From Dr. Douglas Christiansen, Vice Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions at Vanderbilt University:

An essay is the one chance each student has to offer college/university enlightenment into his/her deepest beliefs, dreams personal reality and aspirations. Students should utilize this opportunity to their advantage to allow admissions officers’ insight past their grades and test scores. Students can expound why they may have been a slip in grades or other various life events, which may have altered their high school careers. Other than the expertise, more importantly admissions officers’ focus on what the student discloses regarding how the incident altered his/her life, how he/she has grown and arrived at different choices as a result of the incident, and how he/she has enhanced his/her life circle in the end.

Through essay, notwithstanding the topic, it is viable to inform the reader about choices that have ushered involvement, personal growth and failure or success as a result. Through the essay, the admissions officers should be able to see more vividly the insubstantial characteristics of the applicant such as integrity, commitment, honesty, empathy, ethical choices, leadership and perseverance. There are usually thousands of applications and only 10% – 15% of those applications get admissions. Therefore, explaining how you different from all the rest is crucial and the essay provides that opportunity.

From Stacey Kostell, Assistant Provost and Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Illinois: 

It is important that you answer the questions asked and tackle any specified criteria outlined when writing your application essay. I have come across thousands of essays and come to the realization that there are five core factors shared by all successful applicants. They include:

1. Be prepared.
Slow down and fully contemplate the questions asked and your answers. Then create an outline, write a first draft, and edit several times.

2. Be personal.
Offer specific examples of your experiences and goals. Avoid generalizations because it doesn’t help the admissions committee truly get a sense of who you are and why you’ll make the most of your time at the institution.

3. Be direct.
Select your words wisely in order to clearly relay your message. Most universities have a word limit on responses, meaning there is no room for fluff.

4. Be focused.
You don’t have to repeat your transcript. Instead, outline how your qualifications will be a benefit to you at the university.

5. Be professional.
Submit the best possible essays, free of spelling and grammatical errors. Ensure you proofread and edit them yourself. Nonetheless, request critiques from counselors, teachers, and your parents. It is always helpful to have feedback from readers.

From Courtney McAnuff, Vice President of Enrollment at Rutgers University: 

It is the one time that’s really all about you -colleges are interested in what makes you unique. The essay is a vital piece for our holistic review. Express yourself genuinely. Analyze the essay question, and note down your abrupt responses. Don’t seek out your responses from Google, but if you can’t resist, at least write down your outline first, and remain true to yourself in the final version. The essay topics requested by colleges/universities reflect each college’s interests in building their incoming class.

You should take interest in writing requested essay topic and be sure to answer the specific topic; don’t just modify a generic essay. If you don’t find the topic engaging, ask yourself, “Why this college one of my choices?” Submit the essay absolutely how the school requested it. Your keenness in following directions can be viewed as an indicator of what type of student you are presently by the school. Try and complete everything at least two weeks before the deadline to avert incidents such as computer crash/power outage/school closing possibility.

From James Nondorf, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Chicago:

Essays are a crucial element of the application process for several colleges and universities. They offer you the chance to let admissions officers get to know you more than just your test scores and transcripts. You key focus then to any college admissions essay is to write something you believe honestly represents your distinctive voice -something that other than demonstrating your capabilities as a writer, also exhibits your ability to be a critical and creative thinker, and to make outstanding benefactions to an academic community. First of all, it’s crucial to respond directly to the action, as well as displaying your creativity. Admissions officers can pin-point when you are faking and trying to write your way into a dissimilar essay topic.

Do not settle for the first idea that comes to mind or the first draft you jot on paper. Continue revising until you feel you have an essay that reflects your actual outlook. Also, try to have fun with your essays by exercising your sense of humor, embarking something you’re passion, or writing in a way you think is inspiring. The more you enjoy writing your essay, the more we’ll enjoy reading it.

From Kasey Urquidez, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Arizona:

Your personal statement offers you the opportunity to show the college/university that you are applying to a chance to get to know more about you. Although academic preparation is vital, your statement will help you stand out.
It is important to take time to write your best statement before submitting it. Here are a few pointers for when writing your statement:

  • Be yourself.
  • Pay attention to one topic and making an impression. What will be remembered?
  • Utilize appropriate, yet colorful, striking language to express yourself.
  • Be expressive.
  • Share new information. Repetition of what you already included in your application is not very helpful.
  • Provide a strong opening and closing. Your intention should be to capture your reader from your opening and leave a lasting impression from your closing.
  • Know your audience. Admissions representatives from various backgrounds of all ages will read your statement.
    Go over the instructions carefully and take note of word limits.
  • Write a rough draft.
  • Do spell-checking yourself.
  • Read out your statement to help you “hear” what it will sound like to your readers.
  • Choose a few people in your trust circle to proof read your work.
  • Hand in once you’re entirely satisfied!

From Jarrid James Whitney, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at California Institute of Technology:

I often remind students that their answer to the essay prompts are in a sense similar to a personal interview with the admissions committee. This means that they should truthfully talk about what’s salient to them and border topics that have meaning, and particularly address crucial items that may not be outlined in the rest of the application or even stress other parts of the application.

The essays truthfully reflect who an applicant is; therefore the student’s voice is critical. Some students get others to help them write their responses, which is okay. However, these student needs to remember to retain the feel of who they are because the story is about them.

Also, it is important for the student to ensure they connect the essay back to themselves. Students tend to get caught up in a great story about a place, another individual, or thing, and forget they need to focus on why that place, person, or thing is important to them.  Take note that the short answer responses are crucial as the long personal statements to an admissions committee as.

In conclusion, students need to spend time in preparation of their responses. Most essays will possibly undergo several drafts, which is expected, since writing is truly an art. Eventually, colleges are searching for the perfect fit, so hopefully those essays can aid in confirming whether or not the college, and the student, are a match.