Didn’t Get Into Your First Choice College? Consider Changing Your Personal Essay

If you didn’t get into your first choice college through EA or ED, don’t take it personally. With so many students applying to so many top colleges, the inevitable outcome is that most students are rejected. After all, these top colleges cannot take everyone despite the fact that so many students are so highly qualified. Stanford, for example, expects to receive 50,000 applications for roughly 2000 seats this year. Harvard expects to get 50,000 for merely 1600 seats. Simply stated, the numbers are stacked against you.

However, if you were rejected from a college that you feel you should have gotten into, you might consider changing your personal essay. This is not to say that your personal essay was the reason you were rejected, but it also does not make sense to take chances. Have someone else take a look at your essay and give you an honest evaluation. First and foremost, it should be error-free. Second, it should be cliché free. Third, it should be arrogance-free. Fourth, it should support your case for candidacy by painting you as an attractive candidate.

Overall, personal essays should provide colleges with evidence that you are all of the following:

  • Mature
  • A Leader
  • Globally Aware
  • A Good Person
  • Socially Conscious
  • Intelligent

Also, you should use stylistic elements that improve the overall quality of your essay. There is a huge difference between a well-constructed, stylistic essay and a poorly constructed essay that pays no attention to stylistic elements. Essays that flow beautifully and gracefully tend to be viewed more positively than those that do not incorporate stylistic elements.

In certain circumstances, humor can also be a welcome change. For example, you may have heard about Carolina who wrote about Papa John’s pizza and was accepted to Yale, or Brittany who wrote about shopping at Costcoand was accepted to Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Stanford. Humor and originality can make your essay stand out.

Here are two examples of essays written by NC Global students that use stylistic elements and humor:

U Chicago – Edge of the Earth:

There it stood: the edge of the Earth, the gateway to the kingdom of Ignorantia. There were no gates barring our way. There were no guards at the door. Indeed, the gates and the guards were left hundreds of miles back upon our fortnight’s journey. The gates were our fears. The guards were our ignorance. And so, Dear Reader, there was no turning back since the gates and the guards would simply turn us around in the other direction. It was time to face our fear, and so onward we sailed to confront an unknown force.

(This essay uses repetition, alliteration, and provides a very interesting story.)

Common App – Something that makes you lose track of time:

A name. A name. My kingdom for a name! Others have names; somnambulism, hypnotism, even obsessivism, for example, are perfectly appropriate names for conditions involving loss of consciousness when pursuing an activity or objective. Of course, it is hard to fix something that has no name. Imagine going to the car repair shop and saying, “Can you fix my thing that is roundish with other things sticking out of it?” Or, imagine calling up customer support and saying, “I am having trouble with my thing that doesn’t have a name.” My condition is somewhat different; hours of my day can pass and I don’t know where they have gone. When I think back, I see only a blur of color and texture and shape. It is as if SETI has borrowed my brain to search for extraterrestrial intelligence during off-peak hours.

(This essay does an extremely good job with humor. It also has an excellent hook, making it likely that the reader will actually want to read it.)

 So, your personal essay may be perfectly fine and may not be the reason that you didn’t get into your dream school, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to take a second look at your essay with a critical eye. Does it have the intangible qualities that go into excellent essays? Is it well written? Does it use stylistic elements? Will the readers find it interesting? Is it free from spelling and grammatical errors? Most important, does it provide admissions committees with a positive view of you as a candidate? If you look at it objectively, does it portray you as mature, as a leader, as someone who is globally aware, as a good person, as someone who is socially conscious, and as someone who is intelligent!As I said before, it never hurts to get a second opinion.

 Neil Chyten


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