Every student wants to succeed when writing a college application essay, but not everyone understands what makes some essays stand out, while others fall flat. There are several traps students frequently fall into when writing application essays that can easily be avoided with the right preparation and dedication, so we’ve assembled the top tips on how to write a college application essay to help you achieve your dreams!
While this may seem obvious to some, many students try to make an existing essay they’ve already written fit into the prompt. It’s obvious to admissions staff when a student has done this and will only make you seem lazy. Fortunately, the common app has cut back on the number of essays you’ll have to write throughout the college application process, so take the time to write a brand new essay for each prompt. Some of them may be similar because of the nature of application prompts and the fact that you’ll be pulling from the same life experiences, but they should still be customized to fit each school.
One trap that many students fall into when writing a college application essay is to try to write what they think the university wants to hear, instead of being truthful about their own life experiences. Trust that your individuality makes you interesting and that you don’t have to pad your stories with facts that aren’t truthful. Even small moments that don’t seem dramatic can be life changing and essays that are honest will be infinitely more interesting to those reading it than ones that aren’t.
Don’t be afraid to dive deeper into a prompt and really reflect on what makes you, you. Your writing will be better when you write about things that are important to you or that have had a profound effect on your life. When you open up about your feelings, you’re more likely to connect with the reader and while it can be hard to open up about certain experiences, you may find that you learn something about yourself in the process and end up with a stronger essay.
Too much exposition can make an essay boring and if an essay starts out slowly, the reader may lose interest. Elevate your essay and avoid over explaining by getting to the point sooner and making the first sentence the most interesting. If you feel that your essay is moving too slowly, try starting in the middle of your story.
Make sure your essay is organized in a way that makes sense to the reader, so have a friend or family member read it to ensure clarity. A common mistake is submitting an essay that jumps around throughout a story instead of having a clear path. You want to take the reader on a ride through your essay, not leave them confused.
Universities are attracted to students who show interest in attending their school, so do research on each college and bring details from your research into your essay like a particular professor you want to study with, a certain class you’re excited about, or a program/activity you want to get involved in. Your essay will stand out because it will be clear that you are genuinely interested in their school and put effort into your essay to customize it.
Hopefully these tips will get you started on writing a college application essay that will wow admissions staff! For other tips on getting into your dream school, one of our co-founders, James Lewis, has written a book full of helpful tips that you can find here.
Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events, scholarships, college fairs, internships, career and leadership programs, partner discounts, and more. Discover what makes NSHSS worth it to student members and how you can get involved.
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