How to write a great college admissions essay

How to Write a College Admissions Essay

A stellar college admissions essay is what separates accepted from rejected students. It may not seem like a high priority after you’ve worked so hard on grades and test scores, but your essay helps tell your student story. It’s important to take your time planning, writing, and reviewing your admissions essay as it’s the final piece to get you into your dream school.

What is a College Admissions Essay? 

A college admissions essay is how you tell your personal story to the school. In the essay you should explain your background, your passions, and what sets you apart from other applicants. Tell the story of your student journey, why you’re interested in the school and what you hope to accomplish next. Be truthful, engaged, and explain what motivates you as a student.

Why do colleges ask for one? Why is it important?

When thousands of students are applying to limited spots at a university, the school needs something besides academics to differentiate applicants. Things like admissions essays, recommendation letters, and extracurriculars are important for helping you stand out as a student! The essay gives the university a better idea of who you are, how you got to where you are, and where you want to go next. 

Tips for Writing a Great College Admissions Essay

  1. Brainstorming: Based on the prompt you were given, you should first brainstorm some ideas of what you want to write about. Some prompts may be very specific and personal, others might want to test your writing skills and creativity. Read what they are asking of you, and figure out what the end goal is. How does it relate to you? Your life? Your interests? Your future goals? A challenge you have overcome? Take notes and narrow down your essay topic. Make sure the topic you choose is something important to you, so that the writing will exhibit your passions and motivations well.
  2. Create an Outline: An outline will help you guide your story and organize your thoughts. Make sure it answers the prompt, and exhibits your strengths. Plan out your introduction, body, and conclusion with the details of your story. You can plan to open with a quote, a question, an anecdote, whatever feels most natural for you as a writer. This essay should highlight your voice. 
  3. Start Writing: Start writing your essay early and write multiple drafts. Keep the essay focused and personal so the reader stays engaged. Stick to the essay prompt and include specific details, examples, and explanations. Make sure to be yourself and don’t just write about your grades and test scores. 
  4. Review and Revise: After you’ve written a draft, make sure to proofread and have at least one other person review your essay as well. Check for grammar and the flow of your storytelling. Is it easy to follow? Does it answer the prompt? Does it present you as a motivated student? One tip to check all of this is to read it outloud. It can help catch any awkward phrases or missing pieces of the story.