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How To Write The Perfect College Essay

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We Know How To Write A Perfect College Essay

How To Write the Perfect College Essay!

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Topic Ideas For College Application Essays

If you arent sure what to write about in your college application essay, here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Hobbies and non-school pursuits that engage your heart and mind.
  • A social cause that you hold dear.
  • An event that has touched you.
  • An academic subject that sparks your interest. Has it led to experiences or study outside of school? The best essay material goes beyond the courses you took.
  • A special trip you took. If youre writing about a trip, show how your experiences affected you, and why they were meaningful to you.
  • Obstacles that youve overcome. Write about your obstacles with hope and an eye for showing self-growth. Show how your misfortune is a part of you, but cant define you.

College essays reveal your perception of yourself and your interestsand share that with the college admissions team. Your essay is vital. Poor college application essays can undo thirteen years of impressive academic achievement. A fabulous essay can get you in or get you that big scholarship. Remember these five keys, and show what makes you stand out from other applicants.


The Home Essay: A Quick Case Study

First, take a look at this students Essence Objects and 21 Details:

My Essence Objects

  • Worn, green Governors School East lanyard

  • My 21 Details

  • Ive been known to have terrible spatial awareness despite being a dancer. Just last week, my shoelace got caught in an escalator and I tripped about 20 people.

  • Zumba and kickboxing are my favorite forms of exercise and Im hopefully going to become certified to teach Zumba soon.

  • I have misophonia–sometimes I even have to eat dinner in a different room from my family.

  • My go-to drinks are Hi-C and Sweet Tea.

  • I became a pescatarian this year to avoid fried chicken, and I can honestly get a lifes worth of meat out of cod, salmon, tilapia, shrimp, you name it.

  • I collect funky socks–at this point, I have socks with tacos, snowmen, Santa, and even animals wearing glasses.

  • Ive gotten different Myers-Briggs personality types every time I took the test. The most recent ones are ENFJ and ENFP.

  • I have no immediate relatives in America besides my mom, dad, and sister.

  • I am a diehard Duke basketball fan, and I can identify all of the Duke basketball fans at my high school on one hand.

  • I love discussing psychology, but sometimes I psychoanalyze.

  • Singing while driving is honestly one of my favorite pastimes.

  • My alarm for school every morning is at 5:42 am.

  • I hope to complete a half and full marathon within the next four years, despite not having run a 5k yet.

  • I could eat fruits for every single meal.

  • I dont do well with confrontation.

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    Ask Someone To Proofread Your Work

    You want to create a great college application, so you will probably read it over and over again in order to make sure there are no typos and spelling and grammar errors. But after a while, you might need a fresh perspective. It’s best to ask someone who hasn’t seen it yet to take a look, as they’re likely to see mistakes you won’t catch.

    If you ask a teacher or parent to proofread your essay, they will be able not only to catch mistakes, but also to check if the writing sounds like you. After reading so many examples and following all those instructions, its hard to tell if what you just wrote is a statement of who you really are or not. Enlist the help of others to make sure that your essay is immaculate.

    Now start writing and craft an extraordinary essay!

    This article was originally published in January 2016.It was last updated in May 2021

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    Example: Eva’s College List

     How to write a perfect college essay. How to write a ...

    Eva is applying early to Emory University and regular decision to University of Washington, UCLA, and Reed College. Emory and Reed both use the Common App, while University of Washington, Emory, and Reed all use the Coalition App.

    For one week at the end of January, Reed students upend the traditional classroom hierarchy and teach classes about any topic they love, academic or otherwise. This week is known as Paideia after the Greek term signifying “education”the complete education of mind, body and spirit. What would you teach that would contribute to the Reed community?

    Even though she’s only applying to four schools, Eva has a lot to do: two essays for UW, four for the UC application, one for the Common App , two essays for Emory, plus the supplements. Many students will have fewer requirements to complete, but those who are applying to very selective schools or a number of schools on different applications will have as many or even more responses to write.

    Since Eva’s first deadline is early decision for Emory, she’ll start by writing the Common App essay, and then work on the Emory supplements.

    Colored paper clips: functional and fun!

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    How To Write A Powerful College Application Essay

    • Copy the link to the clip board

    Five years ago, I vigorously worked on my college applications. I stayed up late for countless nights and met with my English teacher to review my personal essay. Luckily for meand a testament to my hard workmy college admissions process ended with an acceptance to my dream school.

