How do I know if my college application essay is good enough?
You can find everything I’m going to talk about in the book I wrote about college essays... “30 Minutes to a Winning College Admissions Essay”
It goes into a lot more depth and walks you through the process from start to finish. But here are three things to look for if you want to quickly assess the quality of your college essay.
- Is your essay really about you? I know. That sounds almost ridiculous it’s so straightforward. But trust me. I’ve worked with a lot of students whose essays really weren’t about them. They were about a person who’d meant a lot to them. They were about an amazing summer trip. And yes, the essays were so focused on the characteristics of that influential person, or that magical summer trip, that the writer of the essay—the person the admissions officers want to get to know—got completely lost. So read your essay over and ask yourself the question:
What is this essay telling an admissions officer about me? What does it show them about my character? What does it tell them about my accomplishments? If you can’t point to at least one thing in each paragraph that helps bring YOU, college applicant, into three dimensions, you’ll want to revise.
- What’s the emotional, philosophical, or moral lesson at the heart of your essay? That’s right: It’s not enough to write about your big science fair win, or about your 100-mile walk for charity. The experience at the heart of your essay is merely the vehicle for the emotional, philosophical, moral, or even spiritual lesson you learned—and what the essay is really all about. So read your essay over and ask yourself the question: Does this essay convey a lesson or transformation? If so, what is it? If not…well, you’ve got some rewriting to do.
- Do I have a thesis statement?
Oh my gosh, the number of college admissions essays I’ve seen that haven’t had thesis statements is truly horrifying. And yes, to answer your question, EVERY essay, even if it’s not for your English teacher, needs a thesis statement—in other words, every essay needs you to state your main point up front. Essays that don’t are guaranteed to fishtail and lose their way. So read your essay over and ask yourself the question: What’s my main point? And then ask yourself: And do I state that main point up front in a clear and direct way? If you don’t, you’ll want to massage your introduction with a thesis statement in mind, and then make sure the rest of your essay backs that thesis statement up with interesting, well-chosen examples.