A college application essay or a personal statement is an essay written by students who are applying for admission to a college or university. This essay is written and sent to the admission committee which evaluates the students on the basis of the information provided in the essay.
A college application essay helps to evaluate your qualities and also shows why you are the best applicant. The whole assessment is based on this essay and thus it is important for a student to write the best flawless college application essay.
College application essays are based on three major questions.
- Who are you? In this section, you have to share information about yourself. Talk about your personality and focus on your best qualities and strengths. The readers are not interested in the amount of weight you can lift or the number of hours you can sleep. They are only interested in the real qualities and hobbies that make up your personality.
- Why us? In this case, the reader expects an answer from you explaining your reasons for choosing that particular college. In this case, the admission committee needs you to show your goals and how serious you are about the institution. Give reasons to show that that specific college or university is your dream institution and how different it is from others. Tell them the positive impact that joining the institution will have on your life and the contributions you can make to the learning institution.
- How creative are you? The college admission officers want to determine how creative you are. This can be analyzed by the knowledge you show in your essay. Thus, you should not copy information from the internet or other people’s work. Always try to be as unique and thoughtful as possible.
Importance of a college application essay
A college application essay is very important because your admission is based on this piece of writing. Although GPA, grades, participation in extracurricular activities, and the test scores you achieve in admission have their own value, they are not enough to get you admission to your dream college.
What should an applicant include in a college essay?
If you are wondering what you should include in your college essay, you can follow this general format.
- Strong hook. Start your college application essay with a strong hook- something that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read more. Here you tell the board how different you are and why your application should be accepted.
- Unique experiences. Here you get the chance to describe the momentous event. Each word in a college essay is very valuable and thus you should not spend too much of the word count on retelling the event.
- Things learned and growth. Spend a good portion of the word count and time on this section. Don’t just tell but show what was learned. Take your time and talk about how the event promoted growth. Take advantage of this chance to express resilience, a growth mindset, and the ability to overcome challenges.
- How do these new skills positively impact the school? Before moving to the conclusion, spend some time discussing how these skills will impact the college in a positive way. The main aim of writing this college essay is to gain admission into college and thus you should keep the essay relevant for the admissions board. This section should not be too long, it should consist of several sentences that transition into the conclusion.
- Drive it home with the conclusion. Just like the strong hook in the introduction, end your essay with a bang. Focus on creating a memorable ending that will make the board take note of your essay. The admission board reads countless applications and thus you should try to end yours on a lasting note.
- Remember to adhere to the basic requirements (length, address prompt, research on the school, etc.) Always make sure you adhere to the basic requirements of the essay. Double-check the word count, make sure the essay answers the prompt, and keep your essay relevant to the school. Follow a general format when writing your essay and let it shine.
Whenever you are writing your college application essay, you can consider the following questions for guidance.
- How can I make the essay sound more like myself?
- How can I incorporate creative writing styles when writing my essay?
- I’m I telling my story in the essay?
- What is the importance of this topic to me?
- Would I enjoy reading the essay had it been written by another person?
Important tips to consider when writing your college essay
Once you have followed all the basic requirements necessary for writing a college application essay, always make sure your essay is creative and engaging. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. One of the best ways you can accomplish this is to stray from academic prose and focus on sounding like a human by finding a unique voice. The following are some other engaging and creative writing tips.
- Show, don’t just tell.
- Always choose a topic of your choice.
- Come up with a clear writing style.
- Check your essay for grammatical errors.
- Avoid using a passive voice.
- Stay focused on your topic.
- Don’t highlight your family member’s issues.
- Be concise.
- Use a unique voice and not a thesaurus.
- Talk more about yourself and not the other subjects
- Play with rhetorical devices.
How long should a college essay be?
Most effective college essay topics tend to reflect conciseness. Students who don’t know how to write a personal statement for college can easily lose the attention of their readers especially when they take too long to make a point. As an applicant, always remember that you have a few hundred words to create a great impression in the eyes of the reader.
Although there is no specific word limit for a college application essay, a typical length should vary from 250 to 650 words. On the other hand, a broad college application essay topic can exceed this word count.
How to pick a college essay topic
When selecting a topic for your college essay, you have to go for one that is personally meaningful to you or one that reflects your personal beliefs. The following are the main categories for essay topics with suggestions for writing your essay.
- Tell your story essay.
In this essay prompt, you are expected to share your personal story. Do you have an interesting family background, childhood, or personal experience that makes you stand out? You can tell your story.
If you have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so important to you and you feel your application won’t be complete without it, feel free to write about it.
