Tips for the College Application Essays

While many rising seniors are not quite focused on their college applications, there are many pieces they can and should begin to take care of now. The essay is one of them. Some colleges have not yet released their supplemental essay topics, but the common application and coalition application essays are out and ready to be tackled. Here are my tips to get you started:

  1. Don't Focus on the Prompt – For the basic common app. or coalition essays, think about your story or something you want to share and it will most likely fit. Don't forget there is always the Topic of Your Choice if needed.

  2. Be YOU – If you have not heard this by now, you should have. The whole idea is to help admissions get to know you and pretending to be someone you are not or someone you think they want you to be is not helping anyone. This is your chance to share something about you that can not be found anywhere else in the application.

  3. Start EARLY – The essay topics are out, why not begin now? For many students, the idea of sitting down to write such an important essay (or maybe any essay at all) seems daunting. However, delaying it is not going to make it any better. Starting early not only gives you more opportunity to write a quality essay, it also gives you time to really consider what you want to share with admissions. Some students end up writing several entirely different essays before they arrive to the one they are happy with and that takes TIME.

  4. Brainstorm – You may have an idea or two in mind when you take a quick glance at the prompts, but it is time to dig deeper. Doing some excellent brainstorming activities can be really helpful for coming up with a good focus for your essay. I highly recommend the exercises from Ethan Sawyer, The College Essay Guy. His Essence Objects and Values exercises are great. If you are still drawing a blank, take a few days off and come back to it.

  5. Make it Personal and Entertaining – You want the readers to remember you after your essay and be able to connect you with YOUR story. You also want them to want to finish reading it. Give them details, use adjectives, don’t be repetitive, dig deep and you will be fine. Admissions readers get many essays on the same topic and sometimes on the most mundane subjects, but the way they were written turned them into something special. Ask anyone in admissions what their favorite essays were about and you may be surprised.

  6. Get Feedback but not too Much – It is definitely a good idea to have someone read over your essay to check for grammatical errors and get an overall opinion. However, do not forget this is YOUR essay. Sometimes getting too many opinions ends up leaving you more confused than helped. Ask someone you trust for an honest opinion, triple check your grammar, and be done!