Advice on Writing Your Application Essay

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If you’re a high school senior, you’re probably starting to dig deeper into the college application process.

Everything you’ve done throughout high school has helped you prepare an application that best demonstrates your strengths, interests, and goals. But there’s one part of the application that lends itself to a more personal, expressive approach—the essays. Each essay is an opportunity to share more about yourself, beyond just test scores, GPA, and extracurricular activities.

Here at Hopkins, the admissions committee wants to discover what you’re passionate about and why Hopkins is the right place for you to live and learn.

So how do you convey that very message to the admissions professional reading your essay? Here are a few tips for tackling college essays, straight from our admissions committee:

  • Write about your personal experiences. You can write about a family member, coach, teacher, etc., but remember to incorporate your own thoughts or experiences. We are looking to admit you, not your grandmother.
  • Don’t try to include everything. Focus on one topic, not everything you’ve been involved in during high school. Essays are a chance to elaborate on something important and explain why it means so much to you.
  • Tell us something about you we won’t get to see anywhere else in the application. Listing extracurricular involvements without providing new information is a missed opportunity to show a different aspect of your character. Use this space to talk about something new or to go into more detail about one group or activity you’ve had a big part in.
  • Be conscious of hot topic issues and potentially controversial topics (politics, religion, war, pending/recently passed legislation). If an opinion or idea is an important part of who you are, don’t be afraid to write about it, but be sure to be respectful of both sides of any issue. And remember, regardless of your individual opinions, your essay is a professional document.
  • Write naturally. Use your voice to show your personality. Be expressive, but don’t attempt to dazzle us with your word choice (or command of a thesaurus).
  • Be you. Your essay can be funny, if that’s your personality. But if you don’t consider yourself funny, this isn’t the space to try to be.
  • Edit and proofread (then proofread again) your essays carefully. Then have someone else, preferably a teacher or counselor, edit and proofread them as well. Spellcheck doesn’t catch everything.

Need some inspiration? Check out our Essays That Worked page. Each year our admissions committee selects a few essays from admitted students that really stood out. (BONUS: They even share why they thought these essays were impressive.)

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