The Timeless Guide to the College Admission Essay

What’s the college admission essay process like?

There are a number of things that colleges consider when accepting people into their schools. The most important factors include a student’s GPA, the school they went to, their ACT/SAT scores, and, of course, their college admissions essay.

The admissions/application essay, also referred to as the personal statement, is an essay required by almost all higher education schools. It allows a candidate to stand out from the other students and explain why they are a good choice for the school.

Being the most vivid description of a person and their abilities, this essay can become the deciding factor on whether someone gets accepted or not.

However, writing can be stressful. Some people aren’t sure how to write a college admission essay or even what to expect of it. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to tackle one of the most important papers of a student’s life.

What to Expect

It’s a good idea to be prepared for what to expect well before you write the essay.

First, you need to know the popular topics covered. Most of the topics are designed to give the applicant plenty of freedom while also providing insight into who the applicant is as a person.

Some of the most common essay prompts or questions asked by schools include:

  • Talk about a time you failed and how it affected you.
  • Describe the moment when you became an adult.
  • What are your plans for your life?
  • Describe a time when you challenged or questioned a belief.
  • What is your greatest accomplishment so far?
  • Who do you admire most in your life?
  • Write an essay on any topic of your choice.

When picking the topic for your application essay, you should think hard about your life experiences and what makes you special. Many people turn to emotional stories.

It could be better to pick an inspirational story. You want to show that you can overcome and succeed. That is what it takes to get through college.

You also want to show leadership skills, that is if you have stories that demonstrate that. Finally, you want to show what makes you unique.

Feel free to go over a couple of different options to determine which essay topic works the best for you. Once you pick a topic, you still have work to do before you sit down and write.

Getting Started on your College Admission Essay

You should do some prep work before you get started on the essay. Here are some things to do:

Check the Deadline

The last thing you want to do is send your essay in late. If the admissions team gets it late, you won’t have a chance of getting accepted.

You also have to remember that it takes a significant amount of time for your essay to get to them via mail. You should check and double-check the deadline. Send your essay in with the rest of your application at least a week before the deadline.

Many colleges now allow you to write the application essay online. If doing it online, start on it a couple of days early to ensure that you don’t run into any problems. That way, in case you hit a snag, you will still have ample time to complete.

Go Over the Requirements

Every essay will have certain requirements. You need to demonstrate that you are able to follow simple instructions. The requirements are extremely important. Read over them to ensure that you understand what you need to do.

The most common requirement is the word count. You cannot go way under the minimum or over the maximum. Do not get too ambitious thinking that extra words will make you stand out!

Brush up on Grammar Rules

Do you really remember every single thing you learned in English class?

You should go over your old notes or find other resources to help you brush up on your skills. There are classes and tests online to help you improve your skills.

Improper English in your essay will make you stand out in a bad way. Studying will also give you help with the grammar portion of your ACT, SAT, or any other standardized tests.

Read Successful Essays

To get an idea of what the college admissions department is looking for, you should read some essays from students at your school of choice. Reading examples can give you ideas and help you learn what they are looking for.


Brainstorm what you are going to say before you just start writing freely. When you have a plan, you’ll be able to focus on your word choices and how to tell your story instead of what you are going to say.

Take a pen and paper and start writing down ideas. Help turn these ideas into an outline. Do not be afraid to alter things when you start writing.

The 7 Powerful Tips

The main portion of the process is obviously-yes, you guessed it- Writing! Here are tips on how to write a compelling college admission essay.

Tip 1: Write in a Good Environment

You want a comfortable environment conducive to thinking when you write. For some students, this can be their room. However, you need to be honest with yourself if your room has too many distractions. You may decide to write in the library or in the home office.

You should be sure that the room has a comfortable temperature and that you are sitting on a comfortable chair. Ideally, keep your phone far away. You don’t want to get distracted by texts and phone calls from friends.

You should also be in a good mindset yourself. You don’t want to be tired or hungover. You should get plenty of sleep and eat well the day you plan to write.

Tip 2: Start off With a Compelling Introduction

It’s a good idea to start with a powerful introduction. You want to write a compelling first sentence and go from there. Use powerful and vivid language. You want to show instead of tell.

For example, you don’t want to say

“Alaska was beautiful”.

