Writing a College Essay

The college essay offers you an opportunity to tell admissions officers a bit about you and demonstrate why you'd be a good fit for their student body. It can seem daunting to get your essay off the ground, but take it step by step with these tips.

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Before You Start

Do some self-exploration.
Your college essay is all about showcasing yourself. Think about the strengths and interests you would most like colleges to know about you. What are you passionate about? What's most important to you? What are you best at?

If you need to pick the topic, be focused and specific.
Writing about a single experience is usually a good idea; your essay should prove a single point or message. Try to avoid cliché topics like "winning a big game," taking a trip or even dealing with a death, these will not help your application stand out from the group.

Show your thoughtfulness.
Be thoughtful in both your topic choice and the tone of your writing. Colleges look for students who have dealt with adversity, have overcome challenges and continue to grow from their experience. Admitting shortcomings is a sign of maturity and intelligence, so there is no need to portray yourself as a superhero; they will see through it.

Get started early.
Self-exploration can be fun, but don't procrastinate on the actual writing. You don't want to rush or be up against a tight deadline; it will affect your work.

Create an essay outline.
Sometimes creating an outline for your essay can help you get started. It will also help you organize your thoughts and develop a framework.

Writing Your Essay

Read the instructions and follow them.
Be conscious of any length limits, and, if the topic is provided for you, analyze the question carefully. You want to be aware of everything they ask and answer everything thoroughly.

Use your own voice.
Don't use big words just for the sake of using big words. They can distract from the essay when misused. Remember, this essay is about you, so use words you normally use.

Use quotations and examples to show personal detail.
Instead of just stating your point of view, you want to make your reader feel the experience. Adding detail will help illustrate your story. But don't use quotations simply to use them; make sure they make sense within the tone of your essay.

Try to be concise.
While adding personal detail is good, you don't want to be wordy or long-winded; short sentences can be more powerful.

Don't use slang words.
Generally speaking, slang words conjure the feeling of someone being unpolished, uncaring or not that serious. These are three things you don't want your admissions reader thinking about you. Likewise, avoid clichés and overuse of contractions.

Be honest.
The point of this essay is to show who you are, not who you wish you were. Stick to what you know and your true personality will shine through.

Don't be afraid to use humor if it's part of who you are.
Admissions officers can have a sense of humor too, and, when used appropriately, humor can make you stand out. However, don't make being funny one of your top goals in your college essay.

Review and Revise

Step away from your essay and come back later.
Sometimes it helps to take a break from your work and come back in a few days. Review what you've written and make sure it still makes sense and conveys what you want it to.

Write multiple drafts.
Sometimes you need to write a couple of drafts to get your essay right where you want it.

Type your essay.
No matter how good your essay, if people can't read your handwriting they won't appreciate the work.

Proofread your essay.
You want to make sure you've used proper spelling, grammar and punctuation, so ask an expert to proofread your essay.

Get feedback from others.
Ask your friends and family to read your essay and tell you what they think. Be open to suggestions and ways to improve it, even if this means going back to the drawing board.

Revise if necessary.
You want to edit your essay down to what is important. Make every word count!

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