How to Write a College Essay | Teen Ink

How to Write a College Essay MAG

By Christine S., Arlington, VA

     Crafting a stunning college essay can be difficult even for the best high school writer, but with some forethought and organization, the task can be made less daunting. Here are some tips for impressing admissions officers with your command of the written word:

1. Plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of time to write a well-crafted essay by reading the college’s requirements as soon as you can. Never wait until the last minute, even if you’re a good writer. Three to four weeks ahead of the deadline is usually adequate time, but if you are particularly busy or applying to several colleges, two months is probably even better.

2. The prompt is not optional. No matter how boring the topic may seem, you can find an interesting angle. Ask what your friends and classmates are writing about and then don’t write about that. Remember - you want your essay to stand out in a positive way, so don’t try to be cute by ignoring the prompt and writing about something completely different from what the college is asking for.

3. Keep your reader awake. Keep admissionsofficers from falling asleep by including humor or drama whenever possible. Approach the prompt in a clever way, or if given the option, choose a creative topic. Unless you can put a unique spin on “How I spent my summer vacation,” select another topic. Sometimes seemingly insignificant experiences make the best essays, so don’t feel pressured to write about the time you built canals for a destitute village in Peru or rescued a little girl from drowning if you didn’t. A wonderful essay happens when a writer takes something normal and makes it spectacular.

4. Use powerful language. Your essay should be clear, concise, and enjoyable to read, which is best achieved by following these guidelines:

degrees Keep your language fluid and simple, but not elementary.

degrees Write at a level appropriate for your age.

degrees Keep in mind that verbs are stronger than adjectives because they denote action; replace adjectives with verbs whenever possible.

degrees Avoid using the passive voice.

5. Don’t be vague. This is imperative. Include relevant details to liven up a story, but be careful not to flood the reader with too many, since this will make your essay tedious. Establish some sense of time, and a clear setting so the reader knows where and when the action happened.

6. Respect the word limit. This should go without saying, but it’s a rule that many students ignore. Writing too much in a dull, sloppy manner is worse than writing too little in a dull, sloppy manner. Your essay should be no more than 20 words above or below the limit. Since admissions officers read hundreds of essays, they will definitely notice if yours is too long or too short.

7. Proofread. Don’t let careless errors distract your reader. Always run your essay through spellcheck, but don’t rely on it too much; it can’t catch every mistake. Reading your essay aloud often helps reveal mistakes you might not have noticed otherwise. Also ask a friend, parent and/or teacher to read it and offer suggestions.

If you plan ahead, give yourself time, and write clearly and concisely in an entertaining way, your essay will earn the recognition it deserves - and hopefully that recognition will come in the form of an acceptance letter!

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This article has 3 comments.

i love this !

on Dec. 27 2014 at 12:01 pm
Richcoca PLATINUM, Canoga Park, California
44 articles 5 photos 71 comments

Favorite Quote:
Make as many as mistakes as you want, just don't make the same mistake.

Thanks. This is so helpful.

on Apr. 22 2010 at 9:18 am
EllenaPfeffer SILVER, North Oaks, Minnesota
5 articles 258 photos 234 comments

Favorite Quote:
Dreams you Follow

Are college Essays hard to write?

I love yours!

Good job!!!!