Tips for Writing a College Essay

Christina Morillo/Unsplash

Writing a college essay can be a daunting task for many students. The essay completes a college application and should therefore be crafted with extensive planning, a significant amount of creativity and your personal touch.

There is more to you beyond grades and test scores. College essays perfectly reveal your personality, something that admission officers need so they can get a better sense of who you are. Your essays are the perfect medium to showcase your writing skills.

Here are a few college essay tips from admission officers, along with insights into what colleges are actually looking for when they review your essays. Reading these can help reduce the pressure you might feel when writing your college essay.

Key point: College admission officers like good storytelling. In general, students have amazing stories to tell, but many of those tales remain untold as students are unsure about how to structure their essays. A college essay that isn't carefully planned can leave a bad impression on admission officers. You want to write an essay that is organized and makes an impact on your readers, so make sure to check out different college essay formats that will guide you on how you can properly structure yours.

Remember that there's no "incorrect" essay topic, says Gaelle Pierre-Louis, former Georgetown University admission officer and author of the book Hacking Elite College Admissions: 50 Surprising Insights on the College Application Process. "Make sure your story is true to who you are, rather than writing about a topic you think the essay reader wants to hear," she tells College Confidential. "It's not a big deal if you write about a common topic as long as it's from your perspective."

How Do You Start a College Essay?

The main purpose of a college essay is that it brings much-needed color and vibrancy into your application. It should reflect your genuine personality, narrating who you are as an individual, and telling readers that there is more to you beyond your grades and school-related activities. Applicants can be selective when deciding which information or stories to share in these essays.

Make sure to take a minute and think about the university or college you want to attend. Come up with an essay that conveys your background in a unique way. Your college essay is the ideal medium not only to showcase your personality but also your life goals, influences, triumphs, trials and unique experiences.

One of the struggles that students face when writing essays involves squeezing all of their ideas and accomplishments into the essay. Keep in mind that your college application essay shouldn't depict your entire life story. It's impossible to squeeze in all of the things you've seen, heard and done in your life, so it's best to pick one or two highlights and focus on telling these narratives instead of trying to shoehorn your accomplishments into the essay.

What Should Be Included in a College Essay?

Writing doesn't come easily to everyone, but with strategic planning, you can write a brilliant college essay that will make your application stand out among the rest. Go slowly and take it one step at a time and you will end up with a thoughtful and insightful essay that college admission officers will love to read. Here are a few things you should include in your college essay:

  • Make sure the college essay is about yourself, and discuss the things that are most important to you.
  • Don't just recount events, but reflect on them as well.
  • Make sure to answer the specific questions that are being asked. Be brief but thorough in writing your answers for easy reading and comprehension.

We hope that these tips will guide you through the process of college essay writing. It's best to start early, so you can make improvements and adjustments along the way instead of cramming a few days before the submission deadline.