How To Write A Winning College Essay
A key ingredient of winning admission to the college of your choice: write your application essay like a pro. This may be scary, but it isn’t hard. Just keep calm and follow the approach outlined below.
Choose Your Topic Wisely
What a winning college essay isn’t: an “all about me” brag, a political rant, or a soulless “where I went” last summer itinerary. It also isn’t a “done to death” topic, which covers most:
- It-happened-to-my-team sports stories
- Volunteer-experience accounts
- “Most important influence on my life” reports
And don’t try to be hilarious or melodramatic either, unless you’ve got tons of experience blogging along those lines—and seeing those posts go viral.
What a winning college essay is: an interesting, original story focused on something you know well, or learned through personal experience. Ideally, it includes specific details on:
- Individuals you met
- Trial-and-error hard work
- Your feelings and conclusions
Do as professional journalists do, let your reader share the experience with all five senses.
Yes, college admissions officers want creativity; but they don’t want an essay that’s 2,000 words long when they specified a 750-word limit. Read every word of the instructions, then do whatever you’re told to do, and don’t do what you’re told not to do. No excellence in writing compensates for an impression that says disregards clear instructions, must be careless and/or self-centered.
Follow the Best Writing Procedure
- Organize. You probably have experience outlining assignments in advance. With a college essay, you don’t need I-A-1 format; but it still pays to start by jotting down what you’ll cover and in what order, to save time and help the end result flow smoothly.
- Create. Don’t worry about getting the first draft grammatically perfect or typo-free: go ahead and let everything you know spill out at top speed. Just don’t wander far outside the topic and outline.
- Edit. Let the initial draft “cool” for a few days so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Then go over it at least twice to remove unnecessary words, weed out typos, and make sure it flows smoothly from beginning to end. (For maximum thoroughness, read it out loud or backwards.)
- Submit. You’ve got a winner! Send off your college admission essay and expect to get good news back.