Admissions Officer Advice: Making Your Essays Shine
Former Admissions Officer Brian shares his editing tips to that your college essays are polished and ready to submit.
2021-09-30 Admissions Officer Advice: Making Your Essays Shine
[00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Making Your Essays Shine. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q and a on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q and a tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists.
Good evening, everyone. Um, it’s exciting, uh, to be presenting to you this evening. Uh, my name is Brian , um, and I am a, uh, emission, uh, former emission officer, um, and in AOL on, uh, for college. Um, I graduated from Sansum college in 2011, uh, Santa some college, uh, being a, uh, small liberal arts college in Manchester, New Hampshire, um, where I studied politics.
Um, and, uh, That may be [00:01:00] one of the things that St A’s is known for being the center of the universe once every four years, um, as we hold many, uh, debates and things of that nature there. Um, but I then also after graduating worked in college admissions for eight years, uh, six of which were at Boston university where I was also, uh, fortunate enough to earn my MBA, uh, with concentration in public and nonprofit management on.
And so I’m excited to bring some of my experiences from working at BU um, to this presentation this evening. Uh, and talk to you all a little bit about how to make your essay shine. So, uh, without further ado, I think we can jump right into it.
But before we do, I think we do have a quick poll here. Um, so if you wouldn’t mind, uh, submitting answer to this poll, uh, just to. Some [00:02:00] information about who’s in our audience. All right. It looks like answers are starting to come in. This is super helpful. Everyone. Thank you so much. Okay. It looks like we definitely have majority seniors, which has to be expected.
Um, we have, we have 5%, 10th graders, 33% 11th graders, 62% 12th graders, and 1% other. Awesome. Thank you all so much for answering. Awesome. Cool. So what kind of essays do students typically have to write for their college applications? Um, there are a couple of different variety of different essays that a student might encounter, uh, for their college application.
Um, the first one is probably the one that everyone is familiar with. That’s kind of referred to as the college essay and, and that would be for. The common app, uh, or the coalition app, depending on which application you’re using, or if you’re [00:03:00] applying to, um, a university or college that uses their own application, um, they probably have their own, uh, essay that, that, that you’re going to want to submit there as well.
This essay is, you know, kind of the standard one that we think of. It’s typically the, you know, under 650 words, talk a little bit about, you know, XYZ questions, a time impactful time in your wife, someone that meant something to you. Um, you know, there’s a lot of different topics out there. Um, and, and one of the topics right now is pick a topic of your choice.
So there’s a lot of leeway that that folks have here, um, when it comes to the college application essay. Um, but there’s also going to be probably some supplemental essays on these tend to vary in both length and topic. Uh, And we’ll get into a little bit of some of what those might be. Um, but they vary from, you know, tell us a little bit [00:04:00] more about yourself and, and, and why you’re creative or, um, you know, a specific activity that really makes you stand out, um, to the, you know, what we used to call, um, at my former employer, the Y B U S Y, do you want to attend XYZ university on?
And these are usually pretty quick, um, Some are as short as a hundred words, most are somewhere between two to 400 words, but again, quick one to two paragraphs, a small hitters, but doesn’t mean that they’re any less important and we’ll get to that, uh, later on. Um, but you also might have to write essays for specific programs.
Um, you know, if you’re applying to a specific major, um, some of those, uh, programs might require an essay to elaborate on that topic or an honors program, for instance, um, if you want to add that on to your, uh, to your major and be into the honors college or the honors school at said college or university that you’re [00:05:00] applying to.
Um, and then many, many schools require an additional essay for scholarship consideration. Um, some of these scholarships could be part tuition. Some of them might be as high as full tuition scholarships. Um, and so many of these essays, um, are reviewed as part of the evaluation process above and beyond the other parts of your application.
So there’s a variety of different essays that a student might encounter. Um, when they’re going through the college admission process, when we talk about the personal statement again, this is really what I refer to as the college essay, the common app or the coalition essay. Um, it’s typically a little bit longer again, uh, on the common app.
Uh, I believe it’s 650 words or less. And I think the coalition says somewhere around 600, 700 words, but it actually doesn’t have, um, an exact limit, um, [00:06:00] is usually telling the story about yourself and experience, um, an opportunity. And I like to think of this really as the time. To, uh, you know, talk a little bit about something, uh, that’s not otherwise in, uh, your application.
Um, again is a little bit longer, um, you know, it’s where the admissions reader, the committee is gonna learn the most about you in terms of your writing, uh, supplements, um, versus the supplemental essay. Again, uh, they’re going to be shorter. Almost every single one of them is very specific to the school that you’re applying to.
So we’ll actually get to this in a second and how you can maybe use multiple essays. But for instance, I always use to say, if you can insert any other school into the why XYZ university, and it still makes sense, you have not answered the question efficiently. Um, so it should not be again to [00:07:00] use my former employer.
Um, I used to say in our info sessions is not the time to talk about how much you love the city of Boston or, you know, the red Sox are so amazing. You can’t wait to go to a red Sox game right around the campus. Um, you know, the sick go sign and, and the history of the city and the freedom trail and dah, dah, to all of that, all great things.
