The majority of college candidates agree that the worst part of the process is writing the application essay. The essay is where you have the most pressure – it must be clear and concise, appropriate for your topic, and expressive of who you are as a person. The essay must convince the admissions team that you are the right choice and something makes you stand out from the rest. Learning how to master the application essay can open the doors to the college you’ve always dreamt of attending.

Get Your Thoughts Flowing

The biggest difficulty many writers have is trying to articulate their thoughts on paper. Your college application essay must come 100% from you – your individual thoughts, feelings, and personal experiences. You cannot summarize research you find online to write the paper. The skill of translating what’s in your head and heart onto the page is imperative. Here are a few tips to help you get the ball rolling:

  • Have a brainstorming session. Take 10 to 15 minutes to brainstorm about your personality traits. Define your strengths, hopes, and aspirations for the future. Your thoughts don’t need to form a specific plan at this point – simply write down your ideas as they come to you. This exercise can give you inspiration for how to start your essay. You should come up with topics that highlight who you are.
  • Try freewriting. Freewriting is a technique in which you type (or write with pen and paper) anything and everything that pops into your head. Set a time limit for yourself and start writing. Nothing is off limits. It doesn’t have to make sense or form complete sentences. You can write the same word over and over again, or write that you don’t know what to write. The idea is to write without constraint and get the creativity flowing.

Getting your thoughts on paper is the most important part of writing an outstanding college application essay. Once you warm up, you’re ready to make an outline. Take your best brainstorming ideas and create an outline to organize your essay. Decide how you want to lay out your introduction, body (main points/supporting examples), and conclusion. Now you’re ready to start the meat of the essay writing.

The Three Ps: Personal, Precise, and Presentation

As you write your essay, keep the three Ps in mind. The first P stands for “personal.” The goal of your college application essay is to let the admissions board get to know you. Focus on just one aspect of yourself. Make this your main idea. Share your personal story and your unique thoughts – this is what will separate your essay from those submitted by other applicants. Take a creative approach to an old topic, or highlight areas you didn’t cover in the rest of your application.

The second P is for “precise.” Keep your writing neat, clean, and articulate. Your essay should be laser-focused on the topic and your main idea. Do not stray to other topics or try to squeeze in multiple main points. Trying to cover too many topics will make your essay sound like a résumé instead of an essay about you. Your audience should be able to read your essay from start to finish and identify the main idea.

Lastly, we come to the third P – “presentation.” Your essay should be a presentation about yourself, not a list of your merits. Presentation means showing instead of telling. Present your ideas to your audience instead of simply stating them. Use details, descriptions, and specific examples that illustrate your point. When your application essay is personal, precise, and full of gripping presentation, you’re sure to stand out from the crowd.

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