- Overcoming obstacles essay
In this case, you are not supposed to point out your weaknesses but if you have struggled with something difficult but fought on until you succeeded, this is a great topic that you can talk about in your college essay.
The lessons we learn from the challenges we face can contribute greatly to our future success. Can you remember a time you encountered a challenge, setback, or failure? How did it affect you and what lessons did you learn? These questions will help you come up with ideas for a great topic for your college essay.
- Stand your ground essay
Essays in this category expect you to take a stand and argue a moral or ethical belief. Talk about a time or event that challenged your beliefs. Describe the situation, and explain the challenges you faced and how solved those challenges. This can make a great topic for you discuss.
Thinks of a time when an event made you question or challenge your belief or idea. What lead you to thinking that way? What was the outcome?
- Time to boast essay
Is it that you are just good at everything or do you have one or two things that you are best in? In these types of essays, you boast about something that you did so well. If you have worked hard and accomplished something, it’s your time to talk about it. Make sure you describe the process of your accomplishment and don’t forget to credit those who supported and helped during the process.
Discuss all the life skills you learned from accomplishing this task. This means that you have to describe how you prepared yourself for the task and what you did to accomplish it. What skills and lessons did you learn that be beneficial to you in the future? Such skills include time management skills, perseverance, commitment, etc.
Make sure you discuss the event, accomplishment, or realization that lead to a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself and others.
How do you start a college application essay?
Your college application essay is like a hook that you are using to hook the attention of the admission committee with. The same way you need a catching introduction in all your academic essays to catch the attention of your readers, you also need an attractive and interesting opening for your college essay to impress the committee.
Pick a catchy and interesting hook for your college essay as it is the first thing that the reader sees in your essay. To make an engaging and appealing introduction for your college essay, please consider the following:
- A compelling hook. Capture the attention of your readers by writing a catchy hook that goes best with the theme of your college application essay. Come up with a hook that will motivate the committee to read your essay to the end. Your hook can be in the form of a question, fact, statistic, anecdote, quotation, or humorous statement depending on the nature of your topic and theme. In case you decide to use a funny statement as your hook, make sure it is no inappropriate or obscene.
- A story worth sharing. You can start your college essay with an interesting and meaningful story or event. The story or event should complement your main theme and topic.
- Adding a story in the introduction will make your essay unpredictable. This will create curiosity in the mind of readers and they will read on to find out what happened next or why the incident or event is important to you.
- Talk about an event or a story with a lesson. To be on the safe side, make sure that the event or story that you share taught you a lesson that you will remember for the rest of your life. Thus the event should be important to you.
- Be creative and avoid definitions. Starting the introduction of your college essay with a boring or cliché definition will only make your essay very uninteresting. Try to make your essay appealing with the sense that nobody can write like you.
With a word limit on how long your college application essay should be, avoid wasting the length by including monotonous definitions where you know you can and something interesting and insightful.
- Avoid writing in the present tense. When writing a college essay, you write about something that happened to you in the past and the lessons learned.
- Avoid using an informal tone. A college application essay is a serious type of writing that decides your career and your life in general. Don’t risk your college for something this small and petty.
In case your college essay asks about your experiences and stories, the tone should be formal and very serious. Avoid using words like oops, wow, buzz, etc. Your essay should be able to show your maturity and seriousness.
How do you write a college application essay?
When going through different college application essays, the admission committee is looking for a creative and well-written application essay. In some cases, they read at least a hundred college essays in a day and the majority of the essays find their way into the dustbins because they are boring and do not have your personal touch.
The admission committee does not want a monotonous, dull, and expressionless essay that has been copied from the internet or is mainstream. Like any other essay, readers want an interesting and inspiring piece of writing. The following tips will help you answer the question of “how to write a college essay”. Follow these steps and see the magic:
- Choose a topic.
Finding the right college application essay prompt is as important as writing a good college application. Follow these steps to come up with a good topic.
- Think about something you are passionate about.
- Identify the topic that has the most space and importance in your mind.
- What are your dreams and what keeps you awake at night?
- What do you struggle with, what problems do you face because of the struggle, and what shows your personality the most?
- Make a list of reasons behind your happiness and sorrows.
The above steps will open your mind and help you find a better and right topic for your college essay.
- Provide your opinion.
As a student, you might have been writing essays to either persuade people or put your ideas and views forward. When writing a college application essay, you are expected to persuade your audience in a different way. You can easily win the hearts of the committee by expressing your emotions, thinking, and conflicts.
By reading your college essay, the committee wants to know you, your views on the matter, and your thinking. When talking about a conflict, make sure to write from your own perspective and view. Your creativity is shown by the way you talk about a topic or a subject.
