How to write a college application essay

How To Write A College Application Essay

Here's what we'll cover

Applying to a college is by no means an easy process. It is a procedure that involves a lot of thought and research because your college experience sets the tone for the rest of your life. One application that takes a toll on many applicants is writing a college application essay. Your essay gives recruiters a chance to know the real you: what motivates you, your values, and the impact you have made in your school, family, and community. Recruiters get to see how unique you are and what you will contribute to their school. Your college admission essay is important because it allows you to sell yourself to the admissions officer. Getting it right will go a long way in deciding whether or not you will be admitted to the college of your choice. Let us look at tips that will make it easy for you to write your college application essay, making it stand out and guaranteeing you admission.

College Application Essay Tips

Understand the Prompt

Colleges try to simplify the process of writing the application for you by giving you a prompt or question that your essay should address. No matter how simple it seems, takes time to really understand it. As Lori Greene from Butler University says, understand what the prompt is asking you to do: is it defend, explain, support, or inform? Do not rehash your old ideas and essays when you write your college admission essay just because you got good grades on them. Instead, strive to be original.


no matter how boring you think your life is, you have a unique point of view based on your life experiences. Something in your life has had an impact on how you view things. Once you understand the essay prompt, look back at your life, and collect any experiences. Ask your family and friends about what they think makes you unique. Write all the ideas you get down and then work on narrowing them down. Experts recommend narrowing down to 3 options that are most aligned with the essay prompt. And from the 3, pick one that you will write your college application essay on.

Outline your essay

You could just jump right in and write your college admission essay, but outlining makes it easier to keep to the theme throughout and will reduce your frustration in case ideas run out. Like other essays, your college application essay contains three major parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Decide what you want the tone of your essay to be. The best way is to have a conversational tone like you are talking to a teacher you are comfortable with. So while you will not be too formal, do not write like you are talking to your best friend. You can insert an anecdote, but humor is subjective so be careful.

Write Drafts

You should have time before you need to submit your application essay so work on your idea. Write out a rough draft in full, letting your ideas flow naturally onto the paper. Then sit back and revise the draft. Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter: would you like what is on the paper? Make sure your ideas segue into one another.

Use normal words; recruiters can tell you are faking when you use overly pompous words. Make sure your ideas sound unique. Do not plagiarize someone else’s opinion or story, not even one from your distant relative. And make sure you do not beat around the bush. Conciseness is important if you are to keep the recruiter’s attention.


The work is not over even when you have your final draft ready. Proofread your work and correct any grammatical inaccuracies. Fix any spelling mistakes and incorrect word structures. While you rely on your computer or sites like Grammarly to do this for you, you must use your human eyes to discern. This is because only you know the context in which you are using a phrase. Read the essay out loud. Have someone else look it over, maybe a teacher or your parents. This way, you will be able to correct any inconsistencies before you submit your essay.

College Application Essay Format

You have written many essays over your high school career, so you are conversant with the basic structure: introduction, body, and conclusion. You can start preparing yourself by reviewing several probable essay prompts and practice how to make your essays engaging from start to finish.


Your introduction should be concise and to the point. Do not rephrase the prompt, as this wastes you and the reader’s time. Use the introduction to draw the reader in. You can use a compelling anecdote, recap an interesting conversation you have had, quote a famous person, or vividly describe the scene you are basing your essay on. Let us look at some of the best essays that have been submitted to Ivy League schools.

Make sure the introduction makes you stand out from the hundreds of essays the recruiter will read. Vivid imagery like the one above is sure to stick in the recruiter’s mind for a long time.


The body of the essay is your chance to go into details about what you described in the introduction.

If one experiences shaped you, go deep. If several experiences influenced your degree or college decision, go wide. As all authors are advised, Show Don’t Tell. Be careful not to use a passive voice when describing the impact the experience had on you. Acknowledge the people, if any, involved in making the experience worthwhile. This could be an author, a historical figure, or someone you interacted with.


Like the introduction, the conclusion is a chance for you to leave a lasting impression on the recruiter. So just like in the introduction, do not waste time summarizing your essay. Instead, emphasize the impact the experiences you have outlined have had on you.

Emphasize your goals in the conclusion paragraph. In the essay example above, the student concludes by showing how his experience shapes his outlook on surgery beyond the mere application of a trained skill. You can mention the specific school in your conclusion and state your belief that it will help you achieve those goals.

There you have it…

Writing your college application can be nerve-wracking, but only if you do not know the right way to do it. Keep in mind that this is not a formal interview, rather a conversation with an older friend. Look to impress but without being pretentious. And if you keep in mind the tips and suggestions we have outlined, then you will find that writing an impressive college application essay is not as difficult as it seems.

Scroll to Top