July Tip: Writing the Perfect College Essay

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Why does the mere mention of the words "college essay" strike fear in the hearts of high school seniors? This month, we help you break down the writing process into manageable steps and help take the stress out of the process.

Step 1: Don't Procrastinate.

Summer is a great time to start. Deadlines approach much faster than you expect. Last-minute essays are usually poorly written and contain careless mistakes.

Step 2: Think Before You Write.

Brainstorm with friends and family to identify topics that communicate your positive attributes and demonstrate your ability to succeed in college. But remember to focus. Your topic should be something you can realistically cover in  650 words or less. And make sure the topic is about you. If you want to write about your grandmother, that's great, but write about how she affected your life. Remember: we're not admitting your grandmother!

Hint: The way you craft your essay is every bit as important as the topic itself. Some of the best topics focus on small observations, not life-altering events.

Step 3: Write a Rough Draft, and Then Walk Away.

Writing is hard work, and your first draft is unlikely to be perfect (that's OK). Sit down one evening or afternoon and write a rough draft. Then walk away from it for a day or two. When you come back to it, you'll see it with a fresh eye and will be ready to do some focused editing.

Step 4: Edit, Edit, Edit.

Yes, this is the hard part. At this stage, you probably want to finish typing and move on to something else. But careful editing and proofreading can turn an average essay into a great essay. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have an organized introduction, body and conclusion?
  • Do my words convey the message in a precise and natural way?
  • Have I chosen words that are specific and accurate?
  • Have I used proper punctuation?
  • Have I checked my spelling?
  • Are my verb tenses consistent?
  • Does this essay communicate my strengths as an applicant?

Step 5: Relax.

Once your essay is finished, don't over-think it. The essay is important, but it isn't everything. The committee also weighs your transcript, recommendations, activities and test scores (if applicable) to form a complete picture of who you are. Your essay is only one piece of the admission puzzle.

At F&M, we want to help you put together the best application possible. If you have any questions regarding any aspect of the application process, please email us. And if you haven't visited campus yet, what are you waiting for? Schedule your visit today.

Stay tuned for next month's Dip Tip, when we share the inside scoop on Letters of Recommendation.

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