    For better or for worse, the college admissions process hasnt changed much in the past five years. Teenagers still stay up too late and stress out too much about which adjectives describe them. Luckily, the permanence of the college essay gives me the opportunity to share some tips and tricks with you!

    Most college applications include a supplemental essay that offers the opportunity to understand each applicant on a more qualitative level. The essay section asks about each students life experiences and goals with the aim to learn more about them. Colleges include the application process because the admissions board knows that applicants are more than just a GPA, extracurriculars, and test scores. These essays give applicants the chance to showcase their thinking process, resilience, and communication skills. The Princeton Review writes, Colleges are looking for thoughtful, motivated students who will add something to the first-year class, and the essays are the perfect opportunity to showcase that.

    Writing And Revising: Common Errors

    Most people dont outline. And even after outlining, many people fail to follow their outline. Its natural that youll want to stray here or there, towards or away from the initial plan, but below are a few common errors that people make when they either dont outline or ditch the guiding hand of their outline. As we go through some of these errors, well also make a list of a few general tips and tricks for managing some of the toughest parts of your essay, including time, scene, epiphany, change, character, and more.

    Heres an excerpted version of how Ramyas essay began at first:

    As a 51.75 Asian girl, not many people would expect me to spend every Sunday in a bar watching football…. I was tired of streaming the games on my computer, and having it lag before every major play.

    I want to thank Dee’s Sports Bar for teaching me life lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Thank you for showing me the importance of loyalty, relationships, and laughter.

    I have always been loyal to the Patriots.

    If you instead use an individual story as a stand-in for something larger, or for something else, your essay becomes a kind of parable or lesson that educates your reader both about you and, hopefully, about a part of the world theyve never previously considered.

    Heres how Ramyas essay began at the end of 3-4 rounds of edits and revisions:

    This was the billboard paragraph Ramya reached after a few rounds of edits:


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    What Is The Common Application

    You might be familiar with the Common Application, Common App for short, which serves as a single application shared by over 900 colleges, including every Ivy League school and similarly elite universities like Stanford, Caltech, and the University of Chicago. The Common App allows you to enter information like your name, demographics, extracurricular activities, and more just once for every school that uses it. Its also where youll encounter The Common App Essay, otherwise known as your personal statement , which is what this guide will focus on.

    Though not every school uses the Common Appmany state or public schools often have their own systemsthe work you do in writing your Common App Essay will serve you in every other component of the process, including applying to non-Common App schools and writing the secondary and supplemental essays that often accompany both types of applications.

    The Travel And Language College Essay Example

    how to write the perfect college essay (this worked for me!)

    When I was very little, I caught the travel bug. It started after my grandparents first brought me to their home in France and I have now been to twenty-nine different countries. Each has given me a unique learning experience.

    At five, I marveled at the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights. When I was eight, I stood in the heart of Piazza San Marco feeding hordes of pigeons, then glided down Venetian waterways on sleek gondolas. At thirteen, I saw the ancient, megalithic structure of Stonehenge and walked along the Great Wall of China, amazed that the thousand-year-old stones were still in place.

    It was through exploring cultures around the world that I first became interested in language.

    It began with French, which taught me the importance of pronunciation. I remember once asking a store owner in Paris where Rue des Pyramides was. But when I pronounced it PYRamides instead of pyrAmides, with more accent on the A, she looked at me bewildered.

    In the eighth grade, I became fascinated with Spanish and aware of its similarities with English through cognates. Baseball in Spanish, for example, is béisbol, which looks different but sounds nearly the same. This was incredible to me as it made speech and comprehension more fluid, and even today I find that cognates come to the rescue when I forget how to say something in Spanish.

    Today, I still have the travel bug, and now, it seems, I am addicted to language too.

    Click here for this student’s amazing Instagram photos.

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    The Feelings And Needs Exercise

    Time: 15-20 minutes

    Instructions:Youll find them here.

    If you havent completed the exercise, please do it now.

    You may notice that your completed Feelings and Needs chart maps out a potential structure for your personal statement. If youre not seeing it, try turning your paper so that the challenges are at the top of your page and the effects are below them.

    Voila. A rough outline for a narrative essay.

    To clarify, this isnt a perfect way to outline an essay. You may not want to spend an entire paragraph describing your feelings, for example, or you may choose to describe your needs in just one sentence. And now that you see how it frames the story, you may want to expand on certain columns. However, the sideways Feelings and Needs chart can help you think about how the chronology of your experiences might translate into a personal statement.

