Be you: The application essay

Hannah McCollum is the associate director of admission at Peddie.

The application short answer questions and essay give you an opportunity to share who you are and let the admission committees know what you care about, value, and believe. In combination with your interview and teacher recommendations, your responses to these questions reveal what makes you unique and provides the schools with a sense of what qualities, talents and perspectives you’ll bring to their communities.

Use the Writing Process

Just as you would for a major writing assignment in school, take time to think about what you want to say, to articulate your thoughts clearly, and to review your work before submitting it. Spend time brainstorming what you’d like to say about yourself, writing down everything that comes to mind when you consider the questions being asked. Create an outline to organize your ideas into a logical order. Draft a response, and revise your work.

Take Your Time

Students generate their best writing and articulate their thoughts most clearly when they let their ideas percolate. Taking breaks between the stages of the writing process provides time to reflect and hone your ideas. When you come back to the page, you may have new thoughts, see a clearer way to express yourself, or catch a sentence that could be stronger. Starting your responses well in advance of the deadline will give you plenty of time to make sure you’re submitting your best work.

Admission officers read a lot of applications, and the most effective writing is honest and real.

Be You

Admission officers read a lot of applications, and the most effective writing is honest and real. Your writing should be your own, and your responses should be focused on your true thoughts and experiences. Please don’t write what you think we want to hear and don’t submit work that’s not your own. We are experienced and skilled at knowing when students are not being authentic, and the strongest applicants write their own applications and use their own voices and experiences to reveal who they are, who they want to be, and what’s important to them.


Before you press send, read your responses one last time. I like to read my writing out loud to catch any silly errors, like a missing apostrophe or misspelled word. Showing that you took the time to check your work carefully and submit a polished final response demonstrates that you have taken the application seriously, which reflects well on you.