Preparing for college admission is never easy. You need to take a bunch of tests, gather recommendations, and complete applications. But there is one last step left, that will either make or break your entire process: the application essay.

The application essay is where you can convince the admission board you are worthy of their time, so no wonder students spend weeks perfecting their papers. But truth be told, admission officers don’t spend more than 5 minutes reading them, so if you want to stand a chance, you need to be convincing from the start.

I know it’s challenging to have to summarize your entire life in less than a thousand words, all while trying to find the perfect balance between being honest and being professional, but trust me, it’s not impossible. To help you out, below are some tips you need to keep in mind if you want to elevate your application essay, but still, stay true to yourself.

Share something important and real about yourself

Admission officers will only spend a few minutes reviewing your application, so you need to get them hooked from the very beginning of your essay. This is the only way you are going to stand out from the thousands of students applying each year.

To achieve this, instead of spending valuable hours trying to come up with catchy phrases that can look forced and unrealistic, why not share a story about yourself? Maybe consider opening up with what made you apply to this college in particular, or a story that convinced you to pursue a particular career.

The best way to get someone involved in your story is to make it sound natural, easy to read and, above all, real. This is how you allow the admission officers to discover your personality and character, and consider you worthy of their time.

Try to put yourself in the committee’s shoes

Consider this a lifetime advice: always try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, if you want to understand how to communicate with them. Colleges, especially ivy league ones, put their entire reputation at stake every time they accept a student. After all, your success will reflect on them as well. When they review a potential student, they are looking for someone that will graduate and will be successful in their career. This is why, it is extremely important for your essay to reveal that you are a person who loves learning, has the ability to think critically when needed, and is passionate about things that happen in their life. They are looking for people that are curious and are eager to improve on an intellectual level. Show them you have all of these qualities, and your success is guaranteed.

Don’t try too hard to impress

Oftentimes, students try a bit too much to wow the admission board, and their essays end up looking a little too bogus. Even if you spent every summer building houses in a third world country, don’t make your essay all about that. In reality, it’s the little things that count. Writing about your hobbies, desires, and expectations will make those reading your essay feel a much bigger connection. After all, they are not looking for the next President, but rather for a smart adult-to-be.

Get creative with your writing and let it flow. If you find yourself trying to twist and turn your stories, in order to make them sound more impressive, stop right now! This is not what colleges are looking for, and admission officers have a very trained eye. They will see that you are trying to impress them, and they will not take it as a compliment.

Ditch pretentious words

I’m going to put this as straight-forward as I can: stop trying to sound like Shakespeare in your college application essay! The admission board will not be interested to see how many big words you know, but rather how real you are. In your writing, try to sound just like you do in real life. You won’t be finding yourself talking to someone and saying “I find the sky extremely alluring today!”.

Using big words in your essay will not only make it that much difficult to write but will also turn it into an unnatural press release. Consider this your first self-marketing document. You want to be real, engage the “audience” and show them why they will be lucky to have you.

Acing your tests should be enough of a proof that you are intelligent and can sound smart if you want to. The essay is where you show them you have a personality as well.

Take inspiration from success stories

Many colleges post successful applications on their websites, so make some time and read them, to draw inspiration. More often than not, you will see that they are nowhere near winning a Pulitzer prize, and that is perfectly fine.

There is, however, something they all have in common: they are correctly written, with no typos and no grammar mistakes. To ensure that no mistake goes unnoticed, you can ask someone else to read it, or contact a professional essay writing service to proof it for you. This way, you can rest assured knowing that your words are not only beautifully written, but in proper English as well.

Honesty is the best policy

Last, but not least, never pretend to be someone you are not. Coming up with a heartbreaking story about how you rescued a dog from a house on fire may give you the impression that you will sound like a martyr, but chances are, you won’t be fooling anyone. Simply be yourself, be as natural as you can, and show them how your mind actually works.

Most of the time, and admission officers will agree with this, it’s not about the topic of the essay, but rather how you frame it and how the things you write about shaped you as a person. After all, they know you are just a high school senior with big plans for the future, so embrace your role and show them your real perspective about the world.