who you really are, you should choose a story for your essay that is authentic to you. No matter how much you love your grandmother, and no matter how much you respect some famous cultural icon, it's really important that the substance of your essay be a story only you can tell. It doesn't have to be a list of accomplishments — in fact it shouldn’t be — and it shouldn't be about other people. It should be about you and your values and your passions and what you will bring to the community that you eventually join for college.
In a nutshell, that is really what colleges and universities are trying to get a sense of in an admission essay.
I, and most of my colleagues in the admission office at Grinnell College, save the admission essay to last. We read and review all the other parts of your application and then we read the essay because we know that's where we're going to get to know what really makes you, you. It lets us learn how you are special and how you might begin to build a life in our community.