5 answers

What do college admission officers expect to see from an essay?

Asked New York, New York

In my 3rd year English class, my teacher has been focusing on college essays for quite a while. My teacher however, doesn't focus specifically on the format or layout. Rather, he wants my essay to be 'unconventional' and simply out of the ordinary. What is expected of a standard college essay? What can be interpreted as unique? #college #college-admissions #college-bound #college-selection

5 answers

Eleanor’s Answer

Updated Oakland, California

I think they expect to see a well-written essay that describes your interest in getting a degree and why; why you want to attend their school, how it will contribute to your educational and vocational goals, and how you will use the tools you receive to contribute to your community or society in general.


Eleanor recommends the following next steps:

  • Research admission requirements
  • Let a teacher or parent read a draft of your essay before you finalize it

Matthew’s Answer

Updated Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Nicholas, thanks for posting this question. It's definitely a good idea to explore as the next season of life approaches for you. Yes, your English teacher is right on the mark - make your essay about you, not about what you've done in terms of accomplishments and various awards, but more about your character. If I'm a college admissions office, I want to see who you are in the best way, even if you've made some mistakes. How did you learn from them? What prompted you to get where you are now? What obstacles did you face along the way? Give me an example of something you did that surprised others. When you provide a deeper narrative about a specific moment in your life that changed or affirmed who you are and what you're capable of doing, I'm very interested in what else you can do!

Best of luck! Matt

Kayla’s Answer

Diversity! They want to see what sets you apart and makes you unique from other applicants. Whether that be your job experience, extra curricular, or even frame of mind. Write about something that is important to you that will let your voice come through. Try to come up with something that is unique and interesting. These people read hundreds of essays so if you can get yours to stand apart from others and stick in the mind of the admissions officer, you will diversify yourself from the crowd and have a better chance at being chosen.

Alexander’s Answer

Updated Berkeley, California

I would focus on content and a style of writing that articulates your passions, creativity and style. Not everyone has a unique upbringing or a heartwarming story, but the skills, passions, and viewpoints that you bring to bear are. Use that to your advantage! Your sense of humor here is definitely one of the best tools you can use.

Alexander recommends the following next steps:

  • Think about cool experiences you had, especially ones that you created for yourself and that weren't given to you
  • Reach out to friends and families about what they think makes you special and great. Draw from their feedback and highlight those points through your writing.

Samantha’s Answer

Updated Austin, Texas

Be yourself. That's a pretty cliche and overused phrase but it fits this situation well. Don't worry about specific formatting if the college does not provide any guidelines for you to follow. They want to see what you come up on your own that will impress them and make them feel good about choosing you to attend their school. Be sure to point out your desirable traits like persistence and good work-ethic and follow this general structure: 1) get my attention 2) tell me what you are going to tell me 3) tell me 4) tell me what you told me 5) wrap it up in a bow Take that and run with it!