College essays should be more important during the 2021-2022 college admission season than in any other admission cycle in modern times.
Why would the college essay be so critical for this admission cycle?
It’s because most colleges – including the vast majority of the most elite and prestigious institutions – have gone test-optional due to the pandemic.
Without standardized test scores, colleges will need to rely more heavily on the remaining admission factors. And the college essay is one of the bigger ones.
Because of the essay’s elevated importance, I will be sharing two or three blog posts this summer about college essays. (Being a journalist my entire adult life, this is a topic that I am passionate about!)
So here goes on with what to do and not do when writing a college essay for the 2021-2022 admission season:
Big College Essay Mistakes
I’ve read plenty of college essays over the years and the vast majority of them have been b-o-r-i-n-g.
The mediocre essays that I’ve seen have usually been guilty of one or more of these no-no’s:
1. They lacked details.
2. They didn’t convey the student’s voice.
4. They read like the dull expository essays that high school English teachers force students to write. Formal English papers are deadly and relying on English teachers, who may be poor writers themselves, for instructions on how to write a winning college essay is often asking for trouble.
Winning College Essay Tip
Here is a key way to write a winning college essay:
Don’t bore the admission readers with a dull opening line!
During admission season, admission reps often have to read dozens of essays a day. It’s inevitable that the essays will blur together, which is an excellent reason why applicants need to make theirs stand apart.
Applicants will win brownie points if they start their essays with an opening sentence that grabs the reader’s attention.
Need examples? If so, you should read an old article in the Stanford Magazine that includes opening college essay lines that the university’s admission reps particularly liked.
Opening Lines from Stanford University Admission Essays
Here are some of the Stanford admission officers’ favorite opening lines from a previous graduating class:
- I have old hands.
- The spaghetti burbled and slushed around the pan, and as I stirred it, the noises it gave off began to sound increasingly like bodily functions.
- I’ve been surfing Lake Michigan since I was 3 years old.
- On a hot Hollywood evening, I sat on a bike, sweltering in a winter coat and furry boots.
- As an Indian-American, I am forever bound to the hyphen.
- Unlike many mathematicians, I live in an irrational world; I feel that my life is defined by a certain amount of irrationalities that bloom too frequently, such as my brief foray in front of 400 people without my pants.
- I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks.
- When I was in eighth grade I couldn’t read.
- Sitting cross-legged on the floor of a Bhimanagar slum dwelling in Bangalore, I ran my fingers across a fresh cut on my forehead.
- Some fathers might disapprove of their children handling noxious chemicals in the garage.
Here’s where you can read the entire Stanford Magazine article on college essay opening lines