I’m a native Bostonian. I love, you know, pasta through and through. Um, you’ll definitely pull on my heart strings. Um, if you’re talking about, uh, you know, the Boston sports teams. Uh, that doesn’t tell me why you would want to be a student at XYZ university. Um, and so it’s a time to be really specific. So again, personal statement, probably a little bit longer, much more about yourself supplements, um, can be about yourself, but often about the institution or the program that you want to apply to.
Um, often a little bit, uh, shorter and concise.[00:08:00]
So when’s a good time to have a full draft of your personal statement. I mean, This is a pretty interesting question, because I think it really depends on when you’re submitting your applications. Right. Um, but I think about now, ish is probably when you should be feeling pretty good about your personal statement, regardless of whether you’re looking to apply for some of those earlier, uh, you know, early action or early decision deadlines coming up in November.
Some even in a couple of weeks, um, in October, um, or early December or again, regular decision in January, you know, I think it’s good to have, you know, a solid idea of what you’re writing about, you know, the topic, maybe even a couple of different essay drafts. Okay. Maybe a couple of different essays that you’re trying out, but it’s never really.
Well, it is too [00:09:00] early to start. Uh, you should not be drafting it for those of you that are first-year students. Uh, in high school, you probably don’t need to be drafting your college statement now, however, um, you know, end of your junior year, over the summer, great time to start working on your college essay.
Um, especially if, um, you know, over the summer, you’re not, you know, you’re not taking classes, um, is a great time to, you know, kind of focus and get the ball rolling on that. Um, but it is important to allow plenty of time for edits, perfecting the topic again, maybe going back and forth between a different.
Topics, subject idea how exactly you want to tease it out on. These are all different things that, that if you start early enough, you’re going to have that flexibility. That’s not to say that if you’re one of those, uh, you know, 12th graders right now, and, and, and you haven’t maybe quite started your, your essay, um, or, you know, you’re still kind of thinking about.
It doesn’t mean that you’re late or behind the ball or anything [00:10:00] like that on, you know, it just means that, uh, you got some work to do and that’s perfectly fine. Uh, you know, obviously, you know, your first semester of senior year is also really important, so you should be focused on your school as well. Um, but definitely getting a good, solid draft and notice that this says first draft, there were probably many drafts.
Um, there should be many drafts to your personal statement, um, before you’re ultimately pressing sent. What you definitely don’t want to be doing is say applying regular decision on December 30th, typing your essay into the common application and then hitting sense. That would be not a great idea. So starting now, even if you haven’t already perfectly fine, get some good drafts done, um, and you’ll be in good shape.
So what makes for a great personal statement? I mean, there are wide different things that I think a college has a. Reader, um, you know, the emissions board, uh, would look at and, and really grasp on [00:11:00] to, um, and I think the first and maybe the most obvious, but is I’ve still have read plenty of essays that didn’t have this, um, is a web.
Written well structured essay. Um, good grammar, good spelling. Um, good format. I can’t tell you. And I know that the common app can be a little funky and how it sometimes, uh, formats SS, but a big, big personal, I will say personal pet peeve of mine was the one block paragraph personal statement. Um, because we all know that an essay is not just one paragraph.
It should be, there’s probably an introduction, at least a body and then a conclusion. Um, and so I think that format making sure again, you have good grammar, tense, punctuation, spelling, spelling, spelling, proofread, proofread, proofread. I can’t F emphasis emphasize that enough. Um, really, really important. Um, [00:12:00] you know, again, this is something that, especially if you submit it on the current.
This one essay is going to every single school that you apply to. And so, um, there’s nothing that, uh, sets off, you know, an essay on a bad foot then, you know, poor grammar, poor spelling, something along those lines. Um, this also may seem obvious, but it you’d be surprised it doesn’t happen sometimes. And that is answering the question.
Um, so you really got to ask yourself, especially, you know, for various prompts, what is the prompt asking me? What am I being, you know, what am I trying to portray in this essay? Um, and so I think that what’s a really good, um, example of that, and it gets up to my final point bullet here, um, is. I worked at a school before BU that had [00:13:00] a, um, a nursing program.
And so I read a lot of essays about why they wanted to be a nurse. And many of them started off and went something like this. Well, my mom or my dad, or my grandma, or my grandfather was really sick. And, you know, they went to the hospital and their nurses were so fantastic. And, you know, grandma or grandpa really liked their nurse.
And it made me want to, you know, work in that field. And it’s written in a way where at the end of the essay, I get to know so much about grandma and grandpa, that I want to admit them to college and not you. Um, and so make sure that you’re always putting there’s that topic is not, uh, you know, for Boden or, or wrong, but it’s good to make sure that you are framing it in the sense that I get to learn about you, the applicant and not grandma, grandpa who, you know, I love my extended family as well, but you know, when I was writing [00:14:00] my college application essay, I wanted to make sure that they knew about me, Brian, um, not, you know, my, my family members.
So making sure that you are the center of the essay, it sounds obvious, but again, it’s easy to get away from that. Um, something different than what is already on the application, I think is a really important one. And. Well, I mean by this is that there are a lot of pieces of the application. Um, obviously your, your transcript, there are things that your teachers or your counselor are going to talk about in their letters of recommendation.
You know, you’re probably submitting whether it’s the coalition or the common out some form of activity with maybe a resume as well, or maybe an additional statement. I want to know a little bit about you as, as this application reader that is not already somewhere else in that application. Um, tell me a little bit more about who you are as a person.
