Your essay can make or break your college application. In fact, a stellar college admission essay can make up for a lower GPA or a mediocre standardized test score. But even if the rest of your application looks amazing, don’t slack on your essay! Your essay tells the story of you, so make sure it’s one worth reading. There’s a million ways to do this, but the following 6 tips will help you do it especially well.

1. Read the Prompt Carefully

You could have the best essay in the world, but if it doesn’t fulfill the requirements, chances are you won’t impress that admissions office. Make sure your essay meets all of the criteria listed in the prompt. Usually, these prompts are found somewhere on your university’s website. If you’re using the Common App, you can choose from a diverse list of prompts. Wherever you’re getting your prompt, double-check it before submitting your essay so you don’t end up missing anything.

2. Avoid Clichés

…especially in your introductions. Starting with a dictionary definition or using a quote from a public figure isn’t necessarily bad, but these tactics have been used countless times. Try to come up with something different in your essay! Generally,  you want to avoid cliched language. Just because it’s tried-and-true (incidentally, this is a cliché!) doesn’t mean it will work for you.

3. Be Space-Conscious

Universities limit your word count for a reason: they want to determine how effectively you can express ideas when restricted. As such, you must be deliberate in what you say and how you say it. If a sentence or even a paragraph isn’t adding something new to your essay, cut it. Also, personal stories are incredibly important to the college essay, but make sure your essay isn’t just a story. Give as much, if not more, space to self-reflection and analysis of your stories. Above all, make sure your stories connect to the prompt in a clear and distinct way.

4. Revise, Revise, Revise

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write the essay, because your first draft will definitely not be your last. I also advise you to enlist a trusted teacher to review your essay. Of course, you can get another peer or a family member to look over your work, but a teacher — especially a writing teacher — can give you constructive criticism that will actually help you. Their experience is a great asset to you, so take advantage.

5. Break the Mold

There’s nothing wrong with structure, but don’t feel married to that traditional five-paragraph format. As long as you meet you fulfill all criteria (see tip #1), you can be more creative with your presentation. Start in the middle of the action. Switch up the length of your paragraphs. Include dialogue. Whatever you need to do to be different, do it! If you’re stuck, read some other essays to get inspired. We have also compiled some other writing resources on our Homework Help page. And if you’re in the St. Charles area, please enlist our Learning Ascent services to help you with your college admission essay!

6. Stay True to Yourself

I mean this in a couple different ways. On the sentence level, use language that is actually in your vernacular. Trust me: “sounding smart” is way less effective than sounding like you! And on the large scale, conserve your writing style as much as you can. Yes, take tips from others you trust, but don’t be afraid to trust your own voice. Let your university know who you are through your stories and your writing style. Everyone has to write a college admission essay, but no one else can write your essay. Therefore, make sure you are visible in it.


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