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    How to Write a Stellar College Essay


    25 Feb, 2020

    10 : 00

    • Since the beginning of the school year, Jonathan Mellen, Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s University Guidance Officer has been offering workshops to parents in an effort to equip them with adequate resources for their children when applying for universities.

      Last week, he hosted his first webinar since the outbreak on how parents can help their children prepare a strong college essay and personal statement, where he explained in details the difference between the two and how parents can support their children in the process.

      Below he explains the importance of an essay and offers tips on how to write an excellent one.

      What is a college essay and why is it important in the application process?

      A college essay is important because it’s one of the components universities look at in admissions. It is an informal first interview and often gives valuable information to universities on who you are outside of your academic and extra-curricular life. It is a chance for you to explain to universities who you are, what your passionate about, what you have learned in certain situations, demonstrate your writing ability and discuss how you plan to contribute to the campus. The college essay allows the student to be heard and also is a gauge to how well the student might fit into the university.

      How do you write a stellar college essay?

      Mr. Mellen explains that there are different ways to go about writing a stellar college essay. Each individual student will have a different approach based on who they are. Below please find some of his suggestions:

      • Keep a Journal. Keeping a journal helps you to write down your feelings and experiences, then reflect upon them later.
      • Brainstorm about what you would like to write. Think about what you are passionate about, your unique personality, the goals you have set in life and how you have grown over the years in different areas. Brainstorming will help the student choose the best topic for a college essay. Perhaps you will be able to think about conveying a unique experience.
      • Actively Reflect. Go through experiences in your life and reflect upon what you have learned. Universities want to know how you have grown and reflecting upon your experiences will help you write a stellar essay.
      • Draft, redraft and revise. Allow a friend or family member to look over it and give feedback. Write about your experience, how it happened and what you learned from it.
      • Talk about how you overcame adversity and what the experience did for you. Remember, the essay is about you and how you have learned or come to realize something.
      • “Show” the reader your experience, not tell the reader your experience. Being able to show your experience is a skill that will help you with your essay.
      • Finally, being unique and creative with your essay will help distinguish you from other applicants. 

      What should you not write in a college essay?

      You should not write about other people in your essay. Many students like to talk about inspirational figures in their lives, but they should focus the essay on what they learned from their experiences or how they would like to carry on the legacy. 

      Another thing you shouldn’t do is fabricate any story or take any story from someone else as your own. Universities are looking for authenticity, which will help you avoid any essay writing pitfalls.

      Finally, don’t write your college essay at the last minute. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to review and revise.

      Are essays the same for every college? If not, how do they differ?

      Not all essays are the same. The common application for most universities in the United States has a list of 10 common application questions and every student who applies through it can choose one of those essays. Some universities have supplementary essays that they want you to apply for. If you are applying to universities in the United Kingdom, they will require you to write a personal statement which is different from a college essay. If you would like to watch a parent presentation on the difference between the college essay and the 10 common application questions can be found here

      What resources are available for our students for writing college essays?

      Year 12 students have the opportunity of going through a workshop on how to write an essay. There are a lot of free resources to help both students and parents. One such example is the college essay guy, which has helped thousands of students all over the world and provides many resources as well as online courses for students who want to write an excellent college essay. You can visit