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Like it or hate it, it is here to stay. We’re talking about the good old college application essay. If you’re eyeing an education abroad, you may have heard this a hundred times, if not more, that you need to make your application ‘stand out’. After all, the college application is your personal statement that helps the admissions committee understand why it should accept you. And so you must make certain that you put your best foot forward.

Naturally, you may feel pressured to write an extraordinary essay in terms of both content and language. So how do you go about it when you have never gone paragliding in the Bavarian Alps or run the Chicago marathon? How do you write an extraordinary essay when you live a pretty ordinary life?

Here are some pointers to help you write essays that would make your college application ‘stand out’ even if you think you don’t have anything interesting to write about:

  1. Choose the right prompt

    Essay prompts come in many shapes and sizes but their intent is the same: to get to know you better. If you’re vulnerable to going astray while writing, remember to address three core topics:

    1. Who am I?
    2. What drives me?
    3. Why should you choose me over others?

    Many colleges ask you that why would you like to pursue a certain course with them. Be very specific here and carefully align your career goals with their offerings. Colleges expect you to research their courses well and it would be great if you come across an as informed applicant.

    Check out essay prompts of the common application form.

  2. Introduction matters!

    Your admissions officer will go through a hundred other essays along with yours. It’s enough to make any one get bored out of their wits. So ensure that you catch attention with powerful opening lines that are rich in details. Use words that compel the reader to read further. Use an interesting quote or a startling fact to begin, something that goes like:

    Some risks are worth taking (piques curiosity) or 38 per cent of Indian scientists believe in God (interesting statistic)

    That said, don’t go overboard with the shock factor. Remember, most universities have strict policies on obscene language, illegal activity, violence or graphic subjects. Avoid controversial topics. Keep in mind that the person reading your application may have a completely opposite point of view and you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot with them.

    The content of your introduction must:

    • Grip your reader
    • Introduce the topic
    • Present your stance on the issue

    Check out some interesting introductory passages that worked in Johns Hopkins and Tufts.

  3. Be authentic

    Admission officers can usually sniff out a fake, so be authentic. Organize your thoughts. Share stories from everyday life to reveal your character and values. Be original and creative when you share stories but stay true to yourself. Only if you are a funny person, tell your story in a funny way, otherwise, steer clear.

    While mentioning achievements, avoid self-glorifying adjectives. Instead, bring out your winning characteristics with the help of clear examples. Just present your case and let your accomplishments speak for themselves. It is always better to say:

    I grew up in my grandparents’ home surrounded by books of all kinds. I have walked down the hillside with Kipling’s Mowgli and accompanied Potter’s Rabbit on his garden adventures. Enthralled by fables all through my formative years, words come to me naturally, and with them, winning spelling bees.

    than saying:

    Since childhood, I have loved reading books by Rudyard Kipling and Beatrix Potter. As a result, I have won many spelling bees.

    However, maintain the balance between bragging and underselling. At times, weaknesses work well. So if you’ve had an embarrassing experience while growing up (and all of us do), turn that into an advantage and share it. Check out this application essay that won the hearts of admission officers of 14 top universities across the US.

  4. Take your time

    Begin early while undergoing exam preparation, write the first draft and then sleep on it. Review your application at different times but do know when to stop. If you’re stuck somewhere, take a break and then come back to it. Keep an eye on application deadlines; your final draft must be ready at least two weeks before you intend to send your application.

  5. Take help

    A second opinion always helps. Show your write-up to family, friends, counsellor or someone who knows you. Does your essay sound like you? Does it give a clear picture of your views and what makes you tick? Consider and incorporate their opinion but also go with your own intuition.

We hope these tips will help you with your college application. Best of luck!

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