The Art of Writing a College Essay that will Get You Accepted

For generations, the most prestigious universities and colleges around the world have been requesting that interested students include an admissions essay as part of their college entrance application.   Historically, that meant creating a well-rounded bio that showcased the potential student as the most likely choice for admissions. However, with an increasing number of students, and a decreasing number of availabilities, degree programs are becoming much more competitive – meaning that if you want to stand out in the college entry crowd, you are going to need to write the best college essay ever.

In the proceeding paragraphs, you will learn How to Write a College Essay that will get you accepted!

What is a college essay?

Once only heard of in upper-class academia, more and more selective post-secondary institutions are asking that would-be students submit an essay (also referred to as a personal statement) as a part of their college application.

This may sound tedious, and it will certainly require a serious investment in time. However, it is a tremendous opportunity for potential students to maintain the upper hand when the decision time comes. College admissions committees look most closely at the grades on high school transcripts and also entrance exam scores. Yet, the more selective educational houses receive so many applications from students who all seem so great on paper, and have equally great scores and grades. This requires them to delve deeper into the lives and characteristics of those wanting to attend their schools. This is done through the inclusion of college essays, letters of recommendation, community service and also participation in extracurricular activities.

How do you share your story with prospective schools?

Ask yourself – “What sets me apart? What makes me who I am? Why am I the best candidate?”

By looking further into your responses, you will find that you have an interesting background, your story is unique. Your college essay is your chance to tell the admissions committee who you are (within reason, of course.) The greatest way to share your story is to draft a personal, insightful paper about something that is important to you. Remember to be honest, and authentic, while letting all of your best qualities come through in your writing.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to have started a million dollar business, or spent the entire summer personally cooking meals for children in disadvantaged countries in order to impress the selection team. The majority of colleges are merely looking to find thoughtful, motivated and giving students who are likely to contribute something of value to the school.

How long should a college essay be?

More often than not, colleges will state the requirements for the essays students are asked to include as part of their application. However, as a potential student, you should understand that quality always trumps length. That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when determining the best approach for your own admissions essay.

How long should your essay be?

Typically, there is no ‘standard’ length for a college essay. The college admissions committee might suggest a minimum word count, but that is most often not a mandatory requirement. There are a few things to consider when figuring out how long your essay should be:

  1. Remain on point
  2. Answer the prompt as completely as possible
  3. Be unique

Remain on point: When it comes to writing a college admissions essay, or any paper for that matter, it is crucial to stick to the point, while offering enough detail to educate the reader. Certain essay topics might require a longer essay than other topics might. If the prompt you are given asks for a high degree of information, it is likely that you will need to write a longer essay in order to clearly address each of the points, and in order for it to not feel rushed. As a rule of thumb, it is wiser to start with a smaller word count and then to make revisions as needed. Many colleges recommend cutting out transitional or filler words and sticking to the words that best get the point across.

Answer the prompt as completely as possible: Every single admissions essay you will encounter will require answering a question or following a prompt.  Choose one idea, and develop it as the essay progresses. It is crucial to only include information that is relevant to the topic. Many students find it helpful to avoid the use of abstract ideas or generalized thoughts and instead prefer to make use of solid examples.

Be unique: Since the people from admission committees read thousands of application essays each year, they have a keen ability to tell whether someone is being genuine or merely rewriting something they may have found online or are mass producing the same essay to be used for multiple applications.  It is important to showcase your own style, and highlight personal achievements.

College essay outline

Curating the outline of your admissions essay is the best way to not only develop the framework of the paper, but also to organize your thoughts and ideas so that you can concisely tell your story. Similar to other forms of essays, the outline of a college essay is a quick and efficient way to take your thoughts and put them on to paper. A properly drafted outline will help you to feel like you are on the path to success. Your outline needn’t be a complete working draft of your essay, but rather short spurts of content and phrases.

The outline of an essay includes three main sections: the introduction, the supporting information and the conclusion. Building your outline is a lot like the construction of a house. Without a strong foundation (or in the case of your essay, a great concept) the entire thing would fall apart. The introduction must be closely connect with the overall concept or idea and the supporting information must clearly explain the idea. The conclusion should not only tie everything together, but also deliver insight and reflect on how the concept (or prompt) is relevant to you.

A properly crafted outline will allow you to better structure your ideas, while remaining on topic. The best college essays are laid out in chronological order, to not only engage the reader, but also to make the facts easier to understand.

