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"Righting" Your College Essay

Release Date:
2/7/2012 3:19 PM
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By Zack Rosen,
Admissions Counselor / Coordinator of Social Media and Online Recruitment

Most colleges and universities that your student will be looking at and applying to require something extra when sending in their application materials; some love it, most hate it — the dreaded essay. 

At UNH, we require an essay of 250-500 words on a topic of your choice. There are three pointers that I wish to emphasize to make writing your college essay a better experience.  

When we ask for an essay with 250–500 words, that isn’t a rule — it’s a guideline. Are we counting to see if you have only 249 words? Certainly not; we want to see an essay that is between one and two pages long, when typed. Some people can do this with only 300 words; others need 800.  As long as you get your point across and follow the next two rules of writing your college essay, you should end up with a successful piece of work.

Not everyone likes “topic of your choice,” but we do it for a reason. What draws you to UNH? Why are you interested in studying fire science? An essay is a lot like a journey — you begin one place with a goal of reaching the finish line. But there are 30 different ways you can get there; when writing your essay, we want to see where you go with it.  It helps tell us a little something about you, aside from the numbers and letters we see on your transcripts and test-score reports.  

That brings up two issues, however. The first is probably what has been on your mind ever since hearing that most colleges would require an essay: what will you write about? This isn’t something we can answer.  However, if it’s a topic you feel comfortable writing about, then go with it! Even though the most common begin, “My name is John, I’m interested in legal studies at UNH because...” — be as creative as you wish!

And for some added kicks and giggles, here are two creative essay examples we received in the past couple of years at the University of New Haven.

A prospective forensic science student wrote his college essay to UNH as a crime report; he analyzed the crime scene (his bedroom) and talked about how he would be able to solve the case with his education.

A student interested in studying criminal justice did his essay as written lyrics to a song.

 Last, but certainly not least, and perhaps most important, is checking over your essay. Mom should read it over, Dad should read it over; in fact, your English teacher, best friend’s Mom, and tutor could all read it over as well. A lowercase “I,” the wrong “there,” “their,” or “they’re,” and the lack of a period do not belong in a college essay.  Also, be sure you know which college is receiving which essay. If you’re interested in applying to the University of New Haven, don’t address an essay to the University of Maryland.

Hopefully, these tips will help you when writing your college essay. Just be yourself! Sit down without the TV blasting in the background, think about what makes you unique, and start writing. We look forward to reading your essay soon!