Writing a college essay without freaking out…it’s possible!

We know that college essays can be the source of anxiety for prospective students. Our counselors give you advice on how to conquer this task AND keep your sanity. We asked our counseling staff for their thoughts on what they look for in essays. Here’s what they had to say:

“I love reading essays! First, I am not looking for “rocket science” here. Tell me something that your grades, test scores, activities, and recommendations can’t really convey. You have my captive attention and I am listening to you, and your voice only, for that block of time. I want to hear about you, your thoughts, unique writing style, your sense of humor, or your reason for wanting to attend Kalamazoo in whatever way you choose to convey that!” -Lara Gallant Magdzinski

“Have fun — essays that stand out to me are usually the ones that make me laugh (but don’t feel like you HAVE to be a comedian) Don’t stress about counting words. I don’t count words as I read — so if your essay is 543 words instead of 500, you won’t be penalized. But try to stay in the ball park of the assigned length — if you’re supposed to write 1 page and you write 3, that can be somewhat problematic. I know it’s hard to condense your thoughts, but think of the essay as an exercise in brevity.” -Hillary Teague

“Write in a style that correctly represents your personality and passions. Although it is good practice to use excellent grammar and spelling, I really want to be able to learn more about you than what test scores and GPA show. Have fun and be yourself!” -Ted Magdzinski

“Keep a poker face early in the essay. Don’t show your hand in the first paragraph, Draw the reader into the body of your essay. Make it descriptive. Make it anecdotal. Think of it as a very brief short story. Always come back to the concept of talking about yourself, regardless of the essay question. Remember, you are the topic of our interest.” -David Anderson

“Reading the essay is my favorite part of the application review process. That is where I really get a sense for the student’s personality and point of view. So my advice would be to try and have fun with the essay (I know, I know, easier said than done!) and let it reflect who you are. Oh, and don’t forget to use spell check!” -Jessica Fowle

“My favorite essays are the ones in which students tell me why that want to be at “K”. It indicates to me that they put in the time to personalize it to our school. Don’t feel a need to use big words just for the sake of impressing us. If you wouldn’t say it in a conversation with me, don’t use it.” -Suzanne Lepley