We use cookies to personalize and improve your browsing experience. 

To learn more about how we store and use this data, visit our privacy policy here.

Your college application writing is not just about writing one personal statement. There are often several shorter essays, supplemental questions, and short answers required by schools, too. This top ten list will quickly prepare you for all of the writing required on your college applications. Heed this advice and you will be able to start your process “in the know.”

1. Begin your application brainstorming and writing process the summer before your senior year in order to get ahead. By working in the summer, your coursework won’t suffer and you will have more time to spread out the process since you are not in school.

2. Just because a question requires a shorter answer does not mean it is a “throw away question.” Spend quality time crafting each answer, no matter how short it may be. Don’t assume that shorter means less important. If colleges didn’t care about a response to something, they would not ask for one.

3. It may sound obvious, but write about something you are passionate about and best illustrates a glimpse of who you are as a person. Your genuine feelings more easily show through in your writing come if the topic you choose or story you tell is meaningful to you.

4. Write in the first person. This writing is about you, so use “I” when writing about yourself. Also, an active voice brings your reader into your narrative.

5. Be specific and do your research. For a “why this school?” question, make sure you include facts, names of professors, courses, campus traditions, etc. from each school so your reader knows you are serious and knowledgeable about their school.

6. For an activity paragraph, show, don’t tell. If you elaborate on activity that is meaningful to you, don’t simply describe or list things you did in that activity. Instead, tell a story, paint a picture for your reader, and offer them some tangible images of your role or experience in that activity.

7. For an academic paragraph, bring your reader into your head and allow them to see how you think. Connect ideas and demonstrate to your reader that you would be a great addition to their college campus classroom.

8. For fill-in-the-blanks or short answers that are just a sentence or two, be sure you choose your words carefully. Make your answers impactful despite their brevity.

9. Proofread more than once. Print out your essays and read your writing out loud to yourself. Sometimes when you read it you catch things that you didn’t see on a computer screen or that don’t sound right when read aloud. 1

10. Read Writing Successful College Application Essays (available for purchase September 30!) for a more in-depth look at many of these tips as well as to read more than one hundred real college applications from other students.

Good luck and don’t forget to breathe! You will survive this rite of passage!