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College Admission Essay: Writing 101

College Admission Essay: Writing 101

The college admission essay is a type of academic writing that high-school students must learn to maximize their chances of enrolling in a top-level university. In this article, we will explore the college admission essay format, as well as the overall purpose, common topics, and tips to gain an edge over other students.

Table of Contents

What Is an Admission Essay?

The college admission essay is a narrative type of writing assigned by universities to learn more about the applicant, outside of their resume. It allows admission officers to better filter a student based on their writing level, life experience, and workload stamina. The sole purpose of the essay is to encourage the enrollment officers in believing that you are ready to begin studying at said college, university, or graduate school.

Just like with other types of academic writing, the admission essay can have multiple variations in regards to topic and writing style. One of the most common versions typically asks the student to illustrate their dedication and previous academic success. It is very similar to a resume written by people in the workforce, except that it is usually more general and doesn’t require a specific skill set.

Post-secondary education admission packages incorporate the following:

  • Personal Statement
  • Work Experience Resume
  • Cover Letter
  • Secondary School Qualifications
  • Formal Qualifications

It is important to note that applying for post-secondary education doesn’t necessarily require work experience. However, it is worth mentioning that it will significantly boost your chances of enrollment in most educational institutions.

Choosing a Topic

The college essay heading is a very important aspect of the writing process and should be approached carefully. It is always helpful to review successful example topics before beginning the process yourself. That being said, there are multiple prompts that a majority of students use as their admission essay topic. Here are a few:

  • Share a Piece of Yourself
    Enrollment officers want to have a feeling of connection with their candidate. Describe an experience from your personal life, family life, extracurricular activities, or anything else that can be used as a microcosm for your long term success.

  • Problem Solving: Explore an obstacle that you have previously faced and the actions you took in order to solve it, as well as the conclusions that you’ve reached from it. These skills are exactly what both enrollment officers and employers look for when analyzing prospective candidates.

  • Moment of Brilliance: Recall a moment from your life that acted as a catalyst for fast growth or a drastic change in perspective. What happened and what made that specific event so significant?

  • Extracurricular Activities: Many students succeed academically because of hard work and dedication to studying. However, good academic standings are achieved by a large number of students, making it difficult for officers to decide on who to accept/reject. For this reason, it is essential to explore other activities you are involved in. Including things such as high-level athletics, charity work, part-time work experience, and other valuable hobbies greatly boost your chances of obtaining that acceptance letter.

Common Admission Essay Topics

  • Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful, they believe their admission would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, share your story.

  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

  • Describe a problem you solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma — anything that is of personal importance, etc. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could take to identify a solution.

  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

As mentioned before, the topics will definitely vary with some top institutions. Yet, this list explains a general direction of the things you are going to be asked of and what to prepare for.

College Admission Essay Format & Structure

Usually, most colleges and universities allow candidates to write in any format or style they choose. On the other hand, the college admissions essay format of Introduction → Thesis → Body → Conclusion is the main outline candidates follow.

The college essay outline goes as follows:


  • Hook Statement
  • Idea Development or Story Brief
  • Thesis (Main Idea)


  • Story Development
  • Real Life Examples that Illustrate Personality Traits
  • Moment of Brilliance or Plot Catalyst


  • Essential Conclusions from Experience
  • Statement of Why You’re Eligible for Enrollment.

You might also be interested in discovering how to write a 5 paragraph essay outline


According to the college admission essay format, the first paragraph should usually be dedicated to introducing yourself or the matter you are going to discuss. To grab your enrollment officer’s attention, make use of rhetorical questions or intriguing statements and start off with a good first impression.

  • An example of a rhetorical question could be: “What is the meaning of life?”
  • An example of an intriguing statement could be: “There is nothing quite as fascinating as space exploration.”


Give your readers an insight into the main story discussed in the body paragraphs by producing a well-developed thesis. This statement should briefly explain the highlight and purpose of the entire essay, without giving too much away. Lastly, provide a sneak-peek for the main storyline by using a link-sentence with the first body paragraph. In other words, think of it as a brief movie trailer with a cliff-hanger.


According to the college admission essay format, you need to illustrate the relationship between the subject of discussion and your personal experience, as well as its effect on your identity. Show why the subject is important to you, and what you have to say about it.

Consider including the following aspects of your life:

  • Challenges
  • Achievements
  • Lessons Learned
  • Goals
  • Beliefs


In the conclusion, sum up everything you talked about in the body paragraphs. Be sure to reflect on the findings and conclusions you have made from previous experiences, as this displays growth and maturity. Most importantly, understand that your concluding statement should illustrate what makes your eligibility stronger or more persuasive than those of other students that also want to enroll in the same educational institution.

General Admission Essay Tips

Using a Voice

Using a voice in writing is one of the best techniques to show your personality and character. Don’t be afraid of using humor, or speaking to readers directly, because it will only engage them more.


Some universities prefer to set guidelines when it comes to the word-count. Thus, it is important to stay within the required range while keeping the admission essay interesting to the reader. Though, if the university doesn’t require this, make sure to be concise yet effective.


Don’t let any typos and silly lack-of-focus mistakes cost you your reputation. To avoid any unnecessary writing errors, skim through your admission essay and carefully search for grammar errors and syntax issues. You may find it easier to pass your work on to an academic scholar who can proofread your work professionally.

Fulfill all Requirements

Check the instructions to see if your paper matches the set-requirements. Creating an incredible college admission essay won’t do you any good if it doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the institution.

College Essay Examples

Writing an admission essay can be tough, especially for someone who has never done it before. Take a look at our well-written college admission essay examples from the skilled writers of our essay writing service and feel free to use them as a reference.

Admission Essay Example: College Admission of a Student

Admission Essay Example: Challenging a Life Belief/Idea

The Bottom Line

College admission officers are always interested in learning more about their applicants, especially if they have an interesting story to tell. Thus, keeping your college admission essay genuine by illustrating your unique personality through actions that you took is a great way to build strong impressions. Using your own voice shows personality and character, which is crucial when attempting to stand out from the rest of the