By Dr. Paul Lowe – College Admissions Guru
The 2014-2015 Common App is now available! Every section must be taken seriously. After 17 years as an admissions advisor, I believe that the most important parts of the Common App are the essays.
The essays must be unmatched works of art where the first line captures the complete attention of the reader and the admissions committee! Every word and punctuation in the essay matters. Its theme, rhythm, tone, color, cadence, melody, phraseology and flow are important to convince the reader (or readers) about the thoughts, life experiences and motivation of the writer – the applicant. Most importantly, it must be written in the applicants own voice.
Most students are taught to sound exactly alike on paper (grades K-12) and ultimately sound “unique, just like everyone else”. I find that students from the same geographical region, because of a cluster effect, sound exactly alike. The content of their essays show sameness and homogeneity and that makes it easier for the admissions committees to reject applicants.
In my professional experience, the students who are accepted to Ivy League and top-tier colleges are those who can differentiate themselves and lucidly articulate their achievements, goals and personalities as future contributing members of an incoming class in a positive light to a committee of six to ten diverse individuals!
The supplemental essays add dimension and depth to the main essays and are school-specific. These short-answer essays may seem simple but are quite complicated. The main purpose of a short-answer essay is to see if your answer can be clear, concise, thought-provoking, compelling, meaningful and effective in the allotted space.
When I give advice to my clients about their essays, I literally spend hours getting to know them, their motivations, their passions, their strengths and weaknesses. This exercise inspires them to free-think and brainstorm. We then, together, consider different essay themes as they apply to their individual personality, in an in depth conversation. My clients then individually re-brainstorm and commence writing their essays in their own voices. Their peerless and unparalleled essays become memorable and powerful lyrics to great songs enjoyed by the admissions committees.
My belief is that a college essay is a personal branding and marketing tool to convince a group of culturally, emotionally, academically, intellectually and socio-economically diverse people in a room (at each college) in 2-5 minutes why they should accept YOU in their institution! This is easier said than done when students are taught to speak, tweet, text, email (and look) just like everyone else in their respective communities.
Dr. Lowe is President of Pinnacle Educational Center and Managing Director of the Admissions Advisors
Group. He is the lead admissions expert at the Admissions Advisors Group: Greenwich Admissions Advisors (www.greenwichadmissionsadvisors.com) (203) 542-7288.
Dr. Lowe is an active member of several professional organizations including: the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), the National Association for College Counseling (NACAC), the New York Association for College Admission Counseling (NYACAC), the New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling (NJACAC), the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC), and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), and the Admissions Leadership Consortium (ALC).