Terrific College Essays

The essay should not be the most dreaded part of the application process for any university. Maybe these tips will help you find that you can do this writing task with ease.

1. Tell Your Story In Your Own Voice.

Now is the time to market yourself to the best of your ability. Your college essay gives our admissions officers an insight into what makes you unique beyond your high school grades, test scores and extracurriculars. Your essay tells us how you will add something to UF’s freshman class, what you can bring to our community of leaders, learners and thinkers, and what sets you apart. This is the story of YOU!

2. Does the Essay Matter?

UF will receive more than 30,000 applications for the approximate 6,500 seats in the freshman class. There will be many outstanding students with similar scores and grades—too many to admit. Your essay helps us learn what makes you unique from other equally talented students.

3. Who Reads ‘Em?

Various officers throughout the UF Division of Enrollment Management are trained to read essays, and each essay will be read at least twice by randomly assigned readers. Keep in mind that these individuals may read more than a thousand essays, so it is important to try to catch the readers’ attention quickly with the most interesting example or point at the beginning of the essay. Here’s an example:

When I was in high school, I played the violin in the high school band. It was my favorite activity, and I never missed a practice or a performance. But one day, to my horror, I left my thousand-dollar violin on the school bus…

(from the book, Heavenly Essays)

4. Make the Story Unique to You

If you believe 10 or 20 or 100 students could write your exact essay, then it’s time to rethink your topic. Work on being distinctive. Here are some overused topics that essay readers have seen many (many) times:

  • Winning or losing the big game
  • Loss of friendships or relationships
  • Critiques of others (classmates, parents)
  • Pet deaths
  • Summer vacations

Think about what you would say in three to five minutes to a total stranger to impress or inform them about your terrific qualities or unusual experiences.

5. Show and Tell—Be Vivid with Your Words

If you recall show and tell at school, your essay should follow the same principle. Remember when the student went to the front of the class with something of interest inside the plastic sack? You hear the story. You see the object. With essays, you need to draw the reader out beyond the straight text and use words that trigger imagery and the senses.

6. Big Words Are Just Big Words.

Impress us with your content and who you are; not your ability to use a thesaurus. Most of our readers would prefer if you wrote, “I hung out with a group of friends” instead of, “we congregated as a conglomerate of like-minded individuals”.

7. Don’t Repeat.

Don’t repeat what you’ve already supplied in your application—grades, test scores, etc. Your essay serves to fill in the blanks beyond what you have supplied.

8. This is your essay, not your English class.

We will be reading your essay more for your words and information and less for your grammar. We know you’ve learned to limit use of contractions, eliminate sentence fragments and not to split your infinitives. However, no text-lingo, such as “lol” “ttyl” “kk” etc. We won’t judge you heavily on grammar, but we ask that you keep it appropriately professional. Pick up a best-selling book, and you’ll find that many authors no longer write by the rules. It’s your story that counts!

9. Have Someone Else Read It.

It’s always wise to have someone else read your draft before you submit your essay. You’ll be much more relieved knowing you submitted your very best work.

10. Now, go fine tune your drafts, tell us your story and be confident in your submission.

If you follow these tips, they will take you far on the UF application.

University of Florida’s Current Essay Topics

  • Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  • Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  • Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  • What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  • Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

Planning to transfer to a four-year college or university? The prospect of writing another application essay might seem overwhelming—and perhaps even unnecessary. But a compelling essay can make all the difference when it comes to getting accepted at your dream school.
If you have “essay anxiety,” you’re far from alone. Many students delay writing it until the last possible moment, or worse, decide to reuse an essay they wrote in high school. Unfortunately, neither of these tactics will reveal the true character of who you are now, nor will they provide the information admissions counselors are seeking.
Relax. It takes only a little preparation and a dash of creativity to write an essay that will boost your chance of being accepted as a transfer student at the school of your choice.


