What an Application Essay Should Demonstrate

Many students find that the essay is the most stressful part of their college application process. With so many application essays to write, students sometimes feel confused about what it is, exactly, that the essay is supposed to demonstrate. In the most general terms, the essay is really an opportunity to tell your admissions officer who you were, how you’ve become who you are, and who you hope to be.

Who You Were

You want your application essay to express something about your background. Think about an experience in your personal history that speaks to the essay prompt. Funny or touching stories can make your application stand out. This is also a good opportunity to talk about anything in your family history that makes you an especially appealing candidate for admission. If you have overcome hardship or adversity, don’t be afraid to discuss it.

How You’ve Become Who You Are

College is a time of growth and change. An admission’s officer is looking for someone who is prepared to make the most out of all the learning experiences college provides. Use the prompt to talk about ways you’ve matured over time, or experiences that changed your perspective on a particular topic. You want to demonstrate that you are capable of dealing with difficulties, and that you have put deliberate thought into what sort of person you are.

Who You Hope to Be

Education is a means to make dreams come true, and admissions officers are looking for people who have a specific plan as to how they will achieve their goals. At the same time, it’s important to remain flexible. Talk about what you plan to do with your education both in terms of your career and in terms of your personal life. Demonstrating that you have planned for your future will show admissions officers that you are capable of self-assessment and have a personal drive to achieve.

An application essay is a personal statement, but it is also an academic document. Therefore, you want to make sure you demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly, stay on topic, and present a persuasive argument. Edit your application essay carefully for spelling and grammar errors, and make sure you stay within the assigned word count. Use the same sort of critical eye as you would for any other academic paper.