Ask Your College Counselor: How to Write Your Application Essay

College application essays can seem pretty intimidating, but they’re actually a great opportunity to share your unique traits and perspectives. College admissions officers use application essays to learn about the way potential students think, see the world, and express themselves.

In order to present yourself clearly, it’s important to take a few simple steps before you start writing. The more clarity you have about what you want to say when you put pen to paper (so to speak), the more you increase your chances of not only writing a successful essay, but also of enjoying the process as well.

Read more for tips on how to write a winning college application essay. (And when you’re finished, read more about help with editing your college essay!)

Don’t Rush Into Writing. Brainstorm First.

What you do before you write will have a significant impact on what you write. If you rush right into the writing, you run the risk of rushing through the most important moments in the essay. Think about things that are important to you, moments that have changed you, or people who have influenced you.

The most impactful stories of your life may not be those that pop into your mind right away. Giving yourself time to brainstorm before you start writing helps you generate powerful essay ideas you might not have thought of otherwise.

(Still too nervous to get started? Let our college admissions counselors help with your essay writing anxiety.)

Make a list of important moments in your life:

  • Why was this moment important to me?
  • What emotions do I feel when I think about it?
  • Did this moment change me in some way?
  • How has this moment impacted my life?

Exploring important moments from your life and the emotions connected with them is a great starting point for personal essays for college applications. Our college admissions consultants can work with you and your essay to brainstorm great topics, break out the main points, assist with diction, proofread for punctuation and grammar, and so much more.

Write Your Essay To Say What The Rest of Your College Application Can’t

College admissions officers don’t have the time, resources or bandwidth to research every student who applies. They only see what is put in front of them. If a student doesn’t connect those dots, the people who read their work can’t make those connections for them. Remember, college admissions officers are just other people reading what you wrote!

Imagine you are sitting across from the reader in their college admissions office and they ask, “What else do I need to know about you?” They’ve got your transcripts. They know your classes, your grades, your extracurriculars. You’re the one who has to bring all of it together. And you must convince that reader that you are much more than a list of your classes, your grades, and your extracurriculars. If you’re still stuck, our college admissions counselors can show you what schools are looking for in your application essay.

Put Yourself in the School’s Position

Colleges want to accept students who are going to graduate and lead successful careers. In your essay, you must present yourself as a critical thinker who loves to learn. This is a place to display your greatest passion — for any subject at all!

Remember that colleges and universities want to invest in students who are going to “hit the ground running” in their classes, and chase success after they achieve a degree. This success — your success — will later be associated with the college you attend, and this is what admissions officers think about as they sift through applications. Our college counselors can provide you with invaluable insights from both sides of the application process.

Read Essays That Were Successful

If you know students who have been accepted to their choice schools, ask to read their essays. Our college admissions counselors also have some examples of essays that have worked for students. You may be surprised to find that the best essays capture a piece of someone.

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