If I had a dollar for every time a student asked how to write a college essay, I would have been rich – Every seasoned teacher
Every year, millions of high school graduates apply for admissions in a handful of elite colleges and universities across the globe. And they all have one question in common, – How to write that brilliant college essay that would get me an admission?
To be honest, writing a good college admission essay is not a walk in the park, but it isn’t rocket science either. While any average Joe can write a semi decent college essay, it takes the right mix of guidance, planning and practice to come up with an impressive essay.
So if you are on the lookout for expert advice on how to write a successful college essay, you have come to the right place. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to ace in writing a college admission essay:
Understand the aim of the college admissions essay
Hold your horses. Before jumping into the process of writing a college essay, it is important to do some groundwork that will help you a great deal when you actually sit down to write. First and foremost, one needs to understand what is the aim behind writing the essay. Unlike popular belief, college essays are not a platform to boast of your greatness or to pretend about qualities that you may or may not have. A college essay should showcase the writer’s passion, beliefs, intellect and desire to learn. It should convince the admission officer that you will be an asset to their college.
Brainstorm for ideas
Once you figure out what is expected in a college essay, you can start exploring different topics that interest you. Think about prompts that will highlight the best qualities in you or check out some free essay examples. Is writing about your relation with your pet a good idea? Does writing about mental problems and how you exorcised your inner demons sound too clichéd? Can you write a good essay about a funny incident without sounding stupid? The answer to all these questions depends on the story you have in mind and how you tell it. You will never know if an idea is good or bad until you write it down and flesh it out on paper. Irrespective of whether an idea is clichéd or quirky, make a list of 8-10 topic ideas that you can relate to.
Write essays on many topics
Now that you have a pool of essay ideas, it is time to bring them to life by pouring your heart out on paper. Write essays on many topics as it would give you an idea about your writing style, your story telling skills and the impact of an essay idea. This exercise will not only help you answer all the questions you had about a specific essay idea but will also help you discover your hidden talent/characteristics.
Take the opinion of teachers, family and friends
Since it Is difficult to judge your own writing without being super critical about it, getting an opinion about your essays from your close friends, family and teachers is a wise move. After taking into account the views of your well-wishers and your gut feeling, zero in on an essay idea that will reflect the best of you.
Start writing on the chosen idea
Now that you have done your research and chosen the essay topic, it’s time to write the brilliant essay that would sail you through the admission process. Here are a few tips for writing a college essay:
- Draw a skeleton of your essay
It is advisable to draw a blueprint of your essay before you write as it will help you identify the important points that needs to be highlighted. Prepare a three act skeleton of your essay by noting down the points that need to be included in intro, body and conclusion.
- Start with an interesting hook
A hook is a catchy intro line that will attract the attention of the reader. Since the admission officers review thousands of applications, they tend to skim through the essays. And
if your college essay has a strong hook, then it makes them interested in reading it with increased attention. A hook can be humorous, shocking, controversial or anything that would grab eyeballs.
- Let your first draft flow
There is a saying that ‘First draft is just you telling yourself a story’. First draft is all about writing down everything you have in mind. During this phase, one should focus on telling the story through the essay and not worry about the word limit or coherence of the essay. Do not be too critical about your thoughts. Let them flow through your mind on to the paper.
- Be honest
Lying about yourself in the college essay is not a good idea as your writing will lose its edge and will not be effective. It is experiences and lessons learned from experiences that fuel the writing in a good college essay. Lying about an achievement or a predicament that you have never been through will clearly reflect in the lackluster nature of your writing. It is better to be honest and portray yourself the way you are as it gives you a chance to narrate an interesting story. It is not what happened to you but your perspective towards your experiences that make college essays an engaging read.
- Keep it simple
Don’t show off your language skills and vocabulary by throwing in difficult words unnecessarily as it makes reading a cumbersome task. Choose a casual informal tone of writing as it not only improves readability but also makes it relatable for the reader.
- Be funny but don’t try too hard
It is an added advantage if humor flows naturally through your writing. But steer clear from trying too hard to be funny as it might make your writing offensive or pretentious.
- Conclude well
Conclude your essay by driving home the message you were trying to deliver through the entire essay. Your conclusion should summarize all the points that you tried to showcase about yourself through the essay. All’s well that ends well!
Read, re-read, edit till you are satisfied
After you are done writing your first draft, take a break of 3-4 days and then re-read your essay to find faults and loopholes. Keep your eyes open for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and incoherent flow of writing. Also, try to adhere to the word limit by making your writing crisp and concise. Don’t be afraid to remove a chunk of writing from your essay if you find it irrelevant. If you come across an interesting anecdote or point that you forgot to mention earlier, go ahead and add it in the essay. Repeat the process of reading and editing multiple times until you are completely satisfied with the final outcome.
Get it reviewed by someone you trust.
Last but not the least, get the college essay reviewed by your teacher or by a trusted aide. Once you hear their feedback, analyze if their suggestions make sense to you and decide if you want to incorporate the changes suggested by them. Since the final college essay is a testament of your hard work and determined effort, safeguard it from plagiarism by not sharing it with everyone.
Writing a good college admission essay is an art and for mastering any art, one requires a lot of practice. Follow the above mentioned step-by-step guide and write that awesome college essay that would boost your chances of admission into your dream college.