One of the most stressful parts of my college application process was writing the essay for the common app in addition to each supplemental essay for the different schools. After some trial and error, along with the occasional breakdown with tears followed by ice cream, I realized that there were a few ways to improve my college essay writing process… Don’t worry, I made all of the mistakes so you didn’t have to. Here are 5 tips to acing YOUR college essays so you can eat celebratory ice cream!
If you think it is boring to write about something you have no interest in, chances are your reader is going to be snoozing through your essay too. Choose a topic that is exciting for you, and it’ll translate to the reader and get them interested in you. For my Common Application essay, I wrote about a school backpacking trip where I had a tough experience but became stronger in the end by preserving. This is a perfect example of picking a personal, fun story that can still be applied to the different essay prompts, so choose your topic wisely.
This definitely won’t be a popular tip, but I would highly recommend starting your essays over the summer when you have an abundance of time, no classes or homework, and no standardized tests to think about. It also allows you to spend time thinking about each essay and write multiple drafts. You can also email your drafts to your guidance counselor, other teachers or mentors so they can proofread and give some feedback on your writing during a time that is also less busy for them. Take advantage of the summer! The future stressed-out senior you will be extremely grateful.
You only have so many words you can use for each essay, so choose wisely. Don’t swallow a dictionary or continuously use a thesaurus to formulate big, important-sounding words. This disrupts the flow of your essay, wastes precious space, and distracts your reader from learning about the real you. Instead of hiding behind big words or fancy grammar, keep your sentences short, concise and to the point while still being engaging and, most importantly, yourself! You will find that keeping it simple makes the writing process a lot easier, and makes it more fun.
This goes without saying, but one of the most distracting parts of an essay is the misuse of grammar and typos. It also makes the reader assume that the essay was haphazardly and hastily written. Show that you care about your work, and have put in a lot of time and effort into your writing, by proofreading your essay over and over again. I personally find it helpful to print out my essays and find more mistakes that way. Also, get different pairs of eyes on the essay, as friends, parents, teachers, siblings, etc. will catch mistakes that you might have missed.
The most important tip I have is just to be yourself! You are applying to these colleges, not your guidance counselors or your parents or anyone else. Make all of the essays about you, your accomplishments, and why the school would be so lucky and fortunate to have you as a student. Fake and stiff language, stories and grammar come off in your writing, and the reader will most likely disengage. Keep your essays fresh, interesting, concise and, of course, about you because YOU are really what your whole college application process is really about, not anyone else!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jolie Blair is a rising senior at Emory University from Sun Valley, Idaho. She is double majoring in Theater Studies and Public Health and has a passion for the arts, writing, and traveling. She studied abroad for the 2016 fall semester in Rome, Italy and had an experience of a lifetime, which she loves to share with those who want to listen (and even those who don’t like her 140lb Great Dane!).
Boston College Prep
Pre-College in Boston: College Prep, Marketing and Journalism Academy