College Essay Tips

Kelly Palacios ‘17

As the journey into the college search begins, so follows the responsibilities of creating a thorough application, including the college essay; a dreaded task for many students. But this task can really liven up your college applications because it gives schools a chance to see what kind of person you are, beyond your grades or test scores. The college essay will not only showcase your writing, but also give insight into what experiences are most important to your development.

One important tip is to start thinking of ideas or work on your essay as early as possible. Even though the application process may seem far away, when that time comes you want to make sure you have ideas for what you’re going to write about. The Common App often uses the same essay questions for different years, and even if they do change, the questions will still be very similar. The actual questions themselves don’t matter as much as the big idea you present in your essay that illuminates your unique qualities.

To current juniors: begin writing down and remembering your most memorable experiences or a specific part of your life that has shaped who you are. This certainly will make the writing process easier because you will at least have a starting off point.

Looking at accepted essays online can definitely help provide an idea of what an exceptional college essay looks like and even help you reflect on your own experiences.

Another idea to keep in mind is that your first draft definitely will not be your last. You may have to revise the essay five times or you may love your initial idea and just need to rework the writing. Either way, your first draft is never final, so don’t be afraid to simply let all of your ideas come out in your first draft. Teachers are always willing to help edit your essay, tell you what needs to change, or simply give encouragement! There will be time to work on the essay in your English class, so do not feel like you are alone in the writing process, just make sure you are open minded and listen to all feedback.

One final tip for writing the college essay is to be creative! College Admissions Boards read so many essays, so you want to make sure that yours is memorable. Even if the creative angle you find is small, work with that idea to write a unique piece that is true to yourself. Not everyone can pinpoint a life-changing experience that is completely original, so find a small part of your life that is integral to your character and write about how that has shaped you.

Things to avoid writing about: highly polarized topics (i.e. religion or politics), cliche volunteer experiences, an accomplishment in sports (i.e. scoring the winning goal), deaths (unless you feel you can bring a creative twist to this), and inappropriate or uncomfortable topics. Just write about a part of yourself that is most true to you. While the college essay may be a source of dread for your college process, just remember that a great essay can have the power to make you stand out as an applicant.

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