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10 Tips for writing the College Application Essay

July 5, 2013
  • Be concise.
    • Make sure to stay under the suggested number of words.
      • If the college application says “Please write about yourself in 300 words or less” do not exceed the 300 word limit.
    • Most college admissions staff will not read past the word limit given on the application, so do not exceed it!!
  • Be honest.
    • Do not embellish your achievements.
    • You are you.  Do not lie to make yourself look better on paper.
  • Be an individual.
    • “In writing the essay, ask yourself, How can I distinguish myself from those thousands of others applying to said school whom I don’t know—and even the ones I do know?”
    • Even if you are not in a lot of clubs or after-school activities you still want to stand out from the rest of the applicants, whether that means using a personal experience or something else you have done in the past that would make you stand out.
  • Be coherent.
    • Make sure that you do not “babble” on.
    • This is not a 5 paragraph essay, so do not write like it is.
    • These application questions are supposed to be short and to the point.
      • Do not add little things that would be considered irrelevant to admissions staff.
  • Be accurate.
    • It is also good to have your host or friend peer review your response to make sure grammar and punctuation are correct.
  • Be vivid.
    • “A good essay is often compared to a story: In many cases it’s an anecdote of an important moment.”
    • Use real names (or made-up names) while telling the story; this will make the story more realistic to the reader.
      • i.e. If your friend’s name is Kevin, and you mention him more than once in your paper, refer to him by name, not by ‘my friend.’
  • Be likable.
    • Subtly be able to add into your essay prompt that you would fit in at said school.
    • Colleges want to know if you would fit in at their school.
      • Colleges want to know if you will be able to keep up academically as well as blend in with their student body.
  • Be cautious in your use of humor.
    • Something you might find funny, your reader might not.
    • If possible, I would leave it out because you never know how someone will interpret it.
    • The reader may misinterpret your humor and think that you are not taking the essay seriously.
  • Be controversial to a point.
    • Do not write a boring essay.
    • If the essay prompt is broad do not be nervous to write about politics, religion, or another serious topic.
      • Explain your view on the topic.
      • “Colleges look for diversity of the mind.”
  • Be smart.
    • “Colleges are intellectual places.”
    • “What turns your mind on?”


Courtesy of tonyhall on flickr

Courtesy of tonyhall on flickr


Hyman, J., & Jacobs, L. (2010).  10 Tips for Writing the College Application Essay. USNews. Retrieved from

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