Everyone wants to show off their best side to admissions committees and your application essays are THE place to do it. In today's post, Noodle Pro and admissions counselor, Mark Villanueva responds to the three questions students ask him the most.
Can I use the same essay for every school I apply to?For the most part, yes. Your essay is supposed to be a reflection more of your personality and general interests, so make it about you, not the college! Many schools will give you a supplemental essay to talk about what interests you about that school and its programs, and that's where you can really get into specifics. Common App schools generally expect you to use the same essay, and many others ask very similar essay questions. As long as it's always relevant to the prompt, feel free to use the same essay.
Side note: don't take this advice as license to be lazy. You should really write 3-5 completely different practice essays, then set them up side by side and decide which of those showcases you best. It's tough to see the problems with your last essay before you write the next one.
One of the possible prompts for the Common App is "topic of your choice." Can I really write about whatever I want?Well, yes and no. What all of the prompts have in common is that they want to hear something telling about you so admissions officers can get a feel for who you are. When another prompt asks "indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence," it's not really asking about that person so much as what character traits you think are most important (hint: a lottery winner is the absolute wrong answer to this question). Beyond that, it's all about what that essay demonstrates about you. Notice, if you talk about a person who has had an influence on you, you've only written half the essay. You still have to say what that influence was: talk about how this person has affected you and about what you have done differently in your life as a result of that influence.
*Have done = The most important verb in your essay. What you feel doesn't mean anywhere near as much as what you have done, because what you have done is the best sign of what you will do later.
What does my good side look like?Your best side can vary a lot depending on who you are, so try to give your story a lot of personal flavor. There are a lot of things colleges look for: they want someone smart, hardworking, and academic. They want someone with people skills and leadership potential. But more than anything, they want someone with dedication. In school, in work, in life, you're going to face challenges. If you can prove yourself as the kind of person who overcomes those challenges, you've proven yourself as the kind of person colleges want to admit. There are a lot of ways to show off the best you, but make sure the person they see is one who never quits.
Learn more about Mark's admissions counseling, test-prep, and tutoring services here.