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How to Write a College Essay for Successful Admission: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write a College Essay
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A college application essay is a written piece that applicants submit as part of their college admission process. It serves as an opportunity for prospective students to showcase their personality, skills, experiences, and aspirations to the admissions committee. A college essay helps the admissions officers understand the applicant beyond their academic achievements, test scores, and extracurricular activities.

So if you ask what the most important part of a college application is, we will bring your attention to college essays. What can be more important than the text where you introduce yourself, define your future life and career goals, and show motivation to be a student? A college admission essay is really a big deal, and you need to put all your efforts into writing a winning essay. 

This blog is your guide to writing a college essay that will bring you to your dream university. Here you can find a definition and basic explanation of what the admission committee wants to see in prospective students' essays. And what is more important, here you can find useful tips that will make your admission paper successful! Avail from our college essay writing help to nail your admission essay effort-free!

What Is a College Essay: Definition

When applying to college, you will find that most competitive schools require you to submit college essays along with a personal statement. First and foremost, let;’s define what a college application essay is.

A college essay is a one-page-long essay that outlines your life story, worldview, educational background, and future plans. This is your chance to introduce yourself to the admission committee, who read thousands of essays, but should pay attention to your story! This is why creating a strong college essay that will make a committee consider your application is so important. 

An application essay is not too long, usually around 650 words. In past years, many colleges have gone to “test-blind” admission, which means college admissions officers start application evaluation by reading essays and not rating your grades and test scores. This is why a good college essay is one of the most essential parts of your application!

But how to make your college admissions essay stand out? This is what we are going to learn from the following sections.

Purpose of a College Admissions Essay

If you want to write a good college admissions essay, you need to understand what the committee wants to see in this text. In other words, what is a college essay's aim, and why did it become more important than test scores? 

The main purpose of a college essay is to underline your best skills and make an introduction to a committee that will make them want to see you as a student in a particular college. 

Here is a list of goals that college essays have, and you should be clear with them in writing a compelling admission essay:

  • Demonstrate your personality and passion for education or a specific field
  • Underline your soft skills (e.g., leadership, creativity, problem-solving approach in study, analytical thinking)
  • Show if you are a good match for college
  • Epitomize your constancy with educational and career goals.

What Makes a Good College Essay?

Thousands of colleges and universities in the US admit students because they find their essays a perfect match for their place. But what makes some application essays good for Harvard and Yale, and others – for the University of Texas at Austin or Wisconsin School of Journalism?

Let’s define what makes a powerful and winning college essay. In general, it should:

  • Reflect students’ thoughts and beliefs that make them a good fit for the program.
  • Answer the question of what unique perspective the student can bring to university life.
  • Show tremendous passion for education and building a future career.
  • Be well-structured and don’t contain any spelling or grammar mistakes.
  • Be memorable for the committee and make them consider your personality.

How to Write a College Application Essay Step-by-Step?

When you have a basic knowledge of what you need to include in your college essay, you will need to begin organizing your ideas. But how to start a college essay? What examples to incorporate? How much time do you need for this task? 

Let’s discuss what you should write in your college essay. We will answer all your questions in the next paragraphs of our guide. Let’s learn about creating a fantastic piece that will make you a student at a dream school!

1. Read the Task Carefully

When you write your college admission essay, start by carefully reading the requirements from each school you are applying to. In most cases, officers outline specific instructions on the admission page. For example, some universities will ask you to write no more than 500 words, while others will require you to address particular questions like your career plans. 

You may think that all college essays are the same. However, competitive schools may have unique requirements. And it is not a surprise. They get thousands of applications yearly and will consider only the best students. Demonstrate that you are one of them!

2. Come Up With Ideas From Your Life

Writing an admissions essay is telling a story that reflects your beliefs and personal feelings. What can be better than bringing examples from your life? Maybe it was something or someone who helped you become who you are today. Share the story about it! 

Be authentic, as this is the only way to stay real and honest. You may have an experience that no one else had, and it made you make a decision on your future life and career. Think carefully about the people, things, and circumstances that formed you and your passion, and you can write in your essay. Also, it should be something that is really important to you and your choices, not just a fun story from your life.

3. Interest a Reader From the Get-Go

Start your college essay writing from a hook. What does it mean? You need to be emotional, interesting, and specific at the beginning of the text. Why is it important for an exceptional college essay? 

First and foremost, you will be one of the thousands which means that you will have a few seconds to get the admission officers involved. It should be catching text from the first sentences. Astonish your reader, show your relevance to the program, and impress them with a bold position. You can also integrate an inspirational quotation that will lead further to your text.

You may also begin a college application essay with a story relevant to your application. It can be something that influences life decisions or causes research passion. 

