3 Unusual Tips for Unusual College Essays

Cliché: March to a different drummer.    
POCS Reality: College-bound students can use the essay to showcase a unique experience/viewpoint/situation that sets them apart from their fellow applicants.


Are you scratching your head and pacing your room trying to write a college essay in 25 words or less? If you are, you may be applying to the University of Maryland according to an article in the Detroit Free Press:

“The essay question is new for 2012 applications to the University of Maryland and is just one example of a wave of quirkiness and brevity that has swept the usually staid world of college admissions essays in recent years. Some colleges have added questions that might elicit answers more suitable for a text or Tweet, and others have introduced video to the process.”

Okay so the questions are unusual and the topics odd but aren’t teens in the best position to handle the challenge? Here are 3 unusual tips for unusual college essays:

  1. Tap into your inner child You are walking the line between childhood and adulthood so use it to your advantage. Create ideas with the freedom of a youthful imagination but present them with your new thoughtful maturity.
  2. Think social media You’ve mastered posting on Twitter and Facebook. You know how to get your point across succinctly and colorfully. Reread my post College Essay-Think Twitter for more essay-writing tips.
  3. Be nerdy, be cool, be you Grab this opportunity to showcase how special you are beyond grades, test scores, and accomplishments. Use your essay to prove your unique experience/viewpoint/situation will be an asset to the campus.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Leadership, maturity, and creative qualities are important attributes colleges seek. They want their students to become successful alumni. Use typical and unusual college essays to enhance your application and show you have what colleges want.

College Essay-Think Twitter

Cliché:  In short.    
POCS Reality: Students write college essays for admission and scholarships.


When writing college admission and scholarship essays, students are wise to heed this economizer: do more with less.

Most colleges require admission essays as do many scholarship contests and they often come with word limits. Go over and the penalties can range from the essay reader stopping at the word limit or disqualifying the essay altogether.

This New York Times article describes the 500 word limit on the Common Application, used by more than 400 colleges and universities as their admission application form, and student struggles to follow it.

Use this link for my  3 top essay-writing tips and this one for 4 more tips from Essay expert Alan Gelb.

Scholarship expert Monica Matthews also has some essay-writing advice about how to win college scholarship contests.

Students may already have mastered the talent for brevity. Social media requires users to be concise by imposing maximum number of characters used per posts. For example, Twitter has a very short 140 character limit.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Students should follow the rules such as word count and deadlines, and use skills gained from social media posts and tweets to create their college essay messages.