And this gets into the [00:15:00] heart of something that if you’ve attended some of these sessions before, you know, kind of, kind of been, you know, on the college visit circuit, you’ve probably heard before, and that is holistic admission review college, uh, essays are a big part of that holistic review. And so, you know, we know.
As emission readers that you’re a good student, um, or what type of student you are based on your transcript, the courses that you’ve taken, if you submitted your test scores, um, what your teachers have to say about you. Um, but we may not know that you are also, um, you know, really involved in, you know, service outside of school or that, um, you know, you.
Maybe you ran for student government, um, you know, your first two years in loss, but you persevered and ultimately were elected, you know, your junior or senior year, [00:16:00] or, um, you know, you’re really one of maybe even a little bit more different story. Um, adding onto the story of a specific club or organization that may still be listed in your, your, your list, um, or in your resume, but really tells the story of how you overcame or hurdle or an obstacle that you had, or, you know, an impactful moment that, that, that really shaped your vision of maybe what you want to study or what you want to be when you quote unquote grow up or, um, maybe you moved and that was impactful in the community.
You had to make new friends. I mean, there’s so many different, good topics that I have read, and I’m just listing like some of the very, very basic ones. Um, but again, something that isn’t otherwise on your application, That is going to teach me a little bit about you and say, oh wow, this person can, I can definitely see them being an asset to our community because not only do I know their [00:17:00] academic prowess and their ability to succeed in the classroom, but through this essay, I see that they’re a good person.
They’re a good leader. They’re a, someone that is gonna, um, you know, provide a difference and, and add diversity to our overall community. Those are the types of things that, that, that as a reader I would look for in an essay, if they are, um, providing, um, and grabbing the attention. I mean, there’s a lot of different ways to do that.
Um, you know, there’s the, you know, the hook at the beginning and the end, I think are always helpful. You want to make the reader, remember, uh, what they’ve read and grabbed their attention and pull them in.
You know, the readers, um, are, uh, probably reading a lot of these essays, um, at one time in a day. And so, you know, the truth is you probably only have their attention for maybe a few minutes, um, of their day. And so you really want to make sure that [00:18:00] that while you have their attention, you grab it and you hold onto it and you make them really absorb everything that you’re saying.
And I’ll be honest, there have been many essays that have done that and, you know, I’ve read every single word I’ve been engrossed and really excited to, to, to really delve in. And then there have been some. That hasn’t necessarily been the case. Um, and, and they’re almost kind of forgetful. Um, and so, you know, grabbing the attention can definitely, you know, really make you stand out, um, in terms of tone, uh, you know, time to be funny or time to be serious.
I think that the college personal statement is the time to be you. Um, and again, that may seem obvious, but it may not be the time to be funny. If you’re not funny, it may not be the time to be serious if you’re not serious. Um, and, and I think one of the biggest mistakes that you can make, um, is trying to assume your audience or assume your reader.
Um, I started [00:19:00] reading college applications when I was 22 first year out of college. Um, I’ve worked with people that have been in the field for 30 or 40 years. Um, so there’s a big range there in age, life experience. All kinds of different things. Right. And so, um, you know, trying to guess your reader and his, or her thoughts, ideas, you know, political beliefs, any of that kind of stuff.
Probably not the best thing to be doing, um, in a college essay. Um, again, another example, one of the other schools that I worked at was a religious affiliated institution. Um, so I saw a lot of interesting essays around religion one way or the other, um, that may or may not be appropriate to be submitting, uh, to one of your colleges.
So something to just be thinking about at all times is, you know, is this something that would be appropriate for any [00:20:00] school, um, that I’m applying to? Um, because again, it is going to any school you apply to, um, if you submit it on the common app,
Okay. We got into a little bit of this as I tend to do I get to ahead of myself a little bit, but what are some common mistakes? I mean, poor writing. I said that, um, and that’s pretty straightforward. Um, what do I mean by that? I mean, obvious spelling and grammar issues, things that, um, you know, anyone would pick up.
Um, I am not, you know, in AP language teacher, so I’m not going to hold you to like every single comma placement, um, and things of that nature when to use a semi-colon all of that good stuff. However, um, basic sentence structure, spelling, um, that’s important. Um, and, and, you know, you should give the essay the time that it deserves, um, because of the importance that it really, that it does carry in the [00:21:00] college process.
Talked about not answering the question, I think enough. Um, and you know, the essay that doesn’t really talk about you, um, you know, I think that that is something that it happens, you slipping into it way more often, um, than you think. And so I may be jumping ahead again, but one way to combat that is, um, to give your essay a lot of eyes, um, have your mom, your dad, someone that doesn’t love you, uh, read your college application, um, over, um, give them your feedback.
Um, you know, English teachers can be a really good person in school. Counselors can be really good folks. Um, I know that when I was in high school, my senior year, um, my English class, that was our first assignment of the year, right. Three college essays. So maybe that’s something that us seniors have already done or are doing if so great.
If not. [00:22:00] I think that, you know, speaking to your high school teachers about whether or not they mind reading your 650 word essay, uh, for your college application, I think most, especially if maybe they’re writing your recommendation would be willing to do so, um, and inappropriate topics. I mean, there, this is just, it it’s large.
