When it comes to getting into a top tier school, everyone knows the importance of on-point SATs, killer extracurricular activities, and leadership experience, but there's something else that could land you a spot in your dream college. According to a study from nonprofit AdmitSee, using certain words in your application essay may give you a leg up on other prospective students - but the words vary from school to school.
AdmitSee analyzed college essays from accepted students at some of the top colleges in the country to see their similarities, and the results are super interesting. If you've dreamed of living like Elle Woods at Harvard, you might want your essay to include words like "tough," "hard," and "difficult" - the Harvard admissions team likes essays about overcoming adversity. Stanford University, however, prefers a completely different kind of essay: according to the study, accepted Standford essays were more likely to feature the words "happy," "passionate," and "improve." That's because, at Stanford, essays about students' passions were more likely to be accepted than those about confronting a challenge.
So what does that mean for your application essay? While the AdmitSee study is helpful in giving you ideas for a potential essay, I would be wary about tailoring yours to these basic guidelines. Schools may prefer certain essay topics, but ultimately you still need to produce a great essay to get into any of these schools. Sending a powerful essay about overcoming adversity to Stanford instead of one that waxes poetic about your love of rock climbing doesn't equal automatic rejection, but writing about something you don't care much about is often obvious to the admissions team. Whatever essay topic you choose, it should be something you have a lot to say about.
That being said, if you do have an amazing essay about rock climbing, it's good to know that there's a school out there that would love to read about your adventures. Stay true to who you are in an application essay, and may the odds be ever in your favor when applying to schools this year!