How to Succeed at Stanford's Admissions Essay

How to Succeed at Stanford’s Admissions Essay

When you fill out the Common App, you will probably feel that it is somewhat limited in allowing you to truly express yourself. In all, you will have a small amount of space to provide your input and answers, as well as the opportunity to write two essays. One essay should be generic. The other should be school-specific. Aside from these opportunities, you may also submit some supplemental materials.

To make the most of this opportunity, I suggest you follow these five tips:

1. Paint a clear picture of yourself. Tell about your personality and accomplishments. This is much more effective than telling a good story.

For example, I once read a great essay from an applicant. The story was about her family and it’s habit of adopting multiple stray dogs. The applicant recounted her experiences taking care of the dogs when she was a child.

It was a great story, but there were two significant problems with it:

-The essay should tell about the applicant’s accomplishments. -The essay should give a clear, well-rounded picture of the applicant’s personality.

If it doesn’t address these points, a wonderful, entertaining, engaging essay may cause it’s writer to be waitlisted.

2. Talk yourself up!

It is typical of overachievers to be modest. They tend to make the least of their spectacular accomplishments with statements like: “I’m sure there are many more qualified applicants to Harvard than I.” Or the equally self-deprecating, “I know it will be pure luck if I am accepted to Stanford.” Simply do not say things like that.

Of course, you don’t want to be an obnoxious braggart and make wild claims about your brilliance, but don’t sell yourself short! Take pride in your accomplishments.

You earned that right. Talk openly and honestly about how hard you have worked to achieve your goals, win prizes, and accomplish things that were impossible for others.

3. Make it personal.

Sharing appropriate anecdotes about your life is very effective and memorable. The essay about the family that adopted dogs is a case in point. Even though it didn’t help that applicant, I still remember it. If you share stories of your life in a way that showcases your personality and your accomplishments, it will go a long way toward getting your application accepted.

4. Don’t bother to tell about shortcomings and failures. These things are not pertinent to the process. Tell about your successes.

This is not the place to share the fact that you only got third place in the first track meet you ever participated in. The only exception to this would be if that event acted as the springboard to your winning the state championship.

Your childhood accomplishments, while charming, are not pertinent to your essay unless they led to further accomplishments in your high school career. If winning a prize for the best science project in 6th grade led you to enter and win a national competition later on, be sure to point it out. If not, omit it.

5. Avoid gratuitous name-dropping.

This sort of statement is not impressive in an essay: “My friend, Harry Brown, goes to Harvard, and he is an excellent student. I have always aspired to be like him, so I am determined to attend Harvard.” If you happen to know the name of a professor or well-known alumnus, it is not helpful to insert it in your essay.

Generally speaking, the only time it is appropriate to mention someone’s name in your essay is if it is essential to the information you are conveying. If you could tell the story just as well without the name, it is best to do just that.

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