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5 Ways to Make your Essay Stand Out

August 22, 2016

First Impressions: Have a Strong Introduction
It’s a smart decision to focus a significant amount of your time trying to find just the right way to introduce yourself to the reader. Your opening sentence is the reader’s first introduction to who you are; much like a first date or a first interview, you’ll be judged by that first impression.  Hence, it’s important that the reader has a strong, positive first impression of your essay. You want the admissions officer to want to read more not because it’s her job, but because she can’t help herself.  So how can you make a powerful first impression in essay form?


Start with an opening statement that draws the reader in.  Either use imagery, a question or even humor to engage the reader’s interest.  And if you find yourself struggling with your intro, skip it and write the other sections of the essay instead.  You don’t have to write each part of your essay in order.  Write the parts that you’re sure about and then when you’re done, write your engaging intro.


Tackling the Topic: Add Creativity to Even the Most Boring Topic
So you’ve already tackled your introductory paragraph, but now you’re stuck again. The topic you’ve chosen or have been assigned just doesn’t inspire you.  If you can’t choose another topic, then just remember that a boring prompt doesn’t mean a boring essay. So tell your story in a way that’s unexpected, yet engaging.  Be inspired by your ability to write an engaging tale even if your topic is far from exciting.  Take this as a challenge to find a way to creatively write about a topic that most college hopefuls will write about in a dry and uninspired manner.  Remember you’re not just trying to write to a prompt, you’re trying to convince the reader why you’re the applicant worthy of the yes pile.  


No Fluff or Fillers: Write Concisely
Don’t write anything that you feel won’t add to your essay, especially if you’re just trying to get to a certain word count---as some colleges do prefer longer essays.  Get your point across in clear and concise sentences.  Of course, this will be a challenge if you’re limited to 650 words or less.  With so few number of words, you want to make sure every word you use actually counts.  You don’t want to be one of the many students who will write longwinded essays that drone on and on, but provide little substance.  Instead, showcase your ability to write well, by expressing yourself in a concise manner.  Not only will the reader appreciate your efforts, but a well-written essay that gets your point across without any fluff or filler is more likely to stand out.


In Their Shoes: Write Something that You Would Want to Read
Pretend that you’re the reader.  As the reader, what parts of your essay need clarification? What part of your essay is boring? Be harsh. Critique yourself.  Ask yourself this: If you don’t like reading it, then why would an admissions officer want to read it? Keep your audience in mind.  The admissions officer will most likely spend less than five minutes reading your essay.  In order to standout, you have to pull them in with something that is truly interesting.  Writing about being in the top ten percent of your graduating class sounds boring and contrived.  Would you want to read a story about academics? But writing about something deeply personal will make the reader empathize and remember you.


Your essay will stand out if you approach a given topic creatively, write concisely, have a strong introduction and if you stay true to yourself by writing something that you actually find interesting.  Remember: They’ll read thousands of essays before getting to yours.  Let your essay show them why they should not only choose you, but also why they should remember your words for years to come.

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