Crafting Creative Essays for US Boarding Schools

Having been an application reader for one of the top boarding schools in the United States for the last 2 years, I have read hundreds of essays from students all over the world. If you are just starting to apply to boarding schools, the essays can feel a bit daunting. But this article aims to help you approach any essay like a pro. Check out these tips for writing a stellar boarding school application essay. 

  1. Be authentic. Before starting any application or essay, always remind yourself of this: you are really special, and any school will be lucky to have you! So what are some of the things that make you so special? Start by thinking about the things you are most interested in. Let’s say you see an old friend for the first time in 2 years. What would you be most excited to tell them about your life? Perhaps the most recent book you read? Perhaps a new sport you are playing? Maybe you are most excited to tell jokes and let your sense of humor shine. Any of the things you would be excited to talk to a friend about could be possible essay topics. Readers want to read an essay that feels real and genuine. You will produce your best work when you are writing about something you care about! You can work with a tutor or a friend to find ways to let your authentic interests and personality come through in any essay you write, regardless of the essay prompt. 
  1. Be specific. Most boarding school applications will have at least 2 or 3 different essay prompts for you to respond to. This means you have to follow instructions to ensure you are answering each prompt specifically and fully. For example, if an essay asks you to write about a time you overcame a challenge, make sure you describe the challenging situation and what exactly you did to navigate it successfully. Make sure you include specific details about yourself and your personality that you displayed in the situation. The same goes when writing an essay about why you want to attend a specific school. Do not make broad, basic claims like “I want to attend this school because I know it is a good place for me. They offer exciting classes.” Try something like “As an environmental activist, the school’s mission to transition to sustainable energy by 2030 is an exciting goal that I would love to be involved in helping make a reality on campus. To complement my work on sustainability campaigns, I would love to take classes such as “Introduction to Environmental Policy” and “Topics in Ecology.” See the difference in those two responses? Essays with more detail and specific examples are much more engaging to read. But always make sure you are answering the prompt directly!
  1. Take advantage of the space given. Essays are typically short and have a strict word limit. That means you only have a limited amount of space to show off more about who you are and all the wonderful things you would bring to the school. So make sure you are taking full advantage of that space! One trap I often saw students fall into was repeating themselves multiple times throughout the application. For example, they attach a list of extracurricular activities to the application, but then spend an entire essay listing out those same extracurricular activities. Instead, successful applicants chose to highlight one of two activities in detail, or they spoke about a topic or experience that was not highlighted in another part of their application. 
  1. Proofread. Sometimes when we spend a long time on a piece of writing, the last thing we want to do is read it one last time. However, this can sometimes be the most important part of the whole process! Try setting the essays aside for a day, and come back to them later when you are rested with fresh eyes. You can even ask a friend or a family member to read over them when you are ready. Sometimes other people catch mistakes you might not have seen, or they offer a new approach or perspective that can help make your essay even stronger. 

Want more help? Aegis Advisors has a team of experienced admissions consultants specializing in US & UK boarding schools and universities, as well as international schools in Hong Kong. Since 2008, we have been working closely with families to help make their educational goals a reality. Contact us today to see how we can help!