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How To Write Your College Application Essay

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First Talk To The Admissions Office

How to Write a College Application Essay that Stands Out

Before you submit a late application, you should contact the admissions office or an officer youve spoken with directly.

Colleges set deadlines for admission for a reason and your reason for missing that deadline is critical. In some cases, colleges will make an exception if you miss a deadline for a family emergency, medical illness, or natural disaster.

But its essential to keep in mind that simply forgetting to turn in your application will likely not grant you an extension.

Once youve spoken to the admissions office, its time to get your application in.

Reveal Something Unique About Yourself

A student should write a college application essay that distinguishes them from other applicants. For example, writing about playing a niche instrument or winning an Olympic medal can help students stand out from other applicants. Doing so also demonstrates how your distinctive qualities will add to campus life.

Why Do You Need A Standout Essay

While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why youd be a good addition to the university.

Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your applications total weightand may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

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How To Apply For College

Published on October 18, 2021 by Kirsten Courault. Revised on November 19, 2021.

Most US college application deadlines for undergraduate programs are between late November and mid-March, and you should start thinking about applying for college the summer before junior year. Your application should typically include the following:

  • Personal information, extracurriculars, and awards
  • Essays
  • Standardized test scores
  • Recommendation letters

In this comprehensive guide, we show you how to organize deadlines and stay on track throughout your college application process.

Weve also created a free Google Sheets template that you can use to organize and track your college applications.

  • Frequently asked questions about college application essays
  • Start With A Memorable Introduction

    Learn How to Compose a Perfect College Application Essay

    Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction, or hook, needs to grab the readers attention and compel them to read more..

    Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself .

    While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essays overall theme.

    Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.

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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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    Finding A College Essay Writing Agency

    When youre looking for an essay writing service that can write your assignment it is important to make certain youre receiving the best quality possible. The companies typically use a pool of highly qualified writers who are all expert in their particular fields. Most of these writers are authors who have had their works published, or have produced educational materials. They guarantee to meet deadlines and offer loyalty and discount plans that let customers return often and again.

    Contrary to what is happening in the real world, it is possible to find the expert services of a ghostwriter for academics on the internet. For instance, a Google search for college essay writing services can yield thousands of results. The top review websites provide excellent writing expertise and have a professional approach. Expect to get an excellent paper and they will meet the deadlines youve set for the paper. Its crucial to know the difference between genuine services and frauds before you choose a writing company.

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    Tell A Story In The College Application Essay

    Whether or not an applicant ends up getting accepted to the university, their story is important. The importance of the college application essay extends further than its role in the admissions process.

    Each applicant has a story worth being told and each applicant deserves the chance to tell it. If theyre feeling stuck choosing which story theyd like to tell, be sure to check out this Rethink Together post about student stories that matter or this article about what students have written about in the past.

    An applicant may be asking themself, What should I write about for my college essay? The opportunities may feel overwhelmingly abundant or quite bare. An applicants best bet is to focus on significant moments that helped reshape their perspective. Here are some brainstorming tips and tools to help get the ball rolling:

    • Exploring identity: XQs series with Ashanti Branch is a great way to help applicants explore their identity by touching on who they are, whom they are listening to, and where they are going.
    • Use a strengths quiz: A strengths quiz is a great way to figure out an applicants natural skills and how to highlight these traits in an essay. An applicant should identify what their strengths are and take a stab at brainstorming some events in their life that have relied on those strengths. Each applicants combination of strengths is unique, so each applicant should be sure to think of a story that is unique to them.

    Recap: How To Write A College Essay Introduction

    How to write your college application essay

    An effective college essay introduction should wow admissions officers. It should be creative, intriguing, and unique.

    Make sure you start with a strong hook or grabber. Its a good idea to follow this first sentence with a vivid anecdote, which you will then connect to the overall topic of your essay. This is often easier to do if you go back and write the introduction last.

    Avoid overused introductory techniques, spelling and grammar errors, and forced vocabulary.

    If you follow these tips, the admissions officer will be interested in what you have to say from the very start.

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    Whats The Point Of The College Essay

    Almost every standard college application requires first-year applicants to submit a personal essay. If you are one of these applicants, you may be wondering, whats the point?

    With so many colleges deciding to go test-optional, , the essay is the one place in your application where you can illuminate your character in words and ideas, rather than in numbers and percentages. It is your chance to show schools who you are, what makes you tick, and why you stand out from the crowd.

    Admissions counselors will read your essay and try to determine whether or not they want you at their school. While reading, they will be asking themselves, What will this person bring to our community? Will they make our school a more valuable place?

    How To Write An Essay For Nursing School

    If you are still an applicant and your goal is to write an essay for nursing school as a part of the admission process, the procedure differs significantly.

    Depending on the school and program, you might be asked to write several essays with concrete prompts. However, as a rule, to gain entrance to any college or training course, you must write at least one personal essay that explains why you have decided to join the profession or this particular program. Here are a few tips on how to write a good nursing application essay:

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    Create An Essay Tracker Sheet

    If youre applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:

    • Deadlines and number of essays needed
    • Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts

    You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.