I mean, there’s a lot of things that you probably shouldn’t be writing about. Um, I think that. You know, the three big ones, you know, um, politics, religion, and sex, like in basic calmer conversation. Like that’s, those are probably good things to not talk about in your college essay. Um, I unfortunately have read about all three at different times.
Um, and again, it can be uncomfortable, right? I mean, it can be odd, it can be awkward. Um, and that’s not what we want to have come out of your college application. Um, there are definitely some folks that go for the [00:23:00] shock and awe, um, uh, you know, go between the shock and awe factor, um, in their college essay.
And, uh, that, uh, is, is, is challenging. So, I mean, wh where do we draw the line? Um, and, and it’s funny, you know, I’m bringing up politics. I mean, I studied politics, right? So. Talking about your willingness and interest in, you know, civil discourse and, you know, uh, being involved and, you know, providing your, uh, back to your community and, you know, things of that nature I think are great, are fantastic.
You know, um, you know, you love history or whatever. I mean, I’ll, I’ll tell you one of my ideas was that my father, when I was in fifth grade, took me to see, um, a pro it was in 2000, took me to see a presidential [00:24:00] candidate and Nashville high school. And from that moment on, I was hooked. Um, I, and, and that’s what made me want to study politics and go in that direction.
Um, ultimately my life took a couple of different turns and I ended up as an admission counselor somehow. I don’t know, um, how that happened, but, um, it, uh, There are different ways to talk about it without being controversial. Um, and so I think that that’s where I would draw the line. Um, and I think I I’m hoping without going into too many details, um, you all can, can kind of understand what I’m getting at.
Um, but we, we, we don’t need to be bickering with each other through our college applications. Let’s just leave it at that. Um, so, and, and. On a totally different topic. I’ll give you a funny example of an actual essay. I did read that really sticks to me. Um, I was talking, uh, with Hannah before and, and the [00:25:00] truth is that sometimes, um, the bad essays stick with you more than the good ones.
And so one of the essays that I once read, um, was about, uh, the skills that this particular student learned, um, while at summer camp. Okay. You would think that that would be a good topic, but it went into graphic detail about certain, uh, skills that they had to learn in a plunging, uh, The bath, the bathroom being in the bathroom and learning how to punch on.
And again, I’m going to spare you the graphic detail because at least on the east coast, most of us probably just finished dinner. Um, but it was unnecessary and we’ll just leave it at that. Um, so that would be inappropriate. Um, okay, so we got another poll here, Hannah, if you want to run that, yes, we would love to know where you are in the college application process.
[00:26:00] I think probably many of you might say working on your assets.
Okay. Numbers are starting to come in.
Oh, right. It looks like the numbers are starting to even out. And we have, um, about 11% who haven’t started 29% who are researching schools, 34%, who are working on your essays 20% who are getting your application materials together, and 6% who are almost done. Congratulations to all of you who are almost done.
Yeah, that’s huge.
Alright. So what makes for a great supplemental essay? A lot of the same things that make for a great common app essay or coalition essay or personal. Answering the question, um, within the supplement, uh, the supplemental questions typically are much more specific. [00:27:00] Um, and so they’re typically things like, you know, here at X, Y, Z institution, we value creativity and ingenuity.
Tell me a specific time that you demonstrated this or, um, you know, uh, tell us, uh, additional, um, piece of information about your family or where you’re from, that would add value to our campus community. Um, or I think again, like we had at, um, when I was an admission officer at Boston university, we had, uh, the, you know, tell us why institution, um, I really honed.
I’ll be honest. I really honed in on that essay when I was an admission officer, um, especially for applicants that were applying early decision, right? I mean, if you’re saying this is my school, this is where I want to be. I want to know [00:28:00] what it is that stood out for you. And so for those of you that have had the ability to maybe go to campus, um, and I know obviously.
And everything that’s going on over the last two years, that’s been a little bit challenging for many, uh, students. Um, and trust me, I know colleges are taking that into account. Um, but if you’ve had the ability to go to campus or you’re going to be going to campus, um, and you know that there’s a Y XYZ institution question, really awesome opportunity to be taking mental notes, be taking actual physical notes.
Maybe take a couple pictures to remind yourself because some of the best, Y B U essays that I ever read, where I want to be, you know, a student at this institution, because of, I heard about this professor and, you know, I really am excited about doing research or learning from him or her. Um, or, you know, when so-and-so gave their emission presentation or their tour, they were [00:29:00] so passionate about their experience and it made me want to join.
And, um, I can’t wait to. You know, be in XYZ hall and, and, and join the classes and, and in this program and, you know, they give specifics, right. And it’s obvious that it wasn’t just a Google, um, on the, on the website, although that’s a very easy way to do it too, but it comes across authentically. Um, and I’ll tell you that, you know, as admission officers, I’m not going to lie.
That made me feel good if I got a shout out, like, oh, when Brian came to my high school, you know, he, you know, gave a great presentation check, like, okay, great, awesome. Like, you know, feather in their cap. Um, whenever a student, a tour guide was, was mentioned, we would always shoot it off to the visitor center so that they, you know, knew that, that they were mentioned to.
So these are things that, you know, will small things that can really kind of stand out, um, especially in a pool of tens of thousands of [00:30:00] applications. These really good why BU stand out, um, And it’s a great time again, to show us, as I said right here, great time to show us you did your research on. And that, that really stands out again, as opposed to the, I can’t wait to come to XYZ city because of all of these things.
