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A creative, thoughtful entrance essay is essential

March 8, 2011
By BEN SIMMONS Staff Writer

Getting into college continues to become increasingly more difficult as more and more applicants are vying for the limited number of spaces available. So how can you improve your chances of getting admitted into the college of your choice? The answer is rather simple, write an exceptional essay as part of your college application that will make the review board remember your name and want you to attend their school.

John Waltz, director of admissions at West Virginia Wesleyan College, said a good essay can be the difference between acceptance and rejection to a college. He said it is the one opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and leave a lasting impression for the review board.

"At Wesleyan, we make our essay optional," Waltz said. "One of the reasons we do that is because we like to see if the student makes the choice to do it. Generally, one of the first things I can suggest is if the school makes it optional, then always do it. Because usually that is what they are doing, they are checking to see if they student will do it on their own."

Waltz recommends students make their essay interesting by adding humor or personalized experiences. He said it often gets read by several people and the more interesting it is, the more it stands out.

"I always recommend they make it interesting," Waltz said. "We read all of them. We like it when they are different in some way. Anything that makes it stand out is always better. We are always happy to read those one at a time. The essay is a good opportunity for students to expand on themselves. If they have anything they need to explain about themselves, maybe they had a bad semester or something, it's a good time to expand on that in the essay. Sometimes that is our only opportunity to find those things out."

Aside from the college entrance review board, Waltz said the essay is often read by many different scholarship foundations. He said it can sometimes make the difference in securing extra money for college.

Fact Box

Quick facts

Sending an exceptional essay can be the difference in an acceptance letter or a rejection letter. Make sure you follow this advice when writing your essay:

If the essay is optional, do it. Chances most applicants won't.

Include humor and add personal touches to your essay. After reading dozens, the admissions staff will remember yours if it's different.

Your essay is a chance for you to show the college who you are, so include as much pertinent information as possible.

Spell check. Read through your essay before you send it and have someone else read it, too.

See if your essay can be submitted electronically. That will save paper and effort.

"When we get an application, sometimes we are not the only ones looking at it. Often other scholarship foundations could be looking at the application. While the college may know a bit about the student, it can really become beneficial for them to put as much information as possible because other groups could be looking at it, too," Waltz said.

Waltz said applicants should make sure they proof read the essay before submitting it to the college. He suggested having several people read over it to make sure it is perfect.

"It's good to have it proofed by someone else," Waltz said. "If we see lots of evidence that there are lots of writing issues, that might raise a red flag."

Waltz said many colleges offer online applications and the essay can be submitted electronically. If a student chooses to submit the essay online, Waltz suggested using a word processing program to make sure no spelling and grammar errors are made. He said the text could be cut and pasted into the application.



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