Writing the right college essay

I was in your same position four years ago, and I learned a lot through both my own college application process and through my subsequent years as an English major who wields commas like shurikens. Most of the other parts of the application are just lists and statistics: GPA, courses taken, a list of extracurriculars, maybe some work or volunteer experience. Also, some of them will secretly be robots. Standing out from everyone else could put you in the running for additional scholarships and will also simply make a good impression , which never hurts.

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Just within the U. There are some general commonalities, though. As you can see, these questions are all very open-ended. Colleges want to give you as much freedom as possible to show them who you are. The prompts are just supposed to be starting points. That said, you can set yourself up for success from the start by choosing a topic that lets you show your strengths. My suggestion is to just read through them and narrow down to one or two that really speak to you. From there, get out a piece of paper and start brainstorming ideas for each.

At this point, nothing is off the table. Put down anything you can think of that might work as an essay. Speaking of obvious ideas, the biggest piece of advice I can give about writing college essays is this: avoid the obvious. There are so many ways to succeed at these essays, so long as you keep your approach interesting.

Really, the success of your essay will come down not to what you write about , but how. Everest or visited space or helped cure a rare disease, then yeah, you should probably mention that at some point. With the right approach, you can still write an essay that wows. Just take a blank document or sheet of paper, set a timer for minutes, and start writing. These are all jumping off points for the essay.

Step 1: Get Organized

As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors. So why do we have a tendency to write vaguely? You have to remember that the person reading your essay knows nothing about you , save for a few basic statistics. Furthermore, they likely know nothing about the subject of your essay. To close this gap, you need to be as specific as possible. The first time I marched in front of a crowd, I was so nervous. We got into formation, took the field, and began to play. It was all a blur, and before I knew it, it was over. As I walked off the field after that first performance, I felt prouder than I ever had.

But it could be way more specific. The first time I marched in front of a crowd, I was so nervous that I could barely hold up my saxophone. As we stood there on the football field ready to begin, I looked up into the stands and noticed for the first time how huge the crowd was. So many eyes on me. What if I screwed up? Before I had time to think, though, I saw the drum major take the stand and give the signal. I brought my instrument to my lips and did everything just as we had rehearsed.

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

The next five minutes were a blur. After the last note had faded, we turned in formation and marched off the field. Leaving the field that day was the first time I realized the power of devoting everything I had to a goal and following through.

See the difference? Note all the details.

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A good rule of thumb is this: write what you think is enough detail…and then write twice as much. The right amount is probably somewhere between the two. Many admissions essays focus too much on what happened and not enough on how it made you feel and what you learned from it. To do this, you need to get away from simply summarizing events. When writing about an experience like this, it can be really easy to get wrapped up in all the cool things that happened. You need to talk about what you learned, about how this experience changed you, and how it helped form who you are today.

Once again, the key is to be specific. Want some examples? As a writer, words are your paint. Use all the colors. So why do we have a tendency to write vaguely? You have to remember that the person reading your essay knows nothing about you , save for a few basic statistics. Furthermore, they likely know nothing about the subject of your essay.

To close this gap, you need to be as specific as possible. The first time I marched in front of a crowd, I was so nervous. We got into formation, took the field, and began to play. It was all a blur, and before I knew it, it was over. As I walked off the field after that first performance, I felt prouder than I ever had.

How to write your college application essay

But it could be way more specific. The first time I marched in front of a crowd, I was so nervous that I could barely hold up my saxophone. As we stood there on the football field ready to begin, I looked up into the stands and noticed for the first time how huge the crowd was. So many eyes on me. What if I screwed up? Before I had time to think, though, I saw the drum major take the stand and give the signal. I brought my instrument to my lips and did everything just as we had rehearsed. The next five minutes were a blur. After the last note had faded, we turned in formation and marched off the field.

Leaving the field that day was the first time I realized the power of devoting everything I had to a goal and following through.


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See the difference? Note all the details. A good rule of thumb is this: write what you think is enough detail…and then write twice as much. The right amount is probably somewhere between the two.


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  • Many admissions essays focus too much on what happened and not enough on how it made you feel and what you learned from it. To do this, you need to get away from simply summarizing events. When writing about an experience like this, it can be really easy to get wrapped up in all the cool things that happened.

    You need to talk about what you learned, about how this experience changed you, and how it helped form who you are today. Once again, the key is to be specific. Want some examples? On a more technical note, the individual words you use can make or break your essay. These are just filler words that we lean on for convenience. To craft an outstanding essay you have to get past these overused descriptions. To round this article off, here are a few additional pieces of advice for writing a successful admissions essay:.