Um, so that is what kind of stands out in the supplemental essay. And so some common mistakes. See, I held back a little bit and didn’t go into the mistakes this time. Cause I knew it was coming. Um, but blended basic and again, nothing stands out more than, you know, a two word or, you know, two sentence, one sentence, you know, Y XYZ institution or something like that.
If you’re given 250 words, it’s not to say that you have to take every single one of them, but it probably shouldn’t be 20 words. Right. Um, so, and if that’s all you have to say about. [00:31:00] That’s probably not a great indicator that, you know, you feel good about that institution, or again, you’ve done your research.
And so it’s again giving it the time and effort that it deserves. Another thing that I’ll say about supplements here, that is a common mistake is that it becomes obvious that a student didn’t spend as much time on their supplements as they did on their personal statement. Um, and that’s when they’re typing at 11:50 PM before the application deadline, you know, trying to get their supplement supplemented, do not get into that position, still treat them as cause they are as important as the personal statement.
You might need one or two drafts, a couple different drafts, um, overall, uh, you know, still look for grammar and, and all of that good stuff. Um, you know, that’s really important. Um, and God forbid, you accidentally make the mistake of saying. You know, another school name, um, in your [00:32:00] Y XYZ school essay, that would not be good.
And let’s just say that again. I worked at Boston university. There’s another school with Boston, his name, we read some of those essays and that was not ever a well received, uh, in the admissions committee. So, uh, don’t make that mistake, uh, you know, give it the effort and time that, that, you know, you expect us, uh, to give your essays.
Um, and so it’s always good to, you know, be checking everything, uh, two times, three times over and over again. Yeah. Um, okay. So how can, you know, there can be a lot of supplemental essays, right? So if you’re applying to multiple schools, is there a way to kind of use multiple supplements, uh, for, um, different applications?
I mean, the answer, the short answer is yes. Um, but you do have to be very careful. Um, and again, [00:33:00] I I’ve said this, you know, I’m a broken record at this point, but make sure you answer the question. Um, I really can’t emphasize that enough, especially in the supplement, if you’re not answering the question, um, it’s not going to be great.
Um, and, and this comes into play in a lot of different ways. Uh, Again, it’s, it’s, it’s talking about another school and another essay it’s talking about how, um, you know, you’re going to be creative and bring a lot to the school community outside the classroom. When the is actually asking you about your impact in the classroom.
I mean, there’s so many different ways that you can make that small mistake. And so, um, my advice is, you know, maybe have a framework, um, or, you know, an outline, um, but really actually write out a different essay for every single supplement and each school, um, because that can get a little dicey, um, quite frankly, so that would be my advice [00:34:00] overall.
Um, so how will, you know, if your essay is done and ready to be submitted on, it’s hard, it’s hard to know. Um, you can go, you can just kind of. Kick yourself and, and, and just really beat yourself up and essay draft after essay drafted your essay draft. Um, but, um, you know, doing multiple drafts is good making edits.
And at some point you have to kind of step away and say, this is, uh, you know, this is what I’m going to do. And so I think that this is where other folks really can come into play a little bit more because when it’s your personal state, I mean, the word personal is right in the title. Um, it is a personal thing.
Um, and you might be too close to the essay to actually see it objectively, which is one of the reasons [00:35:00] why it’s so important to have someone else read it. Um, I can’t, I, I can’t emphasize that enough. Um, you know, and, and I really do emphasize this, someone, you know, and this used to get a laugh when I was, um, an emission advisor in, in, uh, my info sessions, but someone that doesn’t love you.
And I mean that in the nicest possible way, like have a teacher, a, an extended family member, a friends, um, counselor, complete stranger. I mean, anyone that is willing to read it, um, is perfectly fine. Um, and giving you some good advice and good feedback because, um, That’s really going to make your essay better and probably give you the insight on you need to know when it’s actually complete.
And when you do have to submit it and when you need to, you know, kind of walk away. Um, so that’s what I would say about, you know, kind of knowing when [00:36:00] your S is complete, um, and good to go. So we talked a little bit about this, I think in terms of, you know, tips and what makes it stand out. Um, you know, obviously if it’s memorable, but as I gave an example, um, that essay about, you know, being a camp counselor, I think I read that my first year as an admission officer, which I can’t believe is actually true, but that was like, Almost 10 years ago.
Yikes. Um, so, uh, you know, memorable is not always good. Um, and you know, we, as emission officers, I will say, do talk about other essays and, um, it S sometimes positive, but sometimes not positive. Um, and so, you know, memorable is not always good, but you know, standing out, um, is, is helpful. And, and, and how you get there is again, through all of these different tips that we’ve gone over, um, thus [00:37:00] far.
Right. Um, but it follows the points that we’ve mentioned, right? It’s, it’s good writing. It’s clean, it’s edited. It’s a good, solid topic that, that tells a story on the. I can’t say that I remember ever, you know, crying from a personal essay, but there are definitely some that have touched me. Um, and you know, they, they hit you in a certain spot.
Um, and there are some of my colleagues that. We’ll say that they’ve gone through tissue boxes and things of that nature, reading essays. I’m not saying that that needs to be the case, but there are some essays that you’re like, wow, that was just, that was really well thought out. Um, and it follows a story, um, from start to finish and it’s, it’s cohesive.
