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Writing College Essays: Five Myths You Need to Know

Writing College Essays: Five Myths You Need to Know

The college application process is stressful. From deciding on your dream school, prepping for the SAT or ACT, to finishing all those applications, the task can feel near impossible. It's not - and neither is writing a college essay that works. To help our college-bound high school seniors, let's debunk some myths surrounding writing a persuasive college essay.

Myth #1: "I have to write the greatest essay in the world."

Every student wants to stand out, but you don't have to write the Iliad or the Odyssey to do so. The college essay is your opportunity to showcase your achievements and contributions. However, what most people don't realize is that they overindulge and exaggerate when talking about themselves. Admissions offices can read right through self-praise - what they are looking for is authenticity. Emphasize achievements or lessons you have learned that highlight your best traits. Tell a story about your experiences. What have they taught you? The truth sounds a lot better than you think.

Myth #2: "I'm not creative."

You don't have to be creative to write a successful college essay; but you have to be personable. Don't regurgitate the same answers for every application. Admissions offices can tell when an application has been recycled. Add your own flair to each essay. Whether that be in your tone, content, or writing style, be sure to do something unique with each essay so that your reader remembers it.

Myth #3: "I should limit my number of applications because college applications are expensive."

You're right, applying to college gets expensive - but just like scholarships, there is money out there for applying to college too! If applying to college is out of your budget, contact the admissions office of the school you're applying to. They can give you forms to apply for a fee waiver. The process may seem cumbersome, but a free application will be worth it.

Myth #4: "I can wait until tomorrow."

Just do it now. Are you one of those people who writes something ingenious at the last minute? Your brain actually works better when you exercise it. That exercise will make your ingenuity a habit instead of something that saves you when you're under pressure. Your college essay does not have to be perfect the first time. Prioritize consistency over the grandiose last-minute essays and the result will be a well-written and concise articulation of why your dream school needs you.

Myth #5: "I have to know what I want to study."

No, you really don't. If you know what you want to study, good for you! However, having your mind made up about your future has no sway on your ability to write a persuasive college essay. A large part of college is figuring out what you want to do - that's why you're going. So when you write, talk about your interests and passions to showcase your potential. Try adding how you think the school will help you hone these interests. That way, your application will be unique and tailored to the school.

See? Writing college essays isn't as intimidating as it may seem. Keep these myth busters in mind the next time you're stressed about the college application process and you'll be good to go. Remember to always run your essays through a proofreading service like Scholly Editor for the finishing touches!

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Chris Gray's Five Tips on Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

Chris Gray's Five Tips on Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay

Winning scholarships isn't easy, trust me I know! But I did it, and so can you. I'll be dropping some hints right here on our blog from time to time, suggesting ways to shift the odds in your favor. Below are five quick tips for writing your scholarship essays that I hope you find valuable... and don't forget to use Scholly to match you with the scholarships that fit you perfectly!

  1. KEEP IT CONCISE: Unless a scholarship application tells you so, keep your essays around 500 words. The general rule here is that you want to get your message across in the most effective and efficient way possible, without boring the reader. 
  2. TELL A STORY: Try to avoid the “I’m awesome” essay, where you just go down a list of everything you have accomplished, reciting your resume (that they already saw in another part of your application.) Remember, the essays are sometimes the only way scholarship committees will be able to “meet” you. So, rather than giving them a laundry list of accolades, focus on a role or experience you had and tell that story. Let your character be shown throughout the essay. 
     
  3. BE CREATIVE: Be different. I know some students who have answered the “Tell me about yourself” sort of essay prompts with a poem about themselves, or even a drawing! Be mindful that you are taking a risk by doing this, but the point is to think about ways to be memorable and stand out from the pile of essays the organizations have to read.
     
  4. DON'T BE REDUNDANT: Once you finish an entire scholarship application, the scholarship organization has a pretty good view of who you are. So, use every essay to show them something different. As I said earlier, do not use your essays to essentially repeat your resume. Use the opportunity as a time show them another side of you.
     
  5. PROOFREAD EVERYTHING: Make sure you proofread your essays for grammar, and make sure they portray you in the way you want to be seen. Also, get the opinions of others, especially your English teachers. Let them take a look and maybe they will give you another perspective or spot mistakes you may not have seen.