- Talk about achievements
A college application essay is written to impress the admission committee or the readers. There is no better way to impress people than to mention your strengths and achievements. Mentioning your achievements shows why you are different from other candidates and why you should be given the chance to join the institution.
Show the reader that you are the best candidate and you are most worthy of being given an opportunity to pursue your lifelong dream of higher studies in the best learning institution. Although are supposed to impress the reader, always remember that you are not supposed to lie. Only talk about the things you have achieved and the skills and qualities that you have. In case you are dishonest, they will finally find out and this might not go well with you.
- Avoid repetition
Repeating the things you have already said will bore your audience and the impression you have made might fade off. Even when you are talking about something that is so dear to you, avoid repeating it in your essay.
Repetition of the prompt will work negatively for you as it takes away all the attraction from your essay and there are higher chances that the readers will not read your essay to the end.
How do you end a college application essay?
When writing a college application essay, the start and the ending are very important when they are written right and accurately. Always remember that writing a college is not the same as writing any other type of essay the conclusion contains a summary of the main points and thesis statement.
Apart from the conclusion of a college essay being different, it is also very important as this is where the reader will be making a decision about you. It is your last chance to make a positive impression on the readers and point out your point of view in a clear way. Your conclusion should give a sense of completeness and convey closure.
You can make a link between the last sentences you use in the conclusion to the phrase or statement you made in the introduction or you can use a sentence that has one-syllable words.
Revise your college application essay
Once you are done writing the first draft, it’s time to revise it. Revising your work before submitting it is very important. It helps to improve your work ensuring you submit the best possible final essay. You can revise your essay in any of the following two ways.
- Read the essay out aloud. This strategy helps to catch any wording or grammar mistakes. If you find out that your essay does not flow when reading it out aloud, just know that the admission board might also have problems reading it. Reading your essay aloud also makes sure that you have written it in your voice which is unique.
- Ask a friend or family member to review it on your behalf. Invite a friend, family member, or a trusted family member to read and critique your work. Request them to check your essay for grammatical errors but don’t forget to ask them to check whether the argumentative flow makes sense. In case the person reviewing your essay points out that they do not hear a strong voice in the paper, then it is time to write another draft that I more genuine and authentic.
When revising your essay, consider asking and answering these questions
- Does the essay meet the basic requirements?
- Does the essay sound like me?
- Does the essay tell the board something that the rest of the applications do not?
- Does the essay inform the board about what I’m thinking about?
- Does the essay inform the board about what I value?
- Does the essay show how I will contribute positively to their campus?
- Does this essay let the board know how I want to grow?
Dos and don’ts of writing a college application essay
The following guidelines will guide you into crafting a college application essay that conveys who you are while helping you stand out from the thousands of other applicants.
- Present yourself in a dimension that reaches beyond grades, recommendations, and test scores. Come up with a list of the things that build your character. For instance, a special relationship in your life, your best extracurricular activity, or a class or idea that changed the way you think. The college wants to know what makes you tick, how you would fit in their community, and how your qualities, skills, and experiences would contribute something positive to their institution.
- Make sure your essay talks more about you. Ask yourself “I’m I the only person who could have written this essay? Or are there other people who could have written it?” The answer you get from this question will tell you whether you chose the best topic to write about.
- Tell a story about yourself with a beginning, middle, and end. Try to hook the reader with a compelling opening paragraph. You can surprise them, teach them something new, or share something vulnerable to make them curious and eager to read the rest of your essay. End your essay with a clear ending that connects back to your opening paragraph or one that provides a captivating conclusion to your story.
- Ask someone to proofread your essay and offer feedback. Always make sure your essay is written in your voice and style. It won’t be so good if you were to submit an application essay that has not been written in your style and thus you should avoid copy-pasting from online sources or asking someone else to write the essay for you. You can only ask for help from a professional who can write in your style by looking at your previous work. If you need help writing or proofreading your college application essay, contact Assignment Essays for assistance.
- Write an essay that meets the required number of pages or words. In most cases, you will be requested to write your college essay in about 650 words. Meeting the stated instructions shows that you can follow instructions. As a good writer, you should be able to adhere to a word limit and still get your point across.
- Pay attention to formatting. In case you compose your essay using a word processing software like Microsoft word or google docs to use spellcheck or other features, make sure you review it again after copying and pasting it into the application itself. This is because some of the original formattings might be lost due to the different combinations of word processing and web browsers which can cause errors. Ensure you check the essay before hitting the submit button.
- Whenever you are writing a college application essay, avoid including anything fake, phony, or outrageous.
