Most colleges require applicants to submit an essay with their college applications. The best college application essays strike the admissions team as interesting, unique, and well written. Every college applicant has a story to tell. The answer to the question, “How do I write a good college application essay?” is to find what makes you different and celebrate that in writing.
How do I write a college application essay?
Think of your college application essay as a personal elevator speech. You will likely tell your story again and again throughout life. Your essay should give admissions personnel a reason to admit you or a hiring manager a reason to make you an offer. Before you rack your brain for ideas, explore these tips and tactics for producing stellar application essays:
- Think of your story before you read the prompts. Colleges design prompts for inclusivity. Take some time before you even look at the application to brainstorm. Write down three to five ideas instead of looking for the perfect answer. Then write down several points under your best ideas. Choose the best outline as your topic and then find a prompt that matches your idea.
- Stay away from obvious experiences. Some essay topics are a dime a dozen. They will not stand out in a reader’s mind. Overused topics include overviews of mission trips, summaries of accomplishments, and sports experiences. You want to tell a story first and foremost. Use these questions to come up with something fresh and compelling:
- Has any experience ever completely changed how you look at the world?
- What was the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make? How did you handle it?
- What makes you wake up every morning? What are you passionate about and why?
- What are the traits, beliefs, and features that make you you?
- Don’t skip the outline. If you need to write a stream of consciousness to get your ideas on paper first, do it. However, do not write your final college admissions essay from scratch without creating an outline. Outlines are boring, but they will help you create focus and clarity.
- Ask for lots of feedback. Great writers do not fear feedback. If you are concerned about judgment, ask your readers to only suggest grammar corrections and ask questions instead of making comments. Feedback will help you recognize gaps in your story and clarify ambiguous statements.
- Use clear, precise language. You need SAT vocabulary to earn a test score, not necessarily to impress a reader. Always use the simplest word you can to convey appropriate meaning. Ten-dollar words can come off as pompous and will stick out in a reviewer’s mind if used incorrectly! Focus on conveying meaning over showcasing your vocabulary.
Discover Your Inner Writer
Writing tips will help you finish the essay, but what if you struggle with starting college applications? We’ve compiled a few tips to get you in the mood for writing your best essay:
- Spend five minutes a day on your application. If you force yourself to sit down with a five-minute timer set on your smartphone, you may find yourself working long past the five-minute mark one day. Don’t wait until you “feel like it,” because that may never happen.
- Skip the introduction. The intro is often the hardest part of an essay to write. If you struggle with the wording, go straight into the body of your essay and come back to the intro later.
- Write when you’re feeling positive. Unless you’ve chosen a somber topic, try to sit down and write when you’re feeling optimistic and confident. Your mood will come through in your writing.
Proofread Your Essay, Then Proof it Again
After all the time you put into crafting the perfect essay, don’t shortchange the proofing stage. Take your time and proofread your essay carefully. Even the most well crafted essays get diminished by simple spelling mistakes or typos.
Here are a few of those ‘annoying’ mistakes to watch out for.
Don’t fear your college application essay. Look forward to it as an opportunity to tell your readers something meaningful. If you start early and stick to these tips, you will create a college essay that makes you proud.