It is not necessary to explain to high school students, college and university applicants how important the application essay really is. It can be your key to the education of your dream, or it can become your first significant failure. There is only one chance to do it right, and that puts much pressure upon students. That’s why they are constantly looking for the ways to make it flawless. How many times did you search Google with the question How to write perfect application essay? Meanwhile, are you 100% sure that such exists? You can do a profound research, check your grammar, and verify all your details. Is your essay perfect now? How can you be sure that this essay will make your way to the college and melt the heart of admission officers?

Let’s think about some points that make a difference for admission officers (and any college professor in general) and then decide, if a perfect application essay can exist.


Choosing Essay Topic

It may happen that you will be able to choose between several topics or have freedom to write about anything you want. In this case it will be smart to put yourself in admissions officer’s shoes. Ideally, your aim is to make an impression, stand out of the crowd and write somehing that will be remembered for some time after reading. This means you should choose a topic that has not become trite because of being chosen over and over again by other students. The examples of such topics include volunteering experiences, national and social problems, which have been talked about much, sports essays, writing about your idol/role model. When you realize that the officer probably reads 50-100 essays daily, you’ll understand why originality and creativity is so important.

While writing about your personal experiences it is important to come up with an idea that is fresh and offers a unique perspective or at the very least present an old idea from a new and completely different angle. Try to think outside the box – chances are, thousands of students have had same experiences traveling across the country, parents who are divorced, or have worked for famous people and can tell incredible stories about that.

So, there is no one or even several universally winning topics. It is simply impossible for that many different people with different experiences and points of view to have one perfect topic. If it existed, it will be no more a personal essay assignment, but an application essay conveyor. The point of application essay is completely different. That’s why instead of thinking about perfect topic, write about a personal experience but approach it from an angle that is completely unique and represents your personality. If you think your life has been mediocre and you don’t have a “thrill of your life” or “epiphany inspiring” event to write about, avoid the temptation to make something up. Admission officers are interested in your creativity and your ability to express yourself in your writing. It is a good idea to be more detailed, incorporating all of the feelings and emotions into the paper.


Incorporating the Details

Details make the perfect essay? Not exactly true. If you lose the whole sense and structure of essay behind the details, it won’t work for your benefit. However, it is true that you should be as meticulous as possible and not expect the reader to fill in the blanks. If your topic is about your first time skiing in the Alps, describe your feelings: the goose bumps on your skin, the taste of the snow in your mouth, and the sound of your heartbeat in your ears. The details of your story will be what draws the reader in and holds them.


Writing for Specific Audience

One more reason why application essay can not be universal and perfect for everyone – students are applying for different colleges with different requirements, traditions and vision. Instead of thinking about perfect essay formula you should think about the image of the school you’re applying to. Your essay should demonstrate that you know what kind of school it is and why you will be a good fit. If your goal is to enter a religious school don’t hesitate to add a little of your knowledge about religion in the essay (if it is appropriate to your topic of course). If you’re applying to an Ivy League college show that you are Ivy League material. While evaluating essays admission officers will try to be objective while reading your paper and think of how you will fit in the university. Make sure that it is crystal clear that you belong.


Showing Your Real Self

Eventually, there is the point when you have to show your level of creativity. How can you evaluate which kind of creativity is perfect and which is not. The meaning of creativity is to break the rules and forget about the norms. While good grammar and punctuation are important, the admission officers want to understand how clever and inventive you are, how will you adapt to campus life and what will you bring into the college community. That’s why universities come up with tricky essay tasks like:

  • So where is Waldo, really? (University of Chicago)
  • Tell us about the most embarrassing moment in your life. (Santa Clara University)
  • You have just finished your three hundred-page autobiography, please submit page 217. (University of Pennsylvania)

There is no the right answer to these tasks. Such prompts are clearly designed to draw out what thoughts are in your head, to understand your life views and help you show your real self.

So, fortunately or not, there is no such thing as the perfect essay or perfect way to write it. The reason for this is simple – your writing should reflect who you are and what’s important to you. Since none of us is perfect, admission officers do not expect your essays to be perfect. Instead of trying to pursue some fictional ‘essay idol’, try to give the best reflection of who you are and you’ll give your paper the best chance to get noticed among all the other applicants.


Written by: Tracy Collins, a writing instructor and the author of educational site

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Does a Perfect Application Essay Exist?