You should say something along the lines of,

“the white-capped mountains against the blue sky made me wish I could experience this majesty every day.”

Of course, you can’t get caught up in language. You need to also have a point. At the end of your introduction, you should have a clear thesis statement.

The thesis statement will be the basis for the rest of your essay, so be thoughtful. Make the thesis clear and somewhat provocative.

Tip 3: Consider Your Audience

You will write different essays based on who is reading them. While your college application essay may seem similar to writing for a class, there is a different audience here.

You need to remember that the admissions committee is looking for you to demonstrate certain things.

They want to see your understanding of the English language. They also want to see your creative ability. Finally, they want to see something special in you that sets you apart, whether it be your leadership, ambition, or kindness.

Write your piece with these things in mind.

Tip 4: Adhere to the College Admission Essay Structure

If you want to know how to write a powerful essay, you need to understand its structure. After the introduction, you want to write short, simple paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that goes back to the thesis statement.

For example, if your thesis is about how your experience in the Boy Scouts helped develop you into the responsible, skilled person you are today, you can have three paragraphs.

Each paragraph could be about one different way the Boy Scouts taught and molded you. Don’t forget to tie these skills back to how you will be an amazing student at their institution.

Tip 5: Consider your Tone and Language

You need to consider your tone during the writing process. It is easy to get too informal. You want to be able to straddle the line between formal and personal.

You should use formal sentence structure and language. Don’t be tempted to start writing free verse poetry. And avoid using slang.

You may want to get a little humorous or cheeky in your essay. However, remember your audience if you are bold enough to do this.

You need to realize that what you find funny and what the people reading your essay find funny might not necessarily be the same thing.

Proceed with caution. You should also be conscious of the current environment. You don’t want to say anything that could be considered offensive.

Tip 6: Be Unique and Authentic

Everyone is unique. However, you need to be more unique than every other applicant. The first way to do that is to write about a unique topic. We have all experienced different things. Write about something that other people probably haven’t experienced.

Next, stand out with your voice. You should not write your essay like any other generic one. You should find an identity and use it to inspire your story and your language.

A great writer can write the same article but stand out simply by the way they wrote it.

Tip 7: Do Not Lie

Many people think that they can say whatever they want in these essays. It’s not like they will take the time to research you to discover the truth, right?

Well, they may research what you say in your essay if it’s a bit too outlandish. Also, quite frankly, you’re probably not as good of a liar as you think you are.

If your essay feels inauthentic in some way, it can make the admissions board want to pass on you. Do not lie or exaggerate in your essay. Tell the truth.

When You’re Done

When you finally finish typing, you’re not completely finished. Here are the other things you need to do.

Proofread Your Essay

You can’t turn in an essay with numerous grammar errors. It can cause the admissions committee to think you aren’t advanced enough in composition.

You need to read your article over and over again looking for mistakes. You should also look for opportunities to improve your word choices throughout the essay.

This does not mean that you should use a thesaurus and change every word you see. However, it may be effective to change a word used more than once.

You also want to avoid superfluous words. For example, you probably don’t need to use the word “very“. Lastly, you should verify that your essay tells a story in logical succession. You want your essay to be organized in a way that makes it clear.

Have Someone Else Give You Feedback

No matter how often we look at our own work, we will miss certain glaring mistakes.

Sometimes, you will need help with your admission essay– whether it’s from a friend, relative, or a professional with advanced composition skills and experience (oh, a professional like us- check our packages here).

The person helping you should only contribute advice. Getting help should not be an excuse to let someone speak for you.

If they write the essay for you, it might be easy for the admissions committee to tell. Based on their recommendations, make any suggested changes (as long as you agree), but maintain your voice throughout.

Writing an application essay can be extremely scary for most people. Ultimately, you want to be clear, organized, skilled at writing, and personal.

You want to express your true self while also demonstrating your intelligence. This is one of the most important essays you will ever write, so you want to make it clear that you put effort into it.

Spend your time on it and proofread it. If you can, get someone to look at the essay for you before you finish.

Good luck!

Also Read:

How to Write a Killer Scholarship Personal Statement: Definitive Guide With Examples

Best SAT Prep Courses According to SAT Experts & Students

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