Tips for your Personal Essay
See also College Application Essay handout with the following information.
The schools want to know two main things: 1) who you are and 2) how you write.
You own your essay. Since it is about you, you can take or leave any feedback from peers, teachers, or counselors.
TRY NOT make the essay too personal. Really shocking or traumatic events are not good topics.
TRY NOT to choose a clichéd topic. College representatives read too many essays about: influential grandfathers; tough athletic contests barely won/ lost; trips to foreign countries, especially mission-type trips. Even if the travel experience was eye-opening or transformative for you, it is difficult to say something new about travel that has not been said thousands of time before.
DO be yourself(not your impression of the perfect college applicant) and reveal something about you that the numbers, checkboxes, and lists of activities do not convey.
DO focus in on a particular incident/ activity/ object. Be specific and show rather than tell.
DO be honest.
DO answer the question you have chosen, but don’t restate the question in your essay.
DO take time. After this summer, set the essay aside for a few weeks and then go back to make sure it rings true.
DO get some feedback on your essay, but make sure it still sounds like you.
DO have others proofread your final product to catch errors.
Recommended: DO have something like a thesis statement. This does not have to be as formal as an argumentative or research paper or even a single sentence you can point to. Simply make sure that, somewhere near the beginning, the reader knows where you are headed.
Some Do Not's
DO NOT make things up. Do not fabricate a hardship to provide drama.
DO NOT plagiarize.
DO NOT be afraid to start anew, which is not the same as starting over. Sometime you have to write to see what will work best.
DO NOT try to include everything. The essay is not an autobiography.
DO NOT write a “what the admissions committee wants to hear” essay.
DO NOT write a standard five paragraph essay. Don’t worry too much about paragraphs or sections at first.
DO NOT sabotage your chances by portraying yourself as difficult, uncooperative, or closed-minded.
DO NOT use the essay as a bragfest/ puff piece.
While your academic performance is very important in the admissions decision, we believe that ability, potential and success are not measured exclusively by grades. Your essay response helps round out the picture of who you are and helps the Admissions Committee learn what is important to you and what qualities you would bring to Western's community. Western values the diverse experiences and perspectives that make you unique; the essay is your chance to tell your story.
Help the Admissions Committee better understand your potential for academic success and what you hope to gain from your experience at Western. A response to Question #1 is required, but you may respond to more than one if applicable. We want to reassure you that there are no "right" or "wrong" responses and the number of questions to which you respond is up to you. We recommend 300-500 words per question (this is not a firm limit but a recommended range).
- Tell us about your educational and/or professional goals. What are you interested in studying and why? Describe any steps you've taken to prepare for your intended major, related life skills, enrichment activities, future plans, etc. In addition, feel free to address what makes Western Washington University a good match for your interests.
- Western benefits from a student body whose energy and interests extend beyond the classroom. What interests or significant activities enrich your life?
- Describe any special circumstances or hurdles that have challenged you personally or academically, and steps you have taken to move beyond those challenges.