Before you start writing, though, it’s important to understand the role of the essay in the transfer application process. As in first-year applications, your essay is just part of the whole package, and colleges weigh each component differently. The entire burden of your acceptance is not resting on this one piece. But the essay does play a slightly different role in a transfer application than it does in a first-year application.
High school students who apply to colleges and universities often have an easier time presenting a complete picture of themselves, in part because teachers and guidance counselors who know them well can write detailed recommendations. If you’ve been in college for a semester or two, you’re less likely to have an instructor or counselor who knows you well enough to help an admissions counselor understand you as an individual and as a prospective student. So that’s your job—and the application essay is the best way to do that.
Joan Isaac-Mohr, vice president and dean of admissions at Quinnipiac University, explains, “A college transcript doesn’t give a lot of information about transfer students’ experiences at their present school. The application essay is where I can learn about why a student wants to transfer, and how transferring to our school fits into his or her educational goals.”
Many schools require just one essay from transfer applicants, to explain your reasons for wanting to transfer. So unless a school asks additional essay questions, this is what you should write about. Talk about your educational goals and explain how transferring to that particular school fits into them. Are you leaving your last school because the classes were not challenging enough, or because the academic environment was not a good fit for you? Was the social environment not right for you? Have you transferred schools already, but haven’t yet found what you’re looking for? Are you attending a community college now and always planned to transfer to a four-year school?
Remember, too, that you’re more mature now than you were in high school, so you’re expected to write your essay from a more adult perspective. An inappropriate or poorly written essay can signal to the school a lack of attention and could hurt your chances of being accepted.
Don’t recycle an essay you wrote for an earlier college application, no matter how tempted you might be. Even if a school requires you to write additional essays, an old application essay doesn’t reflect who you are now, academically or personally. And it probably isn’t a good idea to recycle that essay you just finished for English class, either. The best application essays result from thoughtful reflection and a focused, dedicated effort.
As a transfer applicant, your essay will be judged differently than those of first-year applicants, and admissions counselors probably won’t be as forgiving of any mistakes you make. So brush up on those basic writing skills you learned in high school.
Chris Markle, director of admissions at Susquehanna University, lists these eight application essay “Don’ts”:

  1. Don’t be too wordy or flowery.
  2. Don’t be too informal—avoid the use of slang (“cool,” “awesome,”) and vague words such as “very,” “a lot,” and “nice.”
  3. Avoid using clichés in metaphors; for example, don’t write that baseball is “as American as apple pie.”
  4. Don’t underdevelop your thoughts—if you introduce an idea, discuss it fully. As a rule of thumb, paragraphs should be at least four sentences and your essay at least a page in length.
  5. Avoid the use of cynical generalizations—saying “All Americansare conforming cowards” will not impress admissions staff.
  6. Explain your point, but don’t repeat the same words or ideas over and over.
  7. Don’t use poor grammar—avoid fragments, run-on sentences, and split infinitives.
  8. Above all, don’t panic!

Now that you know what not to do in your essay, knowing what to do is even simpler. According to Markle, the golden rule of application essays is this: “Your reader should know you better after reading your work.” Keeping this idea in mind is helpful as you contemplate how to tell your story. Because that’s what this essay is—an opportunity to tell your story, in your own words, with as much detail as you want to share.
Many transfer students worry that writing an essay explaining why they want to transfer schools won’t allow them much creativity. This doesn’t have to be true. Don’t simply state the facts—think about what brought you to this place in your life and what will take you to the next phase. Help the reader understand who you are. Share your imagination with the reader, and let them hear your voice. Like all good essays, a memorable application essay is more show than tell. Allowing the story to unfold, bit by bit, draws the reader into your world. And it tells the admissions counselor your compelling story.
Most schools accept transfer applicants for both spring and fall semesters. As soon as you decide you want to transfer, think about when you want to make the transfer and plan your application strategy appropriately.
Find out the transfer application procedures for the schools to which you are applying, and start thinking about your essay. Some schools ask transfer students the same essay questions they ask first-year applicants in addition to asking about your reasons for transferring; others want just the essay explaining your reasons for seeking a transfer; and still others don’t require an essay at all.
Many schools use the Common Application for Transfer Students, and the essay question is very straightforward: provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. And remember, no matter how many essays are required and what stories you decide to tell, make sure you edit, proofread, and finalize your essay with plenty of time to spare.
There you have it: The tools to write an essay that will reveal your educational goals and your true, mature self. The perfect essay is already in you, just waiting to be revealed and help you find your place at the school of your dreams.

 Essay Tips for Transfer Students
> If your academic record is less than perfect, use your essay as an opportunity to explain why. But don’t make excuses—instead, focus on what you learned and how you overcame challenges to become a more mature, disciplined person.
> If you’re applying for admission to a specific major or degree program, consider describing any experiences or events in your life that influenced your path. If you have professional or volunteer experience in the field, writing about it can help convey your commitment.
> Keep it concise. If the college you’re applying to suggests a word count for your essay, take it seriously. Remember, admissions counselors have hundreds of essays to evaluate—make yours compelling and easy to read.

Article by Manya Chylinksi and courtesy of www.careersandcolleges.com

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