College Essays: A Chance To Tell Your Own Story, In Your Own Words
The college essay is a unique part of the application process. It is a piece of writing that could potentially change your life - which should motivate you to want to write as well as possible! Colleges across the USA receive thousands of admission essays every year, and it is an overwhelming job for the admissions officers to read all of them. If you can write a powerful essay that is captivating, descriptive and emotionally engaging for the reader, you will stand out from the crowd.
But how do you write a knockout essay? What can you do to establish yourself as someone the university wants to welcome into its student body? We've got some tips for you to look at before you start writing, and these ideas will help you craft the perfect college essay - one that can get you into the university of your dreams.
1. What Matters To You?
The most important thing is to write something that impacts you - not something that you think the admissions office will like. You need to reflect on how the experience changed you - simply recounting it is something anyone can do. Talk about how it played out in your life, and what you learned from it. In a similar way, ditch the thesaurus and aim instead for a sophisticated piece that vividly displays the ideas you feel are most important to the story.
2. No Repeats
The essay should not contradict what is contained in the rest of your application - whether that is marks, extracurriculars, achievements, or even recommendations from teachers or peers. Nor should it repeat anything already in your application - the essay is not a space to list your awards. Rather, use the space to talk about something that makes you unique - the essay should tell the most important story about you that the rest of your application cannot.
3. Start Early and Write Several Drafts
With something this important, it's crucial to spend enough time thinking about it and making sure you've put the best version of the story down. Start with a brainstorm - put down topics and points you can write about, and the ideas you want to convey. After you've written a first draft, set it aside for a couple of days, and then read it again. Try to put yourself in the place of the admissions officers who will be reading it. Does it reveal something about you? Is it clear in its intent and purpose? Does it actually answer the prompt you were given?
4. Have Someone Check Your Essay
It is always best to get other peoples' eyes on your essay. Outside perspective is most helpful when trying to ensure your essay flows logically, and your points are clear and well-made. For this, a teacher or adult is your best bet - but if you have willing friends and family members, that's great too. Make sure to get everyone to check your grammar and sentence structure - and remember to be open to suggestions and constructive criticism. Taking other peoples' thoughts on board is one of the best ways to improve a piece of writing - just make sure not to edit your own perspective out of it!
5. Read the Success Stories
You can find tons of successful college essays online - sit down and read ones that have gotten people into their dream schools. You'll probably be at least a little bit surprised by their content - they are pieces of people, not award-winning novels. You want your story to be the one the admissions committee can't put down. Once you find a topic that you care about, writing the essay should come easily - it should come from a place of passion.
College essays shouldn't be overwhelming. Like all good things in life, you need to dedicate time to it. Remember, admissions officers want to get to know who you are, so don't think you should focus on what's already been told.
“No one can tell your story, so tell it yourself. No one can write your story, so write it yourself.”
To all students: we wish you the best of luck in your upcoming application essays. Good luck!
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Ivy League schools are considered the most sought-after institutions of higher learning in the USA and around the world. These eight private schools, located in the Northeast of America, are known for their highly selective admissions process, academic excellence, promising career opportunities, and significant, rich histories.
The eight Ivy League schools — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, UPenn, Princeton, and Yale — had a total of 281,060 applicants for the class of 2021. Of those applicants, less than 10% got admissions offers. Harvard had the lowest acceptance rate out of all, at just 5%.
Based on stats alone, it is clear to see just how challenging it can be to get into any of the Ivy League schools. So how exactly can this be done?
Focus in the Classroom!
First and foremost, a strong academic performance in the classroom throughout high school is going to be a prerequisite to even be considered for one of the Ivy League schools. Ambitious students should take rigorous courses and prove their competency in these courses at the same time. Grades are still a crucial factor when considering these schools. Students are expected to challenge themselves and still succeed.
