You’ll address this letter to your roommate, but who really is going to be reading this essay? Probably not your roommate.
Dear Scared and Overwhelmed College Applicant,
How has your week been so far? I bet it’s been pretty stressful. That’s totally understandable. You’re juggling about 15 different essays right now. I’ve been there. I just thought I’d check in and offer you some help on one essay in particular.
One essay question that shows up on several college application supplements this year asks you to write a letter to your future roommate telling him or her about yourself. For example, here’s Stanford’s version:
Virtually all of Stanford’s undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate — and us — know you better.
Depending on how you feel about writing about yourself, this either sounds like a breeze, a lot of fun or the most terrifying scenario imaginable. Regardless of how you feel about it, here are a couple pointers to help you nail it.
1. Use semi-relaxed prose.
This essay is not as formal as your Common App personal statement, and it certainly isn’t as tightly structured as an academic essay. It is a letter addressed to someone your age, so you can relax your prose a little bit, add some humor, talk about your day if you like and let your personal voice come through. However, that does not mean it should be devoid of structure. Take your time to carefully outline this essay before you dive in. And “relaxed prose” doesn’t mean you should pepper in some LOLs or HAHAs. Use proper English.
2. Write for your audience.
Though the question asks you to address this letter to your roommate, ask yourself, “Who is going to be reading this essay?” Probably NOT your roommate. Definitely the admissions committee. So even if you think your roommate should know that you sometimes like to stay up until 5 a.m. hanging out with friends or that you secretly enjoy trashy reality TV, that’s maybe not something you want the admissions committee to know. That does not mean you should paint yourself as a model of perfection or try to sound like someone you’re not — admissions committees can sense when you’re being disingenuous. But just be aware that this is not ACTUALLY a letter to your roommate, and don’t over-share.
3. Think about the purpose of the question.
This question is trying to get you to reveal more about your personality, beyond what the admissions committee already knows about you from other sections of your application. Don’t repeat too much. If you spent your personal statement writing about how your volunteer work in Guatemala changed your life, don’t spend half of this letter writing about that, too. But if you haven’t been able to work in your love of Chopin, RadioLab and baking baklava, or the fact that you’re a competitive ballroom dancer or are certified in CPR, this would be a great place for that.
Hopefully these tips helped you feel a bit more confident about this essay. Good luck and hang in there.
Someone Glad the College Application Process Is Behind Her
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