Um, and it tells me about, you know, this applicant, him or her on and, and what they want to do and who they are going to be and, and how they could [00:38:00] potentially contribute to our institution, which at the end of the day is what we’re all about. As emission officers is trying to improve our institution and, and, um, you know, bring great students like yourself into that institution.
So we hope to learn something about you, um, the writer, the applicant, um, and again, it captures the reader’s attention for the five minutes that, uh, they have it, um, Here’s the sad truth. I’ll I’ll I’ll I’ll, I’ll say, um, and might get some grief from my fellow, former colleagues about this, but college admission officers probably are not spending much more than five to eight minutes on a college application individually.
And if I had to be honest, that’s probably on the high end. Um, you know, when I was, uh, working at some, at one of these schools, like we were going through thousands of applications over the course of tens of thousands of applications over the course of a year, [00:39:00] and everyone got a read. So that’s the important thing.
Everyone still gets a read. Um, but we go through. Several dozens, um, you know, scores of applications every single day when we’re reading. Um, so it’s important to kind of stand out and capture that reader’s attention. Um, and sometimes it made my day really happy, right? Remember I’m in Boston, most college admission officers we read from home.
So there’d be times where I’d be home for four days in a row. And, you know, I might be buried under a couple feet of snow and I’d read a really good essay and it’d be like, oh yeah, all right, this is why I do what I do. And that happens every once in a while, which is great. Um, so those are some of the things that I would say that, that can make an essay stand out, um, in the eyes of an admission officer.
Um, so I talked a little bit about this, um, throughout the, the session already. Um, but one of my experiences really [00:40:00] was, um, again, I had to write three different essays that was, uh, uh, the first, literally day, one of senior year sitting in, um, I’m not going to say her name, but, uh, my English teacher, I still remember her name, uh, English class.
And, um, you know, she said, we’re going to write our college essays. Um, and they’re do, you know, at the end of the week and I want three essays and we’re all like, oh God, I haven’t even thought about this. It’s just so stressful. Um, but it was really helpful because it helped me understand, um, what was good about each topic and, and ultimately, um, I think that I probably could have submitted any of them.
There were two that I really liked. And so I had many readers. I had my mom read it. I had my dad read it. Um, I had my younger sister, uh, who’s a much better writer than I was a much better writer than I was at the time. Probably still is. Um, my, obviously my [00:41:00] teacher, um, and also, um, a family friend that, um, was an English professor.
I had read it as well. And all of these people really did add a lot of value, um, and brought up, you know, my folks who know me really well brought up additional topics that they thought they knew about the story that I could add and, and add, provide clarity. Um, and then, you know, the English professor that was a family friend, you know, really helped me with, uh, you know, grammar and tone and verbiage.
Um, so those were all good. And, and, and I did apply, um, to all my applications via the common app coalition didn’t exist back then, but also I did, uh, submit all of my via the common app. Um, and again, I can’t emphasize this enough. This is also really important. One essay for every school you submit on the common app.
I believe if I still remember correctly, it’s 20 is the max. You can submit on a common app. So if you say I want to go to XYZ institution, [00:42:00] that’s going to all other 19 in your personal statement. Um, so don’t do that. Um, but also, you know, again, when I was talking about, you know, guessing your reader, understanding the topic, understanding the culture of the institution, you might want to kind of pick something that’s just a little bit more balanced.
Um, and that would be my advice. Um, And so, um, the story that I gave about, um, you know, the person that ran for student government, um, that was my essay. Um, I ran for student government my freshman year. I lost, I ran again my sophomore year. I lost, ran again my junior year. Um, I won and then my senior year, I was actually, uh, elected vice president of the student body.
So it was about, you know, kind of perseverance. And, um, I thought it was a relatively good essay. I got into all three schools that I applied to. So hopefully that helped. Um, but [00:43:00] ultimately, uh, you know, that was kinda my experience with writing my college essay. And I think if I reflect on, you know, again, I was, I’ve already said I was interested in politics.
And so I remember, um, you know, it was fall of 2006 and I was volunteering on a local campaign. And I told my mom that I would have all my essays done all my applications in. Uh, you know, election day was on a Tuesday. I haven’t been on that Friday. So I had all my applications in by the first week of November on if I remember correctly.
So that was my experience with essays. So I think I was probably pretty close to done at this point.
So what advice would I give to students? Um, I think I’ve given a lot, um, but at the end of the day, it comes down to doing your best and submitting your best possible product. Um, you know, you’re the one that knows you the best, um, you know, your abilities, um, and you can do the best that you can do. [00:44:00] Um, and that’s all we can ask, um, you know, give it the attention it deserves and see where it goes.
It really, you know, we’ve talked about the importance of the essay through most of this, but I also believe that. Strongly that the essay is not the end all be all in the college admission process. Um, I think in fact, it’s probably fair to say that it’s rare that it’s the, what makes or breaks an admission decision.
I think there are a variety and as the idea of holistic admissions, um, holistic admissions means that everything counts and when a decision is made, either in the positive or in the not so positive direction, there are multiple factors that led the mission committee to make that decision. And so putting forward your best possible work, your best effort is the best you can do.
And so your essay can absolutely enhance your application. Um, and, and that’s what you should hope and strive for it to be. [00:45:00] Um, it’s a piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the, it’s probably not the end all be all. Um, you know, your transcript, um, your four years of college work, um, are also ver or excuse me, high school work are very, very important as well.