>> Learn more: How to Write a Hook in an Essay

4. Share Your Personal Experience

College admission essays should inspire readers with a story of your life, and this is why the most essential part is to be authentic. You can’t use someone's story or come up with your own just to make a text more catchy. It should be an introduction to your experience, beliefs, position, and life views. 

The admission committee wants a unique and personalized voice in your text. Include your personal story in a text. It can be something you remember from childhood, important events, or a situation involving people who mentored you. 

Think about your motivation to go to college. When and why did you decide to apply? What story is behind your decision? Remember: your essay should be relevant to your ideas and motivation.

5. Make Self-Reflection

A college essay is not only about numbers or grades, nor it is about test scores and sports achievements. Go deeper into self-reflection and explain what made the kind of person you are now. Your readers want to see that you can deal with complicated situations, are consistent with your dreams, and clearly know your goals. 

The admission board will look at what brings you to the college, your motives, and what circumstances became definitive for this choice. That is why you should spend time on self-reflection and think about prominent things in your experience. 

For example, you can connect your summer job to a future career choice. Or focus on your sports competitions and explain how they made you a stronger person ready for college challenges. Ensure that you utilize transition words to build a bridge between your ideas.

6. Wrap Up Your College Essay

The best college essays will have a great “kicker” at the end – an essay conclusion paragraph that ties pieces together like a puzzle. In other words, you need to compose a final paragraph that will create a lasting impression. Your application essay should guide readers, making them believe you are the best candidate for this program. That is why be careful with a conclusion. It should not repeat all the facts but bring everything together for a logical summary. 

For a solid summary, you must focus on the key points and bring questions for future discussion. Writing admission essays will take a lot of time. Do not skip careful and thoughtful work with the final paragraphs. Clarifying your readers' thoughts at the end of the story is important.

7. Edit Your Draft

A college essay is not a writing test where you should complete 300 words in 40 minutes. Here, your focus is not on how to write an essay quickly. Instead, you should emphasize quality. This is more solid and grounded text, and you need plenty of time for editing and writing. Having your text's first, second, and third drafts is normal. You need to find the outstanding structure and wording that will work best for achieving your goal and being accepted to the university. That is why you need time for essay revision

You may also ask friends who are already students to read your text and underline critical points. And it would be great if you could find someone from your target college to read and edit your essay.

Tips for Writing a College Application Essay

A good college admissions essay is your key introduction to the admission committee. They will remember your application based on some details from this text. 

As already mentioned, your college essay should be unique, as no one can speak better for you. This is your voice and life experience; only authentic text can make you a great fit for the program. Discover some application essay writing tips to create a decent piece.

Pay Attention to All Requirements

Many competitive universities have specific college essay requirements. Read carefully what the admission is looking for in students' texts. For example, some universities will ask you to outline what book or person influenced your decision to apply. Sometimes, the college may ask to mention faculty members with whom you want to work in research classes. There also can be specific requirements to how long should an essay be or what citations to include in the text. For example, you may be asked to submit a 700 word essay, double spaced.

Focus on Your Personal Story

Your story and personality are important for a captivating admission essay. Some may say that “sports, disease, death” are taboo topics for college statements. Mostly because those topics are used quite often to underline struggles and challenges. But let’s be honest. This is your story, and you need to be open-hearted. If you think that sport made you become this kind of person, you need to write about it. Do not try to use someone’s story. This is an essay about you!

Use Real Examples to Back Up Your Ideas

How to illustrate your passion for research, persistence in achieving goals, or strength to deal with complicated circumstances? You need to use examples from your life in a college application paper. 

What examples can it be? Think about difficulties in your life and how you dealt with them. Highlight any problem from school or other activity and demonstrate how you solved it. It will be a great way to show your consistent efforts in attaining your goals and managing complicated situations. 

You may think your life is too boring and there is nothing to share with the committee. However, every person can find something fascinating. Just dedicate some time to this task!

Highlight Things That Make You Stand Out

Why should admissions officers consider your application instead of hundreds of others? This is the key question to writing a good text! You need to demonstrate your uniqueness: 

  • Why you are the best fit for the program?
  • What makes you different?
  • Why should you be admitted to this program?

These are the questions to address in your statements. This is a chance to bring attention to your candidacy before the committee moves to test scores and grades.

Write Your College Essay With Committee in Mind

Your essay will be read and evaluated by several people. However, you should feel what they are looking for and what is the ideal candidate for the program. Put yourself into their shoes. Make your text easy to read but also valuable and thoughtful, with deep beliefs and a strong position. They are real people who will read hundreds of essays. Keep in mind this while writing. You must write an essay catered to their expectations!

Avoid Repetitions and Cliches

In your essay, answer all prompt questions and do not repeat any previous application facts. It may be a few open questions in the application, where you should write a short and complete response in 100-150 words. If you have already mentioned examples about sports or volunteering endeavors, do not offer the same examples in the essay. Your key admission introduction should be unique and not repeat any other part of an application.