    Keep A Copy For Your Records

    College admission essay examples

    Before you hit submit, print a copy of the application. If you cant print each page or the entire application, print what you can, or take a picture of each page with your phone. Once you do submit, also print a copy of the confirmation page. This gives you a record of everything youve done in case there are any issues.

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    Reveal The Invisible You

    So much of what you have accomplished in school and in life is data that will be found in the body of your applicationits there for the world to see. The true evidence of your character, personality and sense of compassion, however, lies within you. The power of a good essay is often found in its ability to give the reader this insight. Go beyond your résumé to reveal your humanity.

    How To: Write Your Personal Essay

    Posted by Carolyn Pippen on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 in Application Process, General Information, The College Essay.

    While we still have a few more days until the official beginning of fall, around here it feels a lot like the season has already begun. Classes are back in session, the leaves are falling off the trees, and most of our counselors have departed for the two-month marathon of flights, high school visits, and college fairs that we call travel season.

    In addition, thousands of high school seniors across the country have begun the process of filling out college applications. Regardless of whether or not one of your applications will be submitted to Vanderbilt, we would like to offer you a few nuggets of the expertise we have acquired working with students and evaluating applications over years.

    Thus we give you: The How To Series. Over the next several weeks, we will be posting lists of tips concerning various pieces of the application that we hope will make this process a little less overwhelming for all of you. Todays tips focus on the personal essay.

    • Edward Smith

      Hi Carolyn, students get stressed regarding writing college admission essays. Your tips are going to help them a lot.

    • Pedro Bale

      thanks it helped me write a good essay

    • Stella Aldrin

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    How To Format A College Application Essay

    Formatting is quite stressful for most high school students while writing a college application essay. It is because they are often unfamiliar with the right structure.

    Therefore, we have put together some crucial elements for you. They must be considered to write a proper format of a college application essay.

    Follow the guidelines given below to format your college application.

    Make A Good Essay Great

    How to Write a Great College Application Essay

    Finally, when you think you are finished with your essay, dare to make it great! First, attempt to reduce your word count by 10%. Doing so will force you to examine every word, thought, and article of punctuation. Even if you are not able to reduce by 10%, making an honest attempt at it will make your essay better.

    And then have someone read it out loud to you. When you proofread silently, your brain will play tricks on you . Hearing the words as written will force you to acknowledge the script as it is. Dont be surprised if you need to ask the reader to pause while you make a change or two!

    Good luck!

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    Start With An Attention Grabber

    The very first sentence of your essay should be the hook or grabber. This sentence hooks readers or grabs their attention, making them want to read more.

    This first sentence should provide rich details, engage a readers curiosity, or otherwise stand out from the rest.

    Here are some sample grabbers from winning college essays:

    • I have old hands.
    • If my life were a play, there would be two sets, two acts, and two sets of characters.
    • Some fathers might disapprove of their children handling noxious chemicals in the garage.
    • There is a hefty blue book in my bookcase that is older than any other book in my house.
    • When I was in the eighth grade I couldnt read.
    • As an Indian-American, I am forever bound to the hyphen.
    • I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks.
    • Ive been surfing Lake Michigan since I was 3 years old.

    The first sentence can also be a question, but only if its particularly insightful or interesting, like this one:

    While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe?

    Dont each of these sentences make you want to read more? Thats the impact of a well-written grabber.

    Some of these sentences offer vivid details .

    • Others engage our curiosity .

    The rest simply stand out.

    • For example, I am forever bound to the hyphen, is a thought-provoking and interesting statement. I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks, is a unique way to begin a college essay.

    The Burying Grandma Example College Essay

    They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.

    When my parents finally revealed to me that my grandmother had been battling liver cancer, I was twelve and I was angry–mostly with myself. They had wanted to protect me–only six years old at the time–from the complex and morose concept of death. However, when the end inevitably arrived, I wasnt trying to comprehend what dying was I was trying to understand how I had been able to abandon my sick grandmother in favor of playing with friends and watching TV. Hurt that my parents had deceived me and resentful of my own oblivion, I committed myself to preventing such blindness from resurfacing.

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    The Travel And Language College Essay Example

    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.

    University Of Rochester Dean Of Undergraduate Admissions Offers College Applicants Some Dos And Donts In Writing The Personal Statement

    College Essay Format

    Many universities ask applicants to include a college application essayusually a personal statement or similar essayalong with their application materials. With more students applying to selective colleges than ever, and with many of those colleges placing less emphasis on standardized test scores, the admissions essay can be a crucial component of the applicants file.

    Weve made that shift in emphasis away from testing at the University of Rochester. As a selective private research university with programs in the liberal arts, sciences, and engineering, the undergraduate college draws from a global pool of high-achieving students. Since nearly all of those candidates are at or near the top of their class, we use a holistic approach to select those with strong ethical character who align with our institutional values. So, as an applicant, how can you distinguish yourself?

    One of the most important ways is through your college application essay.

    Many students may dread this part of the process. Yet with the right attitude and strategy, you can write an essay that will improve your candidacy for admission. A good college application essay will not overcome poor grades for a student at the lowest end of a schools applicant pool, but it can help a qualified candidate stand out from the crowd.

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