In honor of South Carolina’s College Application Month, College of Charleston experts offer 10 tips to rock your admissions essay. The College’s admissions essay questions (available now at this link) are:
- What event in the last ten years will have the greatest impact on the millennial generation?
- Your YouTube channel just hit one million views. Describe your most watched video.
Time to buckle down!
The admissions essay is an important part of the application, and one of the few parts you have control over as you enter your senior year of high school – the grades you’ve already received and the extracurricular activities you’ve already participated in won’t change, but your essay is what you make it.
Associate Director of Admissions Christina DeCario looks for clues about an applicant’s personality, college preparedness and writing skills in the admissions essay. Here, DeCario and English professor Whitney Adams offer tips for you to impress admissions counselors with your essay, show that you’re capable of college-level writing and (bonus) come extra prepared for your required first-year English course.
1. Look at it as an opportunity.
“The essay is a very important part of the holistic review process,” DeCario says. “If your profile is a little uneven, like you’re successful outside the classroom but your grades aren’t quite there, or you’re the valedictorian but you’re not a good test taker, the essay can push you from a maybe to a yes. Just show us you’ll bring something unique to campus.”
RELATED: 8 Do’s and Don’ts of College Admissions Essays
2. Be confident in your writing.
Adams has noticed that many students she works with aren’t confident in their writing abilities. “If you write without confidence, you’re not convincing yourself or your reader, so find your own writing voice and trust yourself,” she advises.
3. Show, don’t tell.
“Include something I won’t get from your transcript,” DeCario suggests. “I know what you’re interested in studying and where you live from your application. Use the essay to give me insight into your personality by providing anecdotes that give me something new.”
4. Don’t go over the word limit.
It may seem obvious, but much of high school writing is based on a minimum number of pages or words, while the admissions essay has a maximum (500 words). “It forces you to be succinct, so write efficiently,” Adams says.
5. Proofread three ways.
DeCario recommends that you “proofread. Have someone else proofread. Then read it out loud to yourself. When you proofread, you should check for grammar and sentence structure. When someone else proofreads they will be looking for clarity in the essay. When you read it out loud, you’ll catch errors or even entire missing words like ‘a’ or ‘and’ that you didn’t catch when you read it in your head.”
6. If you make a claim, back it up.
Eyes on the prize
This is an easy way to show what you’ve learned from writing in high school. “The biggest problem I come across in my classes is students making statements without backing them up with evidence,” Adams says.
This may or may not apply to your essay, but if you do make claims that you can’t prove without an outside source, make sure you include evidence.
7. Explain why.
“I focus a lot on the question, ‘so what?’ in my classes,” Adams explains. “Why does it matter, why is it important? You have to look at a subject, even if you are the subject, critically to be able to answer that question, but it’s the question that readers care about most.”
8. Have a conclusion.
Make sure to wrap up your points in a way that’s true to the rest of the essay. “So many essays start off well, the second and third paragraphs are solid, and then they just end,” DeCario says. “You need to explain why you told me all the things you wrote about earlier in the essay. Relate it to yourself and the essay question.”
9. Answer the question…
“Let’s say you’re asked to describe yourself in one word: then describe yourself in one word. Don’t describe yourself in two words and don’t say you can’t describe yourself in one word because there’s a word for that – undefined – and because that’s what we asked you to do. It also relates to college preparedness. If a professor asks you to describe yourself in one word and you describe yourself in two, then you’ve failed.”
10. … The whole question
If an essay question is two parts, “keep the entire question in mind,” DeCario recommends. Make sure that you’re providing a thorough answer to the prompt.
The College of Charleston admissions committee will look at more than just test scores. But often, applicants and their parents want to know what the average student who enrolls at the College looks like.
