An application essay, also known as a statement of purpose, is a way for the educational institution you are applying for to assess your suitability for the programme. The essay is a way to showcase your personal strengths and experiences and make your application even stronger.
The personal statement, combined with your educational background, grades and other information are what count towards making your application successful. A statement of purpose is therefore a semi-formal space where you can communicate directly as a person and highlight your strengths and intentions. Let’s look at some of the top tips for writing a strong application essay that stands out from the crowd and truly reflects you as an individual.
1. Show that you know about the course and the institution – an essay is likely to make a poor impression if it sounds like a stock statement that can be sent to any college or university. It is important to communicate the fact that you have done your homework and know about the course, as well as the educational institution you are applying to. If there are any additional opportunities that the college offers that you are interested in pursuing during your course, it is important to mention these in your essay. This shows that you have thought seriously about the course and the college and how you could get the best from your time there.
2. Let your own personality shine through – An application essay needs to strike the right balance. It must balance between being personal and individual, but at the same time, refrain from being too informal or casual. Do not write it as though it were a letter or an email to a friend, but at the same time make sure your personality shines through. Yes, that is easier said than done, but it’s important to try and achieve this. Colleges and universities receive thousands of applications each year – so it’s important to keep it personal and try not to sound too impersonal or generic.
3. Highlight relevant experiences that show your personal qualities and skills – Do you have any interests or extra-curricular achievements? If yes, make sure you include them in your essay. They need not be relevant to your course material – as long as they speak about you as a person. For instance, voluntary experience with a wildlife charity may not be relevant to your course, but it will certainly speak volumes about who you are as a person.
4. Let the language reflect your personality and bring your life to life – the purpose of the application essay is to communicate your personal qualities and your intentions. As such, the way you write the essay can be used to communicate this. So, rather than using a boring and impersonal tone, why not use language that can bring your essay to life? Make your experiences descriptive and make them sound active rather than like bland reportage.
5. Put plenty of time aside to write – application essays normally require more than one draft before they are satisfactory. Set time aside to write the essay and do not leave it to the last minute, unless that works best for you. Even so, plan ahead and keep making notes as and when inspiration strikes. Whenever you think of something, note it down and review your notes while writing the first draft.
6. Ask for feedback from people you trust – once you have a draft to show, why not take feedback from someone you think may give you valuable advice? Ask for specific comments and take on board all the remarks you receive. Think about the feedback before making any changes, you may not always need to act on the comments. Reflect on the feedback and think about why you wrote what you did before discounting your first draft. Then if needed, make changes and tweaks where necessary.
7. Communicate your passion for the programme and the institution – it is very important to convey your enthusiasm and passion for the course you are applying to. The fact that you really want this should come across in your essay, and it will go a long way in making an impression on the selecting panel. But don’t just write that you really want it – explain why and what it means to you as an individual and how you plan to truly make the most of it.