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Writing Your College Application Essay

By Howard and Matthew Greene updated on Thursday, October 31, 2013

In your college application essay, you have an opportunity to communicate to colleges what is most essential to you personally, socially, and academically. Strong college admission essays reveal something intimate and unique about the person behind the file. You can speak, in writing, as an individual, with your own voice and values. Such statements might cover mundane topics or extraordinary achievements, daily stresses or life-changing events.

Read on for more tips, but be sure to visit EssayEdge if you want expert essay editing advice.

Show who you really are on your application essay

To begin, consider your strengths and interests and what you want colleges to know most about you. Then explore some topics, stories, and approaches that might help you show yourself to your readers. You will likely need to write two or three college application essays for many selective colleges. See them as puzzle pieces working together to present who you are more completely. If you can't just start writing, make an inventory of your strengths, insights, and what's most important to you. Chat with friends or parents about revealing anecdotes.

Keep working at your college application essay

To write a great college admission essay, you'll need persistence. Expect to work over multiple drafts. You may start with sketches of ideas, outlines, or lengthy stream-of-consciousness prose. Share your essays with people you trust and people who can be objective. They can offer constructive criticism about your tone, content, and form. Remember too, your writing should be free from spelling and grammatical mistakes, and be neither too casual nor too formal.

Make your application essay your own

Read your college application essays out loud to yourself. Does the language sound like you? Is the essay grammatically correct? Is it awkward? Can your friends, counselors, teachers, and parents recognize the essence of you in the essay? Could no one but you have written this particular piece? College admission readers note that they are looking for a student's voice in the essays.

Does your college admission essay speak to people?

View your essay as a public document you are presenting to a large audience, or as a revelation of a personal confidence. Remember, break out of your shell and you'll be much more likely to make an important connection with your admission audience.

EssayEdge is an expert resource for essay tips.  

About the Author

Howard and Matthew Greene have been the hosts of two PBS college planning programs and are the co-authors of the Greenes' Guides to Educational Planning and other books. They've spent years working as counselors and have conducted in-depth research with students, college presidents, deans of faculty, and other administrators.

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