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How to Write an Online College Admissions Essay

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Since most online colleges do not require face-to-face interviews, the admissions essay is the primary way administrators get to know applicants. You won’t be able to charm an interviewer with your witty banter or your knowledge of school history. Instead, you’ll need to make sure your personality shines through in your writing.

Here’s how to write an online college admissions essay that “wows” your audience:

  1. Analyze the question. Admissions officers are looking for something; you need to figure out what it is. Think of the admissions essay question as a puzzle waiting to be solved. Don’t take it for its face value – think a little deeper. A question such as “Who is your hero?” is probably a way for admissions officers to find out what the applicant values. If you say your hero is style icon Paris Hilton, you’d better be applying to a fashion school.

  2. Follow the instructions. Once you’ve figured out what the admissions officers are looking for, it’s time to write. Follow the instructions with exacting accuracy, even if that means stifling your creativity a bit. Many schools use the admissions essay to make sure students can understand and follow basic directions. If you’re asked to keep your essay under a certain word count, do it. An unfortunate number of applicants have been shocked to learn that admissions officers received only the first 500 words of their 1000-word essays. The applicants didn’t follow the instructions, and the admissions officers didn’t get the opportunity to read their brilliant concluding paragraphs.

  3. Let your personality shine through. One of the most common admissions office complaints is that college applications seem a little too staged. Admissions officials want to make sure that your application essay wasn’t written by your guidance counselor or a hired essay-writing service. Break away from the generic and share your lovable quirks. At the same time, remember that you don’t have to reveal everything. If a bit of your history casts you in a bad light, it’s better not to mention it.

  4. Emphasize your strengths. The application essay is the perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate your strengths and explain any blemishes on your record. Many colleges ask students to write a separate essay that explains what sets them apart from the crowd. If you have an assignment like that, don’t be shy. Describe your many talents in a confident, non-boastful manner. If you have blemishes on your academic record such as poor grades or an expulsion, now is the time to own up to these issues. Explain any extenuating circumstances (such as dropping out due to a family tragedy). If there is no good excuse, explain what you’ve learned from your mistakes and why you’ll never make them again. Even if you are not assigned an essay about your strengths, you can demonstrate your talents in just about any assignment. “Show” the reader what your strengths are by setting up a scene. For example: In an essay about a defining moment in your life, you may want to “show” the reader how you’ve demonstrated leadership under stress. Don’t brag about it, just set the scene.

  5. Edit your work. Once you’ve completed the application essay, let it set for a few days. Then, go back and edit your work. Taking a break will help you look at it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself: “Is there is anything I can change to make the essay more powerful?” Be sure to run spell check and analyze every sentence for grammatical mistakes. If your online school does not prohibit second party help, ask a former teacher or essay editing service for additional assistance.

Writing a stellar college admissions essay takes time. By following these basic steps, you’ll be able to craft a piece to be proud of.

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