Essays are gaining importance as a way to judge potential, and essays largely have replaced personal interviews. Writing an email may be easy, but rewriting a serious essay is much more challenging. Re-write your essay as many times as you feel is needed, and have people that you trust read it. Essays must emphasize personal development, and demonstrate curiosity, social conscience, and concern for the community. Avoid writing about babysitting, your pets, illegal drugs, or other experiences involving any kind of illegal activity. Applicants should show that they’ve been involved on campus and not just studying all the time. The admissions office will try to screen out difficult people, and are watching for negative signals, or evidence of a potential problem. Colleges also try to weed out overly dependent people, who either follow in their parents’ footsteps too closely, or hang out with a bad crowd. The admissions essay topic should be something the applicant cares about, and which shows how you’ve helped others to enjoy greater success. The best essay topics are like a short story, with poignant details, in which the writer shows by example. There should be no grammar or punctuation mistakes in your college essay, and even if the college application says that the essay is optional, you should treat it as a requirement.
Applicants who lead an extracurricular activity are regarded more highly than applicants who merely participate. Some universities, such as the UC System, have programs for spot-checking applicants for accuracy, such as sending a follow-up letter to the student asking for proof about a summer job. Don’t allow extracurricular activities to interfere with academic performance. A student with lots of extracurricular activities, but weak grades, isn’t going to fool the admissions’ committee. Start early in high school, and only join clubs that you have a real interest in, and are going to stick with for several years