So I need to write an application essay…
One Sunday night in October of 2006, I sat down to write an application essay…an essay for the University of Illinois. Looking back, it was probably one of the most important points in determining my future, but I slapped something together in 30 minutes to an hour.
With a whole lot of dumb luck, that application essay that I didn’t think mattered has opened so many doors for me during the past three years.
There are two reasons why this application is so important (one known and one not so known):
- Hopefully, the essay helps get you in!
- More importantly (I had no idea at the time): people actually read them. The people who are in charge of awarding merit-based financial aid read them! Many more read them too (i.e. for Campus Honors Program admissions!)
As a part of being in the Campus Honor Program, they actually ask us to read (anonymously of course) and rate admissions essays each year as part of the selection process. I really enjoy seeing other people’s essay and their backgrounds, but they all look a tad bit similar. Here’s a synopsis:
“[Insert what I did in high school][That’s why I’m amazing]”
And the applicants to Illinois have definitely done some pretty cool stuff and are indeed amazing, but if I was in the position of an admissions counselor, I’m not sure I would be able to handle a day’s worth of application essays, much less thousands of them.
Looking back, I set out to do two things when writing admissions essays: what I did in high school and why it was so amazing. Luckily, I failed at that goal. Instead I wrote about my fascination with black walnut trees (per what I’ve learned in NRES 302 Dendrology “The Study of Trees”, Scientific Name: Juglans nigra, Family: Juglandaceae). Considering that I was applying for the natural resources and environmental sciences major and planning to enter the forest science concentration, it was still probably a bit unoriginal.
Retrospectively, there are two reasons it worked:
- It stood out. I doubt too many others did their admissions essays on the species Juglans nigra or any tree for that matter.
- It talked about the future. I did not fall into the trap of talking about my high school experience. I talked about my passion for an aspect of my field and consequently, what a degree from this university would mean to me.
And it worked…The essay began the process that eventually led me to Illinois!
They’re a bit tedious but worth spending the extra time on. Multiple people actually read each and every one of them! This is your chance to stand out on paper.
Good luck with the admissions essays!