So, here's what the middle 50 percent of freshmen accepted for fall 2017 looked like:
scored between 1080 and 1220 (in-state), and 1090 and 1220 (out-of-state) on the SAT.
scored between 21 and 27 (in-state), and 23 and 27 (outof-state) on the ACT.
had consistent academic achievement in the A/B range.
overall academic preparedness,
talents and leadership qualifications, and
extra-curricular activities and other achievements.
Freshman applicants should take a rigorous high school curriculum. The following curriculum shows the best preparation for your enrollment at the College of Charleston.
English: 4 units. Includes one unit of English literature and one unit of American literature. Two units should have strong grammar and composition components.
Math: 4 units. Includes Algebra I and II, and geometry. Fourth higher-level math selected from among Algebra III/Trigonometry, pre-calculus, calculus, statistics, discrete mathematics, or a capstone math course.
Lab sciences: 3 units (4 recommended). Two of the units must be in biology, chemistry or physics. The third unit may be from the same field as one of the first two units (biology, chemistry, or physics) or from any laboratory science for which biology and/or chemistry is a prerequisite.
Foreign languages: 3 units. Two units must be from the same language.
Social sciences: 3 units. Includes one unit of U.S. history. Government and economics are recommended.
Physical education or ROTC: 1 unit.
Fine arts: 1 unit. Appreciation of, History of, or Performance in one of the fine arts.
Electives: 1 unit. A college preparatory course in computer science (programming, not keyboarding) is recommended. Other acceptable electives include college preparatory courses in English, fine arts, foreign languages, humanities, laboratory science, mathematics, and social sciences.
The College of Charleston admissions committee can consider applicants who have not taken all of these courses. However, this curriculum will ensure that South Carolina students meet the requirements from the SC Commission on Higher Education for entry into S.C. four-year colleges.
If you haven’t taken all of these courses, we encourage you to submit a statement and relevant documentation from your counselor or principal explaining why.
Mid-Year High School Graduates
If you're graduating from high school in December and enrolling at the College of Charleston in January, you must submit an official letter from a principal or counselor confirming the successful completion of graduation requirements. (Be sure your letter includes the date you'll receive your high school diploma.)
South Carolina residents who want to be considered for a S.C. LIFE or HOPE scholarship must complete the Early Graduation Form on the Commission of Higher Education website.
Academic scholarships are generally not available for freshman entering in the spring semester. Visit Financial Aid for more information on federal and need-based aid.
General Educational Development test (GED)
Prior to enrolling, applicants must have earned either a high school diploma, or its equivalent—the General Educational Development Test (GED). Applicants who earned a GED must submit transcripts from the most recent semester of high school attended.
College of Charleston welcomesapplications from homeschooled students. The same requirements apply to a homeschooled student as to a traditional high school student. However, we would like to recommend some ways to make sure you are adequately prepared for the challenging curriculum at the College of Charleston.
We expect you to complete a challenging college-preparatory curriculum (see our recommended high school courses above). One way to do this is to take courses — such as physics and calculus — at a local community college. We strongly recommend that students takethreeyears of a foreign language in high school. You could take upper intermediate-level courses (201 and 202 level) at a community college as a substitute.
We require a transcript.It should list subjects studied (with specific course titles), and should indicate the year in which each course was completed.We would also like to see course descriptions so we can understand the content of your program, how challenging the courses(Honors, AP, etc.)were and how your grades were determined.If you have taken any dual-enrollment courses while in high school, we also recommend submitting your college transcript.
We do not require SAT II subject tests. But submitting these scores to us will help us to determine your proficiency in core academic subjects.
South Carolina homeschooled students must be registered with a fully accredited and recognized homeschool organization. If it is not, we require a GED.
College of Charleston will respect each state’s homeschool laws. If your state does not require an accredited homeschool curriculum, we will abide by those rules for admission consideration.
The College does not offer personal interviews for admission purposes, however, we encourage homeschooled students or their parents to contact Ambar Jackson,admission counselor, to discuss the above recommendations or unusual circumstances regarding homeschool students.
Last modified on October 2, 2017 by allisonl