Pizza, community service, grandmothers, barnacles…you name it, and admissions officers have probably read an essay about it. And given that thousands of students are admitted to colleges each year, I hope we can all agree there is no one “best” topic on which to write your Common App essay. What makes a college essay strong isn’t necessary its theme, but the personal and reflective story that emerges from that theme. College admissions officers use your personal statement to get to know you as an individual beyond your transcript and test scores, and the essay can be a powerful factor in determining those students who are admitted and those who are not.
The Jordan & Cara Odo Scholarship Foundation will award a $1,000 scholarship to a bright and talented high school senior seeking to further his or her education. Applicants must be a high school senior currently attending a high school in Hawaii; plan to attend a two- or four-year college; and have a minimum 2.5 GPA. A 500-word essay will be part of the application.
It may be only 500 words — or sometimes only 100-250 words — but the admissions essay(s) portion of a college application can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. How you write your personal essay shows the admissions committee why you are different from other applicants. It provides information about you that test scores, grades, and extracurricular pursuits just cannot. 
In addition to just science, I am drawn to State University for other reasons. I strive to work with the diverse group of people that State University wholeheartedly accommodates – and who also share my mindset. They, like me, are there because State University respects the value of diversity. I know from personal experience that in order to achieve the trust, honesty, and success that State University values, new people are needed to create a respectful environment for these values. I feel that my background as an American Sikh will provide an innovative perspective in the university’s search for knowledge while helping it to develop a basis for future success. And that, truly, is the greatest success I can imagine.
Your grammar and usage do not have to be perfect. However, your essay should be polished and free of conspicuous errors, such as typos and spelling mistakes. In addition to having reviewers spot any issues with clarity and readability, Southwestern University Dean of Admission and Enrollment Services Christine Bowman suggests, “print out your essay, and read it aloud to make sure you have not missed any key words or punctuation. Sometimes we type faster than our thoughts get onto the page.” Seeing your essay printed in hard copy can help you see what you might miss on screen; reading it aloud can help you “hear” errors that your eyes might skip.
Kim is a recognized national expert on the college application essay and speaks to high school and parent groups about the role of the college essay within the competitive admission world. Kim is also a frequent guest speaker at industry conferences, and has planned and moderated expert panel discussions on the college essay with admission professionals from the nation’s top universities. Kim conducts monthly webinars for parents and represents Wow during webinars and interactive social media events (Twitter Chats, Google Hangouts, etc.) sponsored by community service organizations, test prep organizations, and financial aid companies.  
Some admission officers pore over your application; others spend only minutes reading your documents. Whatever your reader’s process, you need to grab their attention. And a snore-mongering list of extracurriculars is not the way to hook your audience. As Southwestern University Associate Director of Admission Dana Marchant suggests, “Do not reiterate all the activities and involvement you have completed during your high school year. Focus on one experience and the skill it has taught you. It may be very big (e.g., being adopted) or small (e.g., a jarring conversation at an after-school club meeting), but focus on the life lessons you learned from that experience. Some of the best essays I have read have been about a simple experience, but students have been able to put me in that moment with them and then expounded on how it changed them.”
I move over to the right side of the page. At the top, I have neatly sewn on three items. The first is a page of a Cambodian Bible that was given to each of the soldiers at a military base where I taught English. Beneath it is the picture of my Guatemalan girls and me sitting on the dirt ground while we devour arroz con pollo, red sauce slobbered all over our lips. I reread the third item, a short note that a student at a rural elementary school in Korea had struggled to write in her broken English. I lightly touch the little chain with a dangling letter E included with the note. Moving to the lower portion of the page, I see the photo of the shelf with all my ceramic projects glazed in vibrant hues. With great pride, I have added a clipping of my page from the Mirror, our school newspaper, next to the ticket stubs for Wicked from my date with Dad. I make sure to include a photo of my first scrapbook page of the visit to Hearst Castle in fifth grade.
Before you begin to write, brainstorm some ideas. Most likely, the university gave you a prompt or a choice of prompts to write about. Take your time to carefully consider each prompt. If you feel yourself drawn to a particular prompt, think about why you’re being drawn to it. Reflect on your life to find any personal anecdotes that work well with that prompt.
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