Your GED and the College Application Essay

Congrats!! You passed all four GED subtests and secured your GED. You can go to college! Isn’t it great to take your education to the next level and build a great future? But first, you have to write your application.

Writing a college application essay is a rather challenging part. I know this title sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth.

This is not to scare you, but your college essay can truly make or break your acceptance into your dream school. Here are a few points of advice.

With college application season upon us, high school seniors are also scrambling to improve or enhance their applications however possible.

Don’t get discouraged because you hold a GED, though. But if there is one thing you should definitely pay attention to, it is your college essay.

An increasing number of colleges and universities accept GED College-Ready (165-174) and College-Ready PLUS Credit (175-200) scores to waive other college entrance tests such as the ACT and SAT.

Consider the fact that many applicants appear identical on the surface: similar GPA, similar courses, similar ACT scores as your GED College Ready (possibly with college credits) score, similar activities lists…

The crazy reality is that many other students out there have done the same things as you! So how do you stand out in a crowd of hundreds of other applicants? Your college essay!

The college essay is key

The college essay will make or break your application. It is the only opportunity (outside of the interview) to actually tell admissions about who you are and let them get to know you. To learn more about the GED College-Ready scores, check out this page.

The essay that catches a reader’s attention will be remembered. The reader will feel a connection to you as a person, not just an application.

And when it comes time to make the decision between 20 similar applicants, they will always choose the person they liked and remembered through the college essay. Click here to read more about GED top scores and SAT/ACT requirements.

So take advantage of this opportunity to create fantastic, personal essays. Use the essay to teach the college about who you are on a personal level, what matters to you, and why.

Leave them with a lasting impression so they feel a personal connection. It is much easier to accept a person over an application and when you passed the GED a few years back, you may need a copy of your diploma. You can read all about the process if you click on the link.

Be sure to stay on track for your college goals by following this academic guide.

First, write down your favorite activities, experiences, memories, challenges, character traits, etc. then expand on these notes to begin creating content for an outline.

Your activities

Step 1: Choose one of your experiences or activities. I’ll use the example of “volunteering at an after-school camp for kids.”

Step 2: Expand on this experience by writing about what you did.

Example: Volunteering at an after-school camp for kids. For example (even if you didn’t complete high school), “I went to Johnson Elementary once a week for four hours after school. Played with the kids on the playground, helped them with arts and crafts, went on a few field trips, helped them with their homework, read books, told stories.”

Step 3: Write about why this matters to you.

“Why it is important to me. Some of the kids had no friends to play with, and it made them happy to play with me. I love painting and drawing, so it was fun to teach kids how to do it.

The field trips were fun and one of the only special activities for many of these children. When I read books to the children, I noticed they listened, and it seemed like they were learning. I told stories about my experiences as a kid, and some of the kids asked me more questions after.”

Step 4: Write about what you learned from it.

“What I learned from it: I realized that I could make a difference in the lives of these kids by just listening to them. They just want someone to interact with them, teach them things, and listen to what they had to say.

Also, I realized that while I am usually pretty shy in front of my peers and adults, I feel comfortable with kids. I want to pursue a job where I can interact with children and help them develop.”

Step 5: Write about how to take it further and if you are, for example, from Illinois and you passed the state’s Constitution Test with flying colors, don’t forget to include that in your application. But let’s see how to write about taking it further.

“How I’ll take it further: I plan to continue volunteering at this camp this summer. Once I go to college, I want to find a similar program near my school and start volunteering there.

The biggest issue at this camp is our lack of volunteers. I want to start a community service club where we discuss different projects each week and find students to help out. And once I am in college, I hope to join a similar club or start it!”

*Now repeat this process for each primary activity or experience on your list. Next, filter through all this content and start weaving together the most important points.

Essay structure

So now you’ve got your GED you can get on: higher education is awaiting you! Your activities matter, but let’s see what else it takes to write a good and catching application… Let’s take a look at the structure of your college application essay.

While you’ll probably need to write a few essays for your college apps, the best one to work on first is your “personal statement” or main essay.

The purpose of your personal statement is to give colleges a better idea of WHO you are, WHAT experiences have been important or significant in your life, and WHY they are relevant or important. It’s especially important that you include extra, unique information.

Think about your story and then follow the five steps below to get started on your college application essay. Keep in mind that there are so many successful people who have a GED.

Five steps

1. Take out a piece of paper or create a new doc on your computer.

2. Spend 10-15 minutes and try to jot down:

  • favorite activities
  • proudest accomplishments
  • hobbies, interests, and passions

3. Now spend 5 minutes and try to jot down:

  • favorite memory
  • happiest moment
  • most challenging experience (also if it was earning your GED)

4. Finally, try to think about words to describe yourself (this one can be kind of hard- but go ahead and brag a bit):

  • What are the traits that define you?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • How would your parents describe you?
  • What do you like the most about yourself?

5. Now, look at everything you wrote down. Look for any trends or patterns. Circle or highlight the most important things.

And that’s it! You have taken the first (and most difficult) step to writing your college essay. Next step – begin describing each of the activities, experiences, etc. And try to connect the words that describe yourself to an activity or experience.

Early action vs early decision

As you prepare for college admission, you may want to consider applying early. Early applications have an earlier due date and in turn, the applicant receives an earlier admission decision.

There can be advantages to applying early but it is critical to understand what type of early plan you are applying under. Typically these plans include Early Decision, Early Action, or Single Choice Early Action.

  • Early Decision is a binding application. If you are accepted to the school, you must attend (assuming you are offered sufficient financial aid). You cannot apply to more than one school under the Early Decision plan. You can apply to other schools as Regular Decision but you must withdraw those applications if you are admitted to your Early Decision school.
  • Early Action is a non-binding application. It is similar to Early Decision but less restrictive. You can apply to multiple schools Early Action. You can also apply to other schools as Regular Decision.
  • Single Choice Early Action is a new plan being used by an increasing number of schools. It is a non-binding application. But you can only apply to one school in Early Action. The rest of your applications must be Regular Decision.

 

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