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Writing the all-important admission essay

Despite rising tuition and residentiaL accommodation fees in foreign countries — especially the US, UK, Canada and Europe — the annual outflow of students from India who venture abroad for quality higher education shows no sign of decreasing. 

However, it’s a mistake to believe that colleges/universities abroad are accessible by all who can afford the tuition and other fees payable. Ill-equipped and under-prepared students tend to hold other students back and depress teaching-learning standards that foreign universities pride themselves on. Therefore, high tuition fees apart, they also rigorously test admission applicants. And one of the critical requirements of all undergrad colleges and universities is the admission essay which all applicants are required to write. Indeed, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that the essay is given greater weightage by admission officers than SAT/ACT scores and school-leaving records. 

Therefore when students start working on their admission essays, one of the great challenges they face is to answer the question: how do I make my essay different and appreciated by over-worked admission officers? 

Although deceptively simple, students tend to struggle with this conundrum. Partly because it is so open-ended, and partly because students from India — who are inclined to regard university education as an extension of school — have no idea of what higher ed institutions abroad are like. So when they choose the subject of their essays, they often write superficially about mascots, professors and clubs. They struggle to make their essays distinct, original and specific, and really aren’t sure how to convince the college that they really want to go there. This makes what should be a fairly simple essay far more difficult, and they end up frustrated and overwhelmed. This prompts some of them to plagiarise or cut and paste content from the Internet. This is absolutely inadvisable. There’s a good chance of your being discovered and blacklisted from ever applying again.

So here are my top three suggestions for writing original and persuasive admission essays for higher education institutions abroad:

Respect the college you would like to be admitted into as you would like to be respected by it. Too often, students prepare one admission essay and send it to several colleges/universities, changing only the name and address. Recently, I saw a student’s draft of an essay, which was for several undergrad colleges in the US. This is a terrible way to approach this task. You want the college to treat you like an individual, to learn about you and your hopes and interests. You wouldn’t want to be treated like an interchangeable unit, but as the unique person that you are. You should treat the college in exactly the same way.

Therefore, before you write your admission essay, look at what makes the college/university of your choice different. So research as to what makes it distinctive. It’s not the clubs, or classes, because most of them will be similar in these aspects. What is it about each college/university that sets it apart? What aspects of its history and philosophy of learning excite you? Is it an institution focused on interdisciplinary learning? Why does that stimulate you? Drill into the bedrock of what makes this college/varsity a notch above others. Be specific, as you would want it to be with you.

Remember it’s not just the architecture of the institution that should excite you. It’s the people you will meet there. Many students forget there’s a whole community of scholars attending your targeted institution. These people will be your friends, classmates, collaborators, fellow app developers and perhaps future business partners. You will learn as much from your peers as you will from the faculty, and together they will define your college experience and education. So thinking and writing about the kind of people you expect to meet in college, who will inspire and educate you about the world, is really important. Write about the quality and calibre of faculty and students you expect to meet at the school and how that prospect incentivises you. You obviously aren’t likely to be the sole student of the targeted varsity. So don’t write like you are.

Stellar faculty come and go, but a varsity’s philosophy is likely to remain constant. Students often write about the learned professors they expect to meet. While that’s not a bad idea, remember that professors are transient birds of passage. Unless they have tenure, chances are they might have moved on after you wrote your essay. So as an applicant if you write gushingly about a faculty member who has put in his papers, you will have put all your eggs in a broken basket. Instead, it’s advisable to write about specific study programmes that attract you, which shows you understand the philosophy and mission of the institution. 

To sum up, writing your admission essay should be fun. It offers you a chance to fantasize about yourself at this amazing college/varsity and convey what you admire about this institution in which you plan to spend the next most important years of your life. Your admission essay offers you an opportunity to communicate your excitement about your future. Seize it. 

(Rohan Ganeriwala is the Kolkata-based co-founder of

212 Views  | Posted on: 7 Nov,2017 Add Comment  Show Comments (0)