College Plan Timeline:


Remember, it’s important to write YOUR story, using YOUR voice, about something that has meaning to YOU.

Follow these three phases of the writing process to create an amazing college application essay.

The summer before your senior year, we discussed practicing for your college essay. A quick review of what we learned:

  • Colleges put great weight on your personal essays. This is your chance to set yourself apart from all other similar applicants.
  • Selective colleges may require in-depth essays while most other schools require a short writing sample.
  • Look for ways to weave your summer activities, extracurriculars, summer jobs, or other forms of personal responsibility into your essays.

Now that we’re up to speed, it’s time to craft your masterpiece.

How to Write an Effective College Essay

Phase 1: Collect and analyze your ideas.

a) No matter where you’re applying, your personal essay is going to be about you so it’s important to get a good sense of self before you begin. To start, write down a list of strengths and characteristics you have a person. This is YOUR story, what makes you so great?

b) If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, think about your accomplishments. What adjectives helped you achieve these things? If you’re still stumped, ask friends, family, or teachers to describe you.

c) Next, you’ll need pieces of evidence to help persuade your readers that these characteristics really embody you. Write down a few events, anecdotes, or accomplishments for each characteristic. You will use this evidence to support your main idea.

Phase 2: Write, write, write.

a) Now it’s time to get your thoughts on paper. You’ll start with a rough draft that includes an introduction, body, and conclusion, of course.

b) In your introduction give an idea of where you’re headed with your essay. Your main idea should be clear. (Hint: Everyone’s main idea will be very similar. It’ll be form of: I’m Awesome So Please Admit Me to Your College.)

c) Your body exists to support your main idea with evidence. What makes you so awesome? Remember to show rather than just tell. Use the evidence we brainstormed about in Phase 1.

d) Conclusions are important in summing up the meaning of the events but try not to hit the reader over the head with the moral. Instead of specifically expressing what you learned from the experience, leave it open to interpretation.

Phase 3: Edit, revise, rewrite.

a) Give yourself a break. Step away from your essay for a few days and let your mind clear. After this cool-down period, revisit your essay and ask yourself if your main idea came across clearly. Is this really what you’re trying to say?

b) Now give your essay to a few trusted advisors/editors. Ask them to tell you what they think you’re trying to say. If they don’t get your meaning, it’s time to revise.

c) Work to make your essay as succinct and to the point as possible. Get rid of unnecessary words, phrases, or anecdotes. Make every word count.

d) Focus on your tone and your voice. An active, engaging voice can make all the difference. Use verbs (I finished my application) instead of participles ( My application was finished.)

e) When you’re happy with your final product, read it three more times. Then once more. Make sure you have no careless errors that would tempt an admissions officer to add to his rejection pile.

For more college essay tips and tactics, visit our college essay tips and sample questions.

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