They consider this piece of writing as a platform to determine whether you are capable of taking admission in their institution or not. So your essay should be very impressive.
There are three kinds of topics that are generally given to an applicant. These topics are:
" Tell about yourself
" Why do you want to study here
" Write on any given issue
The way in which the questions are framed may be different but the topics will be more or less the same for all the institutions.
When you are asked to describe yourself or tell something about yourself you should present all the good qualities that you have. The tone should be such that it does not look as if you are boasting about your strengths. Write about yourself with confidence and be down to earth while presenting insight about your personality.
When you have to write why you want to take admission in a particular institution, make sure that all the facts that you are mentioning about that institution are correct. If you write something wrong, the evaluators would understand that you have not seriously researched about that institution. In this kind of question you can mention your career goals and how you think that particular institution will help you in achieving that goal.
If you are not given the above two types of question then you might be asked to write on an issue like terrorism, substance abuse, sibling rivalry, generation gap etc. Whatever the topic is the idea behind it is to judge your take in these issues. Through your viewpoints on these national or social issues, there is an attempt to indirectly evaluate your personality and thought process. While writing on these kinds of topics you can research about the issues but put the information in your own words because through this piece of writing the evaluators do not want to know what others have to say but what you feel.
You work should have three parts:
The introduction establishes the main idea of the contents of your work. You can make it long or short depending upon the word limit. The second part is the body, which presents ideas in support of the main idea of the essay. Let the ideas flow in a logical and consistent manner. You can make this part of the essay lively by narrating an incident or experience. This part of the writing is the lengthiest. The conclusion is a summary of all that has been written. You can write it in one or two lines.
College application essay is not very lengthy. As the authorities have to read hundreds of such pieces, they cannot afford to devote much time in each piece of writing. Plan your piece of writing well, write indulgently and leave a good impression on the readers.