- Avoid humor. Although humor and creativity can work, avoid taking them to an extreme as you do not know your reader’s sense of humor which can be different from yours.
- Don’t be controversial or sensational for your own sake. It’s okay to take risks in case you are sharing a unique viewpoint or a particularly strong conviction that is important to you.
- Don’t act as if you are writing a legal brief for the Supreme Court or trying to sway the audience to your side of the argument. Your aim is to share something about yourself with the college admission committee and you should show exactly that.
- Avoid using words that are not in your regular vocabulary. This is why you should be yourself and write in your style.
- Don’t repeat information you have already included in other parts of your application unless you are using your college admission essay to talk more about an activity or academic opportunity that was very meaningful to you.
- Avoid regurgitating your resume or writing about your entire life’s history. It is not important for you to write about every award and semester you made honor. On the other hand, talking about how you felt when a beloved yet demanding teacher said you were his best student has more potential.
A college application essay gives you a great opportunity to tell the admission committee who you are and what is important to you. Tell them about your values. Show them how this opportunity will make yourself, your community, and the world a better place.
What to avoid when writing your college application essay.
Although a personal essay for college can demonstrate excellent writing and topic choice, it can still leave an unfavorable impression if it contains inappropriate or repetitive information. Here are some examples of topics to leave out of your statement.
- Your Grades, Test Scores, and Academic Achievements
Successful college essays typically include information that does not appear anywhere else in the application. When reviewing other submission documents, admissions officers can learn about students’ grades, previous courses, and scholarly achievements. As such, the essay should not focus on these kinds of details.
- Your Life of Privilege
Steer clear of topics that highlight a privileged lifestyle. For example, framing a relatively common athletic injury as the hardest challenge you’ve faced may not demonstrate resilience as effectively as you’d like it to. It also suggests a lack of awareness of more serious obstacles others your age have faced.
- Your Pet
In your eyes, Fido and Fluffy may be the most amazing creatures on the planet. But we all love our pets. You want your college essay to stand out by focusing on a topic or experience that’s unique to you rather than something universal.
- Cliches and Trite Quotations
A college admissions essay presents an opportunity for students to express their creativity and originality of thought. Using clichés and trite expressions makes writers appear lazy or unimaginative. Also, some sayings may be relevant to specific cultures, alienating or confusing some readers.
- Your Criminal Record
Everybody admires an underdog who overcomes adversity, but illuminating past missteps with the law isn’t exactly the best way to make a good first impression on college admissions officers. While you shouldn’t sanitize reality for the benefit of your readers, choose a college essay topic that at the very least presents you in a positive light.
- Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Knowing how to write a college application essay includes detecting spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. Error-free personal statements go far to illustrate applicants’ excellent writing skills. Students might ask teachers, mentors, or others they trust to read their essays to catch any mistakes before submitting them.
What Are Some Examples of Good College Essay Topics?
Good college essay topics enable concise, transparent, honest, and meaningful writing. Because personal statements should differentiate applicants from their peers, topics should include compelling details and anecdotes.
You might look for college application essay examples to help you brainstorm topics. Students can also consider asking family members and peers to comment on their strengths and unique qualities. They may have the insight to offer about what makes an applicant a good fit for a particular major or area of study. The following are some examples of good college application essay topics.
- A defining moment, experience, or realization: An experience that changed your perspective; a strong belief you no longer hold
- Someone who has greatly influenced you: Your most important mentor; a person who changed your life for the better
- A key part of your identity: An important aspect about you that you wish more people knew; your best characteristic
- Your biggest passion: A cause for which you have sacrificed; how your passion helped shape your identity
- A problem you solved: A significant obstacle you overcame; a solution you developed that achieved results
- A unique hobby: Your most enjoyable pastime; a time when your hobby taught you a valuable lesson.
- Sports you cherish
- Clubs you belonged to
- Community services you performed
- Remarkable achievements
- Memorable experience
- Distinguished abilities (survival in the wild, fluency in languages, and culinary efficiency)
- Why do you want to take admission to your desired college?
- Describe a person you admire
- Describe a book your love
- A meaningful extracurricular activity
- A failure that affects your personality
- The biggest life goal
- An embarrassing moment
- A quote that describes you
- Describe something you are passionate about
- The best advice your grandmother gave you
- A memorable meal you had
- The historical background that sets you apart
- A tattoo that defines you
- A commitment you made with your parents.
As a student, you should always think carefully before writing about a negative experience or personal weakness. A college essay should portray the applicant positively, and dwelling on difficult or taboo topics could detract from your strengths. The above topics will help you on deciding the type of topic you should choose for your college application essay.