As the holidays approach, your college admissions essay is possibly the last thing weighing on your mind. Since the life of an Admissions Counselor is all about reading those little compositions this time of year, however, allow me to elaborate a bit on what some of us see and would like to see in essays from those of you who have yet to apply to UMBC.
Now mind you, I realize it is difficult to write an earth-shattering piece when it is limited to 350 words. Still, it is possible to write a clean, colorful, and effective piece in 200 to 350 words, so long as you pay close attention to content, grammar, spelling, and punctuation (yes, I’m talking to you, the student who turned in an essay with the contraction “it is” written as “its” three times; and especially to you, the student who wrote three incoherent and unrelated sentences for your essay—I could go on, but you get the idea). Take pity on us poor counselors who look at so many numbers when reading applications. Remember that we’d like to know more about you than your GPA or SAT scores. We want to see the whole picture! Okay, so “Jill Smith” has a 3.6 GPA and a 1200 reading + math SAT. Ooh, but she also knows how to think critically since her essay discusses the role that culture plays in determining the effects technologies such as the computer chip have on society. Clearly she doesn’t buy into the notion of technological determinism. Someone with those brains would surely fit in well here at UMBC!
You certainly do not have to write an essay on the narrow topics your application suggests. We also give you the option to tell us about your goals and/or experiences. This does not mean we want a laundry list of your life thus far (e.g., “I live in New York and go to Jamestown High School. I like to sing and dance and play the piano. When I was a kid I broke my arm. Now I want to be a doctor and fix other people’s arms.”). Rather, consider telling us about one element of your goals or experiences in-depth. You might even tell a little story about yourself in third person. Lists don’t stick out, but stories definitely catch our attention!
I could write a thick book on suggestions for essays, but just remember to keep them interesting, error-free, and 200 to 350 words (okay, we’ll let 351 words slide—352 is where we draw the line, and 353 is right out, though [just kidding, but seriously, we’ve got a lot of app’s to read—take it easy on us!]).