Written by Chandra Clarke

Applying to colleges can be a confusing process because the application package typically includes many different parts. A college admissions essay is a vital component of this package, and most colleges require one. To write a successful essay, the savvy applicant must brainstorm and plan the document carefully. The following tips will guide you through the steps you must take to write a great admissions essay:

  1. Allow enough time to write and revise the essay.
  2. Research the school so you can include specific details about it in the essay.
  3. Review the format requirements and guidelines, and choose a relevant prompt, if applicable.
  4. Decide what topics you want to cover, and organize your information.
  5. Write an outline and a rough draft before the final copy of the essay.
  6. Avoid potentially controversial subjects.
  7. Inject personality and creativity into the essay.
  8. Prove all assertions with supporting evidence.
  9. Write about yourself positively.
  10. Verify all facts for accuracy.
  11. Include specific examples of challenges you have overcome.
  12. Keep the essay simple and focused.
  13. Observe the rules of grammar carefully.
  14. Spend time editing and proofreading the essay to ensure that it is correct and consistent.
  15. Write a unique admissions essay for each college application you complete.

The following resources from a number of authoritative university websites expand on these tips and give you detailed insight into what schools are looking for when they review college admissions essays.

  • Essay Tips: Writing a strong essay is an integral part of the college application process. Students can succeed if they approach the essay as a unique opportunity to present themselves to a college.
  • How to Write Your Personal Essay: Use your personal essay to present yourself in a positive fashion. College admissions boards want to get to know a bit about their applicants when choosing potential new students.
  • Tips for Writing Your College Application Essay (PDF): Most of the college application package contains impersonal facts. However, the application essay should be a reflection of the applicant in that it shares his or her views, goals, and experiences.
  • Writing the Personal Statement: Make a personal statement specific to your educational goals, outlining experiences that have brought you to the position of applying to a college.
  • Writing a Great College Essay (PDF): A compelling college essay should focus on a specific topic that displays your strengths and goals. Expound on this topic to show the characteristics you possess that will help you attain those goals.
  • College Admissions Essay: Writing Tips (PDF): Colleges use admissions essays to assess the personalities and commitment of applicants. Schools tend to pursue applicants who display creativity and knowledge.
  • Writing the College Admissions Essay (PDF): College admissions staff need to know the hard facts about potential students. However, they also want to get a feeling for the personality of applicants before making a decision. The admissions essay gives reviewers this glimpse.
  • The Five-Step Personal Essay Writing Guide: "Community Service" (PDF): Focus an admissions essay on the community service you have performed to demonstrate your involvement with projects that give back to the community.
  • Essays That Worked: Many colleges provide writing prompts for applicants writing their admissions essays. Review the prompts, and choose the one that fits a topic about which you can write a strong and compelling essay.
  • Essays That Worked (Class of 2020): A unique essay that presents the applicant in a clear and memorable way will often help grab the attention of an admissions committee.
  • Common Application Personal Statement: Tufts University shares examples of successful personal statements to help new applicants hone their essays.
  • The Writing Supplement: Examples and Advice from Incoming Students: Students who have been accepted by Babson College share tips for the writing supplement portion of the application. A predominant theme among the tips is to allow uniqueness and creativity to shine in the personal statement.
  • Tips for That Pesky Personal Statement: While personality is crucial for a personal statement, do not overlook the importance of strong writing skills. Editing and proofreading your essay will help ensure that it is grammatically correct.
  • How to Write a Compelling Personal Statement (PDF): Colleges may specify a format for the admissions essay. Always review guidelines carefully to ensure that you follow the specifications fully.
  • Writing Your College Admission Essays: Helpful Tips and Exercises (PDF): Use the application essay to share information that cannot be included in other parts of the application, such as details about accomplishments and goals.
  • Write a Stellar Personal Statement: Share information about the challenges you have overcome during your pursuit of educational and professional goals.
  • The Personal Statement and Statement of Purpose: Students applying to graduate school will also have to write a personal statement or an application essay. This essay must present interest in the program as well as academic achievements that make you a strong applicant.
  • Writing the Personal Statement: Admission into a graduate program involves demonstrating that you will be a successful and positive member of the college's academic community. The personal statement is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability and willingness to achieve this goal.
  • Personal Statement Writing Tips: A simple and succinct personal statement will enable you to convey your goals and make a positive impression on an admissions committee.

About the Author

Chandra ClarkeChandra is the founder and president of Scribendi. She holds a BA in English and an MSc in Space Exploration Studies. Her lifelong devotion to the written word started when she joined The Chatham Daily News as a regional stringer. She then worked as a reporter/photographer for a large chain of weeklies before becoming the managing editor of an independent paper, a post she held for two years before striking out on her own. She pens a weekly humor column and has written dozens of short stories, newspaper articles, and magazine articles. She is an enthusiastic supporter of space exploration and scientific research, and is the author of Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science.


Image source: igor stevanovic/BigStockPhoto.com

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