Simply having a high GPA and SAT score won’t automatically get you into an Ivy League school. In fact, most highly intelligent and academically qualified students get rejected. In order to get admitted, you’re going to need to show that you’re not just smart, but special, too.
Find your passion
It is important to note that it doesn’t necessarily matter if a student is doing athletics, community service, or academic clubs. What these schools look for is why a student is choosing to do those activities, and what they have gotten out of it. Have they learned time management skills, leadership, teamwork, or discipline? How have they grown as a person, and what qualities will they bring to the campus? Ivies are looking to admit specialists who focus on a few core interests for all of their high school careers. So focus on what you love instead of joining a few random clubs that you are not genuinely interested in!
Apply early decision/early action
Applying this way significantly boosts your chances of getting into one of the Ivies. You can only apply Early Decision for one school, though, so choose carefully. Students are encouraged to apply early only if they are ready to enrol if accepted. If a student is accepted under Early Decision, he or she must withdraw from all other schools and he or she is expected to attend that school. Students also have a similar advantage by applying Early Action and, unlike Early Decision, applying Early Action is not binding.
Write a really good essay
The essay provides you with the very unique chance to tell the admissions office exactly who you are, in your own words. This is something you should take the fullest advantage of, as it is your opportunity to make yourself stand out among the crowd. Write about something not found anywhere else in your application, and showcase what you're interested in, what your passions are, and what’s important to you. Be yourself!
The Ivy League schools are always looking to improve their yield, which is the percentage of admitted students who enrol. One way they do this is by looking at demonstrated interest. Additional indications of interest, such as visiting the campus, going on a campus tour, and scheduling an optional interview, increase the likelihood that a student will enrol if admitted.
If you can follow all or many of these steps, you might just get into an Ivy League school or, if you’re really lucky, more than one.
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As we move through the Covid-19 lockdown, there are many Matrics who will be concerned about achieving the highest marks possible in order to maximize their chances of getting into the University of their choice, whether that’s UCT, Wits, Tuks, or Stellenbosch.
But what about Universities and Colleges outside of South Africa? How does the application process differ? What do American Universities value, and what do they deem less important?
Here are a couple of key differences that will set you on the right path when thinking about applications to Universities in the USA:
The Breadth of Opportunity
Where South Africa has a total of 26 institutions of tertiary education, the US is home to over 4,000. This mix of locations, focuses, specializations, and experiences means you are guaranteed to find a perfect fit – and that’s what Aspire Atlantic strives to help you do. In South Africa, you might feel like you are simply following the crowd, but we believe that in America, there is a perfect fit for everybody – we want to give you the opportunity to study what you want, where you want.
A Holistic Application
In South Africa, Universities will generally only consider your marks – how well you’ve done in school – when looking at your application. When it comes to US Universities, however, there are things that are more important than your marks. Yes, doing as well as you can on the SAT is important, but you also need to make sure you have a well-rounded application by participating in extracurriculars and being able to reflect your impact at school positively through teacher and peer recommendations.
A further difference in the process is the personal essay. This is a statement attached to your application that tells the Universities you are applying to about YOU, and helps them choose between otherwise equally promising candidates. It’s important to write about something that reflects well who you are, and allows your personality to shine through! You can write about an experience, a point of view, or even your favourite band or singer – as long as it properly reflects the kind of person you are to the University.
Emphasis on Diversity
It is true that South African Universities do sometimes have institutional systems in place to promote diversity on campus, American Universities take this to a different level. Many Universities in the USA have large parts of their student body made up of local students. As diversity of thought, and therefore of experience, is highly valued at the tertiary education level in the States, the Universities work to attract international students, as having a more diverse student body is a sign of prestige. Foreign students are valued and desired by Universities in the USA.
To all students who are interested in studying in the USA, and who plan to use sport to make that a reality: there is no better time to start planning for your future than RIGHT NOW. Sign up for an evaluation to see if Aspire Atlantic can help you achieve your academic and sporting dreams today!