If you're dreading the essay part of the college entrance process, you're not alone. Most students find the prospect of writing a college admissions essay pretty scary. What are you supposed to write about? What should be the tone of your essay? What are they looking for? How personal should you get?
If you have free reign to choose your college entrance essay topic, pick something that interests you. If the college has assigned you a specific essay, read the question carefully and think about it to let it sink in. No matter how simple the question sounds, you want to make sure you understand what you're being asked. Once you've got that covered, spend some time at the library researching the topic. You want to follow the essay guidelines as laid out by the admissions office, but you also want your essay to stand out from the crowd, so try to think of an interesting or unique perspective about the topic to cover.
Next, brainstorm the topic and take notes, writing down anything that pops into your head about it. Then take a look at your notes and start forming your outline. After that, like it or not, it's time to start writing. If the topic is multi-dimensional, don't be afraid to choose a side or otherwise share your personal feelings and opinions. This is what the admissions office is looking for.
Don't forget the golden rule of journalism: Show, don't tell. Do not say something like, "I like to sing, travel, and I want to be a dentist." Instead, you'd want to write, "I was in an acapella choir in high school and I hope to join a chorus in college. When I graduate from the School of Dentistry, my goal is to take two missionary trips to Africa each year to practice free dentistry in developing villages."
You want to convey your strengths and character in your essay. You also want to prove that you can state an opinion and back it up and to show your skill at putting your thoughts into writing. There are also a few things you don't want to do. First, don't use a thesaurus. If your essay is peppered with words that you'd never use in conversation, a trained admissions officer will realize it and be less than impressed with your ability to stand on your own.
Next, do not try to brown-nose or write to what you think they want to read. By this time, the admissions office already knows that you want to be accepted, so you don't have to tell them how wonderful you think their school is. Instead, let your writing introduce you as a person, someone with original ideas and leadership skills, and someone who fits into an academic environment.
And last, the college admissions essay is no place to share your woes. It might be tempting to write about your triumphs over adversity, but even if you really were born in a women's prison and left on a random doorstep by your gambling-addicted father, only to be ridiculed and raised as the simple ugly duckling in a family of super-intelligent supermodels, the admissions essay is not the place to talk about it. Among a sea of essays, sob stories tend to find their way to the bottom of the pile.
Finally, trust yourself, and have confidence in your writing. Remember that the people who will be reading your essay are looking forward to getting to know more about you. You can do this.