Is Your College Application Essay The Key To College Success?

You know that the college application essay is an important factor in getting in to college in the first place. But can it also predict your success in college once you're there? A study of 50,000 essays from 25,975 applicants whose grades were tracked once they were admitted to college found that essays that demonstrated categorical thinking correlated with academic success, while essays correlated with dynamic thinking correlated with lower GPAs. That means that you not only want to learn how to write a college essay that will get you into college, you also want to learn how to write in a way that will increase your success in college. Take a look at some college application essay tips that can help.

Keep Personal Narratives Short and Sweet

Many college essays ask for a personal narrative of some kind. But do they really want an essay that's focused only on you, or are they asking you to recount your experiences and then apply them? Your ability to apply your personal experience more broadly can be very illuminating for an admissions officer who wants to know what you're like as a person, not just what happened to you in one situation.

For example, if you want to talk about traveling in your essay, the key is not to spend the entire essay writing about where you traveled and what you did while you were there. Instead, talk about how the things that you saw and learned while traveling affected your worldview and your goals for the future. Talk about how aspects of the countries you visited are better or worse than your country, and about what your society can learn from the societies you visited.

This gives college admissions officers something more concrete to read than a travelogue, and it also demonstrates that you have a grasp of how to apply things that you've learned — a skill that you'll need after you've been accepted in order to write college-level papers.

Of course, if you're telling a personal narrative, you'll have to tell personal anecdotes. You shouldn't avoid them completely. However, they should be a minor part of the overall essay. For one thing, you don't want the essay to run on for too long — college admissions officers have to read hundreds of essays. A longer-than-average essay might be a good thing, but not if most of it is taken up by personal stories.

For another thing, you want to focus more on your broader ideas and less on yourself. In the study of college essays, the students who used the words "I" and "they" less and "the", "of", and "on" more were more successful college students.

Build Up Your Vocabulary Skills

Researchers also found that students who used longer words and more complex sentences achieved better grades in college. That doesn't mean that you should write your essay with a thesaurus by your side, substituting longer words for shorter ones, though. That tends to come off sounding unnatural.

Instead, you should spend time building your vocabulary before it's time to write your application essays. Read a lot, and choose a variety of reading materials — novels, nonfiction books, newspapers, magazines, poetry — so that you'll be exposed to a greater variety of word choices. When you come across a new word, that's the time to use your dictionary and thesaurus. Look up the new word so that you're familiar with the meaning as well as the synonyms and antonyms of the word.

Play word games, like crossword puzzles, word jumbles, and Scrabble. Get a word-of-the-day calendar. Work on using new words in your writing and conversations so that you're comfortable using them. By the time you write your college application essay, you should be able to use more complicated words without making your writing seem forced.

You should also practice varying your sentence structure so that not all of your sentences sound the same. Not only does that help you include more complex sentences in your writing, it also makes your writing more interesting to read. As you write papers for your high school classes or practice essays for your college applications, get in the habit of reviewing your rough drafts for sentence structure variety, and rewriting when you find that you don't have enough variety.

As you gear up to submit your applications, don't be afraid to seek out a third party like Crimson and Ivy to look over and edit your essays. It can be tough to tell if your writing is hitting the mark that you want to hit, and an outside opinion is often the best way to tell.