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  • Essential College Coaches

5 Essay Must Haves to Get Into Your Top Choice College

Tell us your story. This is the most common advice high school seniors are given as to how to craft their college essay. The internet is filled with examples and videos describing what this ubiquitous sentence means. It sounds straightforward, but in reality College Admissions officers have an extremely limited time to evaluate thousands of essays. If you do not include the traits they are looking for, your beautifully crafted essay is worthless. 

We tell our students CONTENT matters. What content is critical to include in your essay?

Recently a lawsuit resulted in some of Harvard’s admissions process being made public. It became clear that despite the open invitation to write about any topic, Harvard had specific metrics they evaluated each essay on. The traits of humor, sensitivity, grit, leadership, helpfulness, courage and kindness are each ranked. This is the CONTENT colleges want to see you display. It is not enough to write about a passion or amazing experience, no matter your writing skill, your essay will rate low with admissions. Admissions wants to understand more about your character after reading your essay. But most importantly, colleges want you to display your potential and prove you will be successful on their campus.

Research shows that colleges across the country including Dartmouth, Stanford and Emory  want to see how you will use your intellectual curiosity to contribute to campus life. What have students done with the opportunities they have been given? Do you come off as entitled? Admissions is looking for every trait you display and noting their impressions right on your file. It is not enough to be smart or accomplished, colleges are looking for community builders.

Essential College Coaches’ compilation of data, experience and on-going conversations with Admissions Officers confirms that your college essay MUST include the 5 following Traits to move to the Accepted pile:

  1. Motivation & Drive — Working hard, smart and facing challenges with grace.

  2. Intellectual Curiosity — How have you taken your preferred subject outside the classroom for further study?

  3. Creativity & Initiative — When have you seen a problem and taken it on? This is a great way to show leadership skills as well. 

  4. Service — Every college is interested in how you will serve on your college campus. Showing a consistent history of community service is key.

  5. Unique life experiences — How has your family or life experience shaped you?

If you integrate these 5 traits into your essay, you will present a compelling story to admissions. Humor is great if it works for your writing style, but is not something every essay needs to include. 

College admissions goal is not to just “get to know you”, their goal is to grade your essay in comparison to all of the other candidates.  Admissions officers must complete a huge workload in a short time. They have shared how they use their “ personal scores” to quickly identify the traits they are looking for, in order to advance or reject applications. Your application will get at most 12 minutes of review, including your grades, test scores, transcript and essays.

Write your essay for the admissions officer going through a pile of essays, looking for the essay that instantly stands out and gets an A-Accepted.

Essential College Coaches has helped our students write outstanding essays that lead to ACCEPTANCES.


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