1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

The College [STR]Essay: 5 tips from application readers


When we ask most students “how is your application coming along?” the most common response is, “it’s finished…except for the essay.”

On behalf of application readers everywhere, we can assure you that there is not one magic formula or a perfect essay. But, we do have some tips that will get you going in the right direction:

1. Be yourself. If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re a geeky, be geeky. If you’re a whimsical poet, write a poem to prove it. Don’t try so hard to be something you’re not. The best essays have one thing in common…a sense of personality. The essay is our one opportunity to hear your voice. After all, “there is no one alive that is you-er than you!” Which leads us to tip #2….

2. Skip Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney. Don’t get us wrong…we love “the places you’ll go” and what happened when you “wished upon a star,” but we read them so often that many reviewers will say, “another one?” And that’s not the impression you want to leave. Instead, look outside the box for opportunities to use other literary devices, like analogies, metaphors, imagery, or search for other quotes that better relate to your subject that we haven’t heard before.

3.Don’t write for us, write for you. Don’t pick a topic because you think we’ll like it. We’ll be able to tell if you’re not passionate about a subject. Authenticity matters. Pick something that you care about or are interested in and talk about it in first person. Share with us an interesting experience or a good story, not your biography. Also, if you’re an athlete, an artist, a musician…we already know that about you. Besides that one game-winning kick or nerve-wracking solo…what else can you tell us? Go deeper!

4.Be creative. To show you what a creative, memorable essay sounds like, here are some recollections from our own admissions counselors about past essays that still stand out in their minds today…

“My most memorable essay was about a student being pooped on by birds three times in her life. It was so out-of-the-ordinary and funny, but it was genuine and very well-written. And, she still managed to tie it back to a theme about how she was quite literally, a unique individual.”

“One essay I remember had a very jarring intro about an encounter she experienced. If you are going to open with something surprising or provocative, though, make sure you put it into context and that you’re not just doing it for shock value. I really like honest, insightful stories from your life that shows personal character.”

“I’ve read two really great essays about shoes. One was about a favorite pair of shoes and wanting to find a college that fits her as well as they do, and the other was about working when she was younger to help a local organization raise money to buy shoes for needy children and tied into her desire to go into health care.”

5. Start early and proofread! Write 2 or 3 different first paragraphs that answer several essay prompts. Then…ignore it. Put them away for a few days—or maybe a few weeks. This strategy gives you a head start and lets you creatively think about which has the most potential.

Secondly, don’t forget to utilize a second set of eyes. Your college essay should read like a grammatically correct and well proof-read blog post.

Lastly, make sure you submit the right essay for the right college. Any admissions counselor will balk at reading, “I can’t wait to attend XXXX college” and it not be the right one!

We hope this takes a little “stress” out of your essay. Contact your specific Transy admissions counselor for more recommendations!