On your recommendations, your extracurriculars. If you took the sat or act, all of these things are pulled in, uh, to look and decide, you know, is this student a good fit for our institution? Um, and so at the end of the day, um, it’s just a piece of the admissions puzzle. All right. So this is the end of the presentation part of the.
We hope you found this information helpful. And remember, you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. Now moving on to the live Q and a I’ll read through questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, paste them in the public chat. So you can see and then read them out loud before our panelist gives you an answer [00:46:00] as a heads up, if your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions, double check the, you join the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.
Okay. Our first question is what if you cannot visit the campus in person, how do you still connect, uh, with them, for your supplemental essays? Yeah. Um, so, I mean, I think that in today’s world and today’s situation, this is probably going to be the case for many, uh, students, uh, And so I think that there are still things that you can do, um, in lieu of, you know, attending campuses.
I know many institutions have had virtual, uh, information sessions or, um, if they didn’t already have, you know, a virtual tour on their website, they’ve created. Um, and so I would recommend doing those. [00:47:00] Um, I would recommend still doing as much possible research as you can, because the truth of the matter is that you probably can find every factual piece of information that is provided in an information session or a tour somewhere on the college’s website.
Um, as much as we would like to think as admission officers were providing and additional information on, you know, we, we know that that the, the facts are out there. Um, but with that said, make sure that you go to the source, uh, make sure that you go to the colleges specific website, go to their emission page, email your college.
Email your college representative for your geographic area. Most schools break it down that way, um, and ask them for information, um, you know, ask them questions. Um, they like to receive questions from you and, and, and they should respond. That’s their job. [00:48:00] Um, and so, uh, getting that information I think can be really helpful, um, to learn more.
Um, so again, do your research, uh, do a visual, a virtual tour if you can. Um, I think that those are some of the best ways to still kind of get to know the school, um, in, especially in today’s climate and, and, and those are available at most schools. Our next question is, are we allowed to go over the word limit or do you get penalized for going over word limit?
And what tips do you have for getting an essay within the word count? So, this is a great question because some applications, not only will you get penalized, but your essay will not be complete. Um, it will stop coming out. If you submit a 700 word essay, we will not see the last 50 words of your essay. Um, so it is extremely important that you are under the, [00:49:00] a word limit.
So yes, you will be, depending on, you could be saying you will be penalized. Um, so to, um, work on getting some, uh, essays down, usually this doesn’t mean to leading entire sections of your essay or taking out ideas or topics, but rather rephrasing sentences. Okay. When you read them out loud are actually quite wordy.
Um, and you can just take out two or three. Um, and it says the exact same thing. Um, I’m not willing to think of a couple off the top of my head. Um, but, uh, you know, I currently am working with a number of clients as an emission officer, and this is exactly what we’re doing. Um, you know, their essays at around 700 or six 80, we’re just trying to cut out some of those extra words, uh, to get it under six 50.
And we’re not really, you know, taking too much out of, uh, of the [00:50:00] content, if anything, um, is really just rewording, you know, the essays done. It just needs to be a little bit shorter. Um, so that is very important. Um, supplements most are the same thing. Um, you know, you do need to be under that, that word limit.
Um, so. Okay, we’re going to take a quick break in the middle of the Q and a, and I’m going to let you know what you can do. If you want to work one-on-one with an advisor from our team of over 200 advisors in admissions officers, you can sign up for a free consultation with us by going to CollegeAdvisor.com and clicking the green top button in the bottom, right of the screen from there, just write in consultation and alive team member.
We’ll get back to you to help coordinate your free consultation with us. All right. And back to the Q and a, our next question is can a really good essay makeup for below average? Oh, sorry. This question just went away. [00:51:00] There we go. And a really good essay make up for below average scores and extracurriculars.
If my scores and extracurriculars are not quite as impressive as other applicants at my reach schools, should I instead focus on target schools where I’m more likely to get in? Sure. So I’ll take the first part of that question first. Um, I mean, I feel like this is the same question, um, in a different way of saying, you know, we’ll, uh, you know, what’s better in a, in a, um, honors course or be in AP course or will my high GPA make up for my low sat or vice versa, right?
This is the, this is the issue of holistic admissions, right? Everything is taken into account. And so it’s not really fair to say a Furby, um, and this makes up for that. Um, everything is taken into account and I know that’s not the answer that people want to hear, uh, because they feel like it’s kind of being around the Bush, [00:52:00] but it’s the truth.
Um, there’s really no this for that, or this makes up for anything. Um, you know, quite frankly, um, my, my saying when I was, uh, And the emissions was often, you know, for that GPA question, um, you know, what’s better in a, an honors or be an AP, I would say, well, the AP and the AP of course, um, because that’s also quite frankly the case, here’s the real, again, here’s the truth.
Um, you can only do your best and you can only submit your best possible work on, and then weave the rest up to, you know, to, to, to the admission office to be reviewed. And you should know, um, and you should be proud of the application you submitted, um, and the work that you’ve done, uh, because you know, it’s your best.