Here is the basic flow of a college essay outline:

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Introduction

  • The main concept (or prompt) and why it is significant
  • The primary facts or points (try to stick with three)

1st Point

  • A statement that supports the point
  • How it applies to the main concept or idea

2nd Point

  • A statement that supports the point
  • How it applies to the main concept or idea

3rd Point           

  • A statement that supports the point
  • How it applies to the main concept or idea

Conclusion

  • A summary of each of the points
  • How each of the points are connected to the main concept and why they are important

College essay examples

As mentioned earlier, there is no black and white when it comes to writing a college essay. In fact, most colleges have their own set of guidelines as far as application essays are concerned.  Here are a few essay examples for colleges that you can review for help in writing your own application essay.

The University of Chicago Sample Essays

John Hopkins University College Essay Help

Tufts University Essay Examples for College

College essay writing service

There is a surprising number of services available to help college students create a polished college essay. One such service is AResearchGuide.  AResearchGuide claims to have been helping students create high quality essays.  The service works by partnering students and writers together, giving students complete control over who they decide to work with. The writers will communicate with the student and discuss any edits or suggestions needed to create a perfect essay.

A word of caution, however, – colleges and universities are becoming more aware of the use of third party services. Students are encouraged to write their own essay and seek professional assistance only for editing and proofreading.

College essay topics

Your college admission essay is your chance to show the admissions committee who you are not only as a student, but also as a person. Each year, colleges across America refer to the Common Application program in order to manage their application process.

Students applying to a college using the Common Application will be required to create a 250 to 650 word essay in response to one of multiple prompts.

Whether or not you are provided with prompts, or given a topic, there are a few things that should be considered when creating an essay that packs a punch.

  1. Write about a topic or event that means something to you: This could be a person you admire, a trip you experienced, a book you’ve read – anything, as long as it had a strong impact.
  2. Don’t just tell – relate and reflect: It isn’t hard to write about a big summer football game, or a trip to Disneyland. As you recall your experiences, delve deeper than just relaying the itinerary. Talk about what you learned, how it helped you grow and what you got out of it.
  3. Don’t try to be funny if you aren’t: It’s true that those who can make others laugh are naturally more approachable. However, there is a very fine line between humor and turnoffs. That one liner might seem hilarious to you, but the adult who spends all day reading essays written by college applicants probably has a different sense of humor.
  4. Don’t wait until the last minute, and write several versions: Write out your essay and then re-read it a couple of days later. Try to read your essay through the eyes of an admission committee member. Is it interesting? Is it easy to follow? Does it share important details about the personality or values of the student? Does it read like the student wrote it themselves? Is it reflective of who they are?
  5. Don’t repeat yourself: Whatever is written in the essay or personal statement should not be contradictory to any other part of the application, and it should not be a repeat of information. Do not list your awards or grades – at all.
  6. Clearly respond to the question asked: Stay on topic, resist the urge to regurgitate the response from a similar question – or to resubmit the same essay you sent to another school.
  7. Have multiple people read and edit your essay: This part is important. Have the essay read and edited by someone other than yourself. This is where you may want to enlist the help of a teacher or school counsellor. Remember to triple check for spelling and grammar mistakes as well.

Learn More Here on Analytic Writing Guide.

College essay prompts

Students applying to any one of the 700+ US colleges that utilized the Common Application will need to include a 650 word essay on one of the following:

  1. Every student has a unique story. Please discuss something meaningful in your background, whether this speaks of who you are, what you’ve done, or what you are good at. Tell us what makes you yourself.
  2. Please contribute an essay on a topic of your choosing. You may choose to use one that you’ve written previously, or one that answers a different question, or something entirely new.
  3. What you learn now will guide you in the future. Please think of a time where you’ve encountered a tremendous obstacle or hurdle, or even been met with failure. How did this experience affect you? What did you learn?
  4. Discuss an idea or topic that you find so compelling that it makes you forget everything else going on around you. What is this activity so engaging? Where do you go when you want to learn more about this topic?
  5. Share a problem that you have overcome or one that you are struggling with and would like to overcome. This might be something ethical, educational, or deeply personal. No matter how big or small.
  6. Reference a significant accomplishment or an event that has changed the way you feel about yourself or others. How has this experience resulted in personal growth?