Read Your Application Essay Aloud

Reading your final text aloud is a great technique to check your text's logic, stylistic choice, and structure. You may spend much time scanning the text and checking each paragraph. But reading aloud will help to make everything clear. For example, you may find some paragraphs hard to read, so you should rephrase them.

Ask Somebody to Read Your Applicant Essay

No doubt that you should ask other people to read your essay and appraise it. That’s when you may need a professional online essay writer who will help you polish your work. They can provide expert advice on the best way to present your arguments, ensuring that your piece stands out from this intense competition. You may also ask your parents what feelings they have after the reading. Or ask your friends who are already in college what they would change. Maybe, they will point out that some parts of your text are illogical or unclear. It will be a good sign to rewrite it.

Things to Avoid During Your Application Writing

Writing an application essay that will open the college doors is sophisticated and consistent work. But even if you know what to include in your text, what story to narrate, and how to introduce your personality, you also should remember things to avoid in admission writing. 

Here are some of the pitfalls:

  1. Making grammar and spelling mistakes.
  2. Plagiarizing someone’s story instead of showcasing your personal experience.
  3. Not following requirements stipulated by university.
  4. Submitting an essay with the wrong school or college name.
  5. Not doing research about the institution before submitting your application essay.
  6. Submitting a too general essay with no examples from your life.
  7. Using cliches and generic statements.
  8. Sharing irrelevant information.
  9. Excessively boasting accomplishments and sounding arrogant.
  10. Not following a logical essay structure.

Checklist on How to Write a College Essay

Are you ready to start writing an essay for college admission? Already have an idea that will emphasize your solid sides and outline your beliefs and motivation? Then you can use this checklist to ensure you got all the stages of application writing. 

Here is a checklist:

Bottom Line on How to Write a College Admission Essay

What is the difference between a good student and the best one? The best students know how to outline and bring light to their outstanding experience. They also know what future they are looking for and have plans for the next years. Competitive universities try to find the best students for their programs. And this blog guides you on writing a college admission essay that will increase your chances of being accepted. We have gathered the best college essay tips and defines what to include and avoid in your text. Make sure you follow our guidelines and don;t miss any essential details. 

A college essay is a critical part of your application that introduces your voice and opens up your beliefs and goals. Be consistent and confident in your writing – this is a secret to your success.

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FAQ About Writing College Application Essays

1. How to start a college essay?

The best way to start a college essay is to build a hook that will catch readers’ attention. It can be an interesting and relevant story from your life connected with your decision to apply to the program or field of study. It can also be a fun fact or citation that affected your life.

2. Can I start my application essay with a question?

Starting your application essay with a question can engage your readers and draw them into your topic. However, keep in mind your primary purpose: you have to introduce yourself and demonstrate why you're an ideal candidate for the college. While using a question can be an effective rhetorical device, it should still be relevant to the overall theme of your writing.

3. Do all colleges require an application essay?

Almost all colleges and universities require students to submit an essay as a part of the application process. This is the place for sharing personal experiences and attitudes. Some quite competitive colleges will ask you for other supplementary material. They may also include personal statements and motivational letters in an application list.

4. How important are college essays?

In recent years, college essays have gained considerable importance in the application process. Some universities have adopted a "blind review" approach, assessing students based on their application essays without considering factors like school name, grades, or test scores. In these cases, the admissions committee focuses primarily on the student's personality. This makes a college essay a crucial component in showcasing your unique qualities and securing a place at your desired college or university.

5. How to make my college essay stand out?

The best way to make your college essay astounding is to be authentic and original. Let your individual voice shine through and share a personal story that has influenced your mindset and life choices. Embrace who you are, rather than attempting to be the perfect candidate. By showcasing your uniqueness, you'll make a memorable impression on the admissions office among the hundreds of other applicants.

6. What I shouldn't write in an admission essay?

When writing your admissions essay, remember to stay true to yourself and not fabricate stories. Focus on sharing relevant experiences from your life. Avoid reiterating information already mentioned in other parts of the application. Steer clear of clichés and make sure to write about topics that genuinely matter to you.

7. Can I use quotes in a college application essay?

You can include quotes from people or sources in your admissions essay. If a specific quote has had a significant impact on you or was determinant for your life choices, feel free to mention it. However, since this isn't an academic paper, there's no need to adhere to formal citation styles like APA style or Chicago style. Instead, simply incorporate the quote into your text in a natural manner.

8. What person should I write my admission essay in?

Your admissions essay serves as a self- introduction and should be written in the first-person singular. Since you will describe your life events, unique experiences, and values, you shouldnt- be formal like in traditional academic writing. Using the first person is the most suitable choice for emphasizing your personality.

Article posted on:May 2, 2023
Article updated on:May 13, 2024


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