Um, and here’s the other thing about it, um, because this is what that’s getting at is that you may not get into reach school, um, or your. [00:53:00] Um, and you know what, that’s okay. Because I strongly believe that there is a place for everyone on, and it’s all about fit at the end of the day, wherever you end up. Um, you know, you’ll do the best with those situations.
Um, and I truly, truly in my heart and core believe that. Um, and that even when I representatives, representatives represented certain institutions, um, I still felt it was my duty to say, you know, this might not be the place for you. If you know, you don’t get in or it doesn’t work out. Right. There’s a lot of different things that that fit means.
And I know that that’s been another topic, um, on another day, but there’s a lot of things that, that means. And I think it comes into play here, um, with this question about essays, um, you know, I. I think that you should pay attention. This is what I’ll [00:54:00] say. I think you should pay attention and do your best with every single college application that you submit, whether it’s to a reach school, a target school or a safety school.
Um, you know, I don’t, I don’t believe in spending more attention on a school that you’re, you think you’re more likely to get into? Um, I think that gets into some tricky, you know, dangerous waters and I think you should do your best with every single college application that you submit. All right. Our next question is, hi, Brian, can you please describe the difference between a personal statement and an essay?
It seems like you’re using them interchangeably. However, you also said your pet peeve is one paragraph block statement, but usually a personal statement is that one paragraph I’m a little confused. Sure. Um, okay. Uh, I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of it that way. Um, but yes, I did use them very interchangeably.
Um, I mean, I think that most personal [00:55:00] statements, um, are not, if you’re going to say it’s one paragraph, I would argue maybe aren’t 650 words. I don’t know. Maybe they are on look, I think that the best written essays, um, in the best formats that I’ve read, have a strong intro, a body and a conclusion on. And so I’m not saying you need to use the perfect, perfect paragraph or anything like that.
Um, but, uh, I think that, uh, you know, putting them in that basic format is probably a good way to go. Um, but generally speaking, you’re right. I did use personal statement, essay, pretty interchangeably. Um, I think on the common application, it’s it is called the personal. Um, but I think that many people refer to the college essays, the college essays.
So I will also say I’m in standard double-spaced MLA format. One page is 300 words, give or take. And [00:56:00] so six 50 words is if you’re doing that in one paragraph, that’s one paragraph that’s over two pages long. So you might want to split that up. Otherwise it is a lot of words in one paragraph. Okay. Our next question is, um, how many admissions officers read an application?
Um, that varies by school. Um, you know, I think that most institutions you’re probably going to get multi, we used two sets of eyes. Um, in most cases, um, sometimes it’s it’s many. What I’ll say is this, um, if any of you have seen, you know, um, and maybe I’ll date myself with, uh, with, with these references, but I’m legally blonde or, you know, the emissions movie, or really any other movie that, uh, dictates college admissions, uh, in Hollywood, that’s not how it’s done.
Um, for [00:57:00] the most part, um, I D I re you know, never sat in a boardroom with someone’s, you know, application up on a screen and going through, maybe there are some schools that do that. Um, but I can tell you with, you know, a school, like BU where I worked, where, you know, last year they received roughly 70,000 applications.
It just, we would never, we would still, they would still be reviewing their class. Um, so, um, you know, typically it’s going to be. Uh, first reader. Um, and then we’re, you’re going to some kind of committee format where it could be a second or third set of eyes, um, you know, and then kind of moving in and around.
Uh, so typically it’s a couple of set of eyes, I would say. Okay. I think this is likely going to be our last question. We’ll see how we’re doing on time, but, um, are you still allowed to use I in your essays? Because one of my English teachers recommended not to, but I thought that [00:58:00] since it was focused on you, you should write, well, I’m not going to get into argument with your English teacher, but, um, I don’t have personally have a problem with someone using, uh, the first person, um, you know, and, and, or using, you know, your name.
Um, I think, however, and that’s a style choice, right? I I’ve. I’ve read essays written in that format. Right. Um, and, um, that’s, that’s a style choice. I mean, novels are written in and various person. Right. And so I think that, uh, that’s a style choice. Um, and if I could just address one other question that came to me directly, someone asks, so should I not use the common app for my essay?
No, no, no. That’s not at all. Could I’m saying, um, what I’m saying is just be very careful. Um, if you submit your essay in the common app, [00:59:00] just know that it’s going to go to every single one of your common application schools. Um, and if you use the common app, you have to use that essay. And some schools are only on the common app.
So, um, that’s not what I meant. Um, it’s just, you need to be careful about, um, your word choice. If it’s going to, you know, more than one it’s. Um, I think given that this question will probably be short, we’re going to have one more, which is, uh, can I revise my common app essay after sending it to my top schools?
Um, can I revise my common app essay after sending it to my top schools? Um, no. Um, if you submit your common app, it is submitted. Um, so make sure that before you hit that submit button, you are happy with your application and that is across the board. Um, you know, with everything that you read, this, [01:00:00] this webinar talked about, you know, proofreading, your essays, you should also proofread every other piece of writing that is on your essay, including your, uh, extracurriculars and how you describe the.
Um, because once you submit it, um, that is, you know, that’s in there for good. Um, and, and the schools would review it as, as it is submitted. All right. That feels like a great place to end. Thank you everyone so much for coming out tonight and thank you, Brian so much for presenting. Awesome. Thank you everyone.
And best of luck going forward. Enjoy your senior year in the entire process. I thank you. Have a wonderful night, everyone.