    Heres an essay that one student wrote after completing this exercise:

    How To Structure & Outline A College Essay

    At the start of the essay process, I ask students two questions:

  • Have you faced significant challenges in your life?

  • Do you want to write about them?

  • Because heres an important qualifier:

    • Even if youve faced challenges, you do not have to write about them in your personal statement.

    I mention this now because, in my experience, many students are under the impression that they have to write about challengesthat its either expected, or that its somehow better to do so.

    Neither is true.

    Ive seen many, many incredible essaysones that got students into every school youre hoping to get intothat had no central challenge.

    If your answer is Maybe ? because youre not sure what qualifies as a challenge, its useful to think of challenges as being on a spectrum. On the weak end of the spectrum would be things like getting a bad grade or not making X sports team. On the strong end of the spectrum would be things like escaping war. Being extremely shy but being responsible for translating for your family might be around a 3 or 4 out of 10.

    Its possible to use Narrative Structure to write about a challenge anywhere on the spectrum, but its much, much harder to write an outstanding essay about a weaker challenge.

    If youre still uncertain, dont worry. Ill help you decide what to focus on. But, for the sake of this blog post, answer those first two questions with a gut-level response.

    1. Challenges?
    2. Vision for your future? Yes/No

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    + Best College Essay Tips From College Application Experts

    This blog has over 100 posts.

    Know what that means?

    It means Ive spent a lot of time thinking and writing about college essays.

    But guess what?

    A lot of other people have too.

    So I thought Id ask my brother, who helps me with my website, to reach out to some of my favorite college admissions expertssome current and former admissions officersand ask one simple question:

    Use Objects And Images Instead Of Adjectives

    Tips From College Admissions Officers on Writing the ...

    Check out the opening paragraph of the Scrapbook essay again. It reads like the opening to a movie. Can you visualize whats happening? Thats good. Take a look at the particular objects the writer chose:

    I look at the ticking, white clock: its eleven at night, my primetime. I clear the carpet of the Sony camera charger, the faded Levis, and last weeks Statistics homework. Having prepared my work space, I pull out the big, blue box and select two 12 by 12 crème sheets of paper. The layouts of the pages are already imprinted in my mind, so I simply draw them on scratch paper. Now I can really begin.

    Lets zoom in on the faded Levis. What does “faded” suggest? What does “Levi’s” suggest? And why does she point out that theyre on the floor?

    Every. Word. Counts.

    Now re-read the sentence about her family:

    The biggest photograph, of course, is that of my family, huddled in front of the fireplace while drinking my brothers hot cocoa and listening to the pitter patter of rain outside our window.

    What do these details tell us?

    • The biggest photograph: Why biggest”?

    • Fireplace: What does a fireplace connote?

    • My brother’s hot cocoa: Why hot cocoa? And why my brothers hot cocoa? Why not moms lemonade? How is the fact that her brother made it change the image? Do you think she likes her brother? Would your brother make hot cocoa for you? And finally:

    • Listening to rain: Why not watching TV? What does it tell you about this family that they sit and listen to rain together?

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    The Moments Where The Seconds Stand Still College Essay Example

    Montage Essay, Other/Advanced type

    I hold onto my time as dearly as my Scottish granny holds onto her money. Im careful about how I spend it and fearful of wasting it. Precious minutes can show someone I care and can mean the difference between accomplishing a goal or being too late to even start and my life depends on carefully budgeting my time for studying, practicing with my show choir, and hanging out with my friends. However, there are moments where the seconds stand still.

    It is already dark when I park in my driveway after a long day at school and rehearsals. I cant help but smile when I see my dog Kona bounce with excitement, then slide across the tile floor to welcome me as I open the door. I run with him into my parents bedroom, where my mom, dad, and sister are waiting for me. We pile onto my parents bed to talk about whats going on in our lives, plan our next trip to the beach, tell jokes, and spill tea. They help me see challenges with a realistic perspective, grounding me in what matters. Not paying attention to the clock, I allow myself to relax for a brief moment in my busy life.

    Saturday morning bagels with my family. Singing backup for Barry Manilow with my choir. Swimming with sea turtles in the Pacific. Making my teammate smile even though hes in pain. These are the moments I hold onto, the ones that define who I am, and who I want to be. For me, time isnt just seconds ticking by on a clock, its how I measure what matters.

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