The secret to a great college admission essay lies not in the content of your personal statement itself, but rather in how it fits together in your overall college admissions package. This is your first experience with marketing yourself – a skill you will need to master in life, whether you attend an Ivy League school or not.

What’s your GPA? What are your SAT scores? How many AP classes did you take? What are your extra-curriculars like? Have you won any awards? Do you play sports? The violin?

These are all rhetorical questions – but they’re the questions you need to ask yourself. Learn to see yourself the way the Ivy League admissions board will: one fact after another, numbers on a page. Your college admission essay is your ticket to opening their eyes and rounding our your college admission application by “spackling” all the bits that are missing from the collection of data implied by the list of questions above.

admissions essays

In other words, let’s say your academics are utterly lock-tight and brilliant. Why write a college admission essay that shows off how smart you are? They already know you’re the valedictorian of your high school, and that your GPA is in the double-digits. Do you really need your college admission essay to further indicate your braininess?

Not at all. In fact, try too hard, and you’ll come off as desperate, insecure, or pompous. Instead, why not let them see your funny side, your warm side, your spiritual side, your quirky side. Show them how human you are, how fallible, how open to new experiences. Because isn’t that what college is all about? New experiences? Let your college essay writing demonstrate how open-minded, flexible or even labile you are – and how utterly primed for what only an Ivy League education can provide.

On the other hand, perhaps you’re an amazing right guard, or sculptor, or soprano. You have great talents and skills, but unfortunately your grades and standardized test scores just don’t give enough indication of your intellectual fortitude. You can probably guess the approach we’d recommend for your college admission essay. In this case, the perfect entrance essay will be simply redolent of your intellectual prowess and aptitude. Err toward the side of erudite in your examples and your vocabulary as you tackle your college admission essay.

The above two cases are polar extremes, but meant to convey the basic philosophy of robust college essay writing. See yourself the way the Ivy League will see you, based solely on your transcript. Then see in your college admission essay the opportunity to complete the picture.

Please continue on for more specific advice for your college admission essay by reading our detailed analysis of College Essay Topics.