Many colleges and universities, too many some students would argue, require an essay for admission. For some, the task is arduous and takes weeks to complete. For others, the task is simple and takes only hours to complete. Whichever category you fall into, here are some tips for producing a good college admissions essay.

Pay attention to the requirements. If the instructions call for a typed, double-spaced, 500-word essay, then submit that. Don’t scribble a paper on notebook paper and submit it, thinking the selection committee won’t notice. They will and may throw your essay out. Don’t go overboard either and submit a typed, double-spaced, 1,000-word essay. The extra words will not get you brownie points and could in fact work against you and get your essay thrown out.

Know your audience. Although you may gear your essay toward a specific group, keep in mind that ultimately it is the selection committee who will read it. Don’t write to a specific gender or ethnic group and alienate half of the committee members.

Write about what you know. Don’t try to impress your audience by choosing to write about something lofty you have no experience with, such as alcoholism or death. In all likelihood, the selection committee has read essays about every subject imaginable, so you don’t need to try to find an original topic either. The best essays are usually personal and reflect an aspect of the writer’s life or personality.

Start writing early. Don’t leave your essay for the night before the deadline. You will be rushed and it will show. Your essay will not be as developed as it could be and may lack in thought.

Be descriptive in your writing. Resist the urge to tell, tell, tell. Describe what is going on and back up generalizations, like “It was the worst night ever.” Use examples where possible and let your audience know what you felt and thought.

Revise your essay. Once you have a draft completed, read it again. Don’t toss it into the envelope and be done with it. A good essay is revised at least once, if not, several times. Have others read your essay and be open to their feedback.

Proof your essay. Essays that are full of errors are hard to read and understand. Spell-check your essay and proof it for errors. Have someone else check it, too. An error-free paper could give you an edge.

Keep in mind as you write that the committee will be reading hundreds of essays in the weeks following the deadline, so do your best to make your essay stand out and be remembered. Be honest in your account and put some effort into your essay. The key to any good college admissions essay is effort. The more effort you put into your essay, the better it will be and the more likely it will be remembered. A well-written essay could mean all the difference between getting into the college you want or settling for one of your second or third choices.

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