6 Tips to Crafting a Stellar College Essay

College application essays can be an effective way for you to communicate your uniqueness to admissions officials.

Consider these tips as you begin to think about your essay:

  1. Start Early 
  2. Create an Outline 
  3. Read Some Examples 
  4. Address What’s NOT on Your Transcript 
  5. Be Specific
  6. Have a Few People Review Your Work

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Some colleges will have specific prompts they want you to answer. Others will ask for you to describe your life story. 

Here are some tips to follow when you sit down to write: 

  • Start Early 
    The first thing you should do is list how many essays you need to write and their deadlines. It’s a good idea to start in the spring of your junior year or summer of senior year so you have plenty of time to think through potential topics and brainstorm writing points.  
  • Create an Outline 
    Take the prompt (the question asked) of each essay and break down its parts. Think about why an admissions official would ask this and what they are hoping to learn about you that makes you a good fit for their institution. Next, pair personal stories or experiences that illustrate your answers. Organize your thesis along with these anecdotes, in bullet-point format, into a clear beginning, middle, and end. This is your outline.
  • Read Some Examples 
    Some colleges will publish essay examples on their website. See if the college you’re applying to does this and, if so, check them out. It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for what that college identifies as a strong essay and what it doesn’t. Otherwise, if you search online for “sample college essays,” many examples will pop up, giving you an idea of what a strong essay might look like. (Just remember to not follow them so closely that you would be plagiarizing their content.) 

Stand Out with an Outstanding Application Essay

  • Address What’s NOT on Your Transcript 
    Think of your essay as an in-person interview. As you write your essay, imagine you’re sitting in the room with the admissions official. You’ve given this person your transcript and resume. The question he or she keeps asking you is, “What else should I know?” Keep this question in mind as you are forming your essay. How could you expand upon the information presented in the other parts of the application or bring to light new facts and traits about yourself?
  • Be Specific
    While considering your anecdotes, focus on specific details and really flesh out the scene. You might not have enough space to tell your entire life story, but if you focus on a couple of examples, it can make your essay vivid and make it come to life.
  • Have a Few People Review Your Work
    After you’ve finished a draft of your essay, have someone you trust (a parent, counselor, or teacher) review it. Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Be sure to limit the number of people who review your essay to one or two. Too many voices can muddle yours. 

More Resources for College Applications

A list of resources to help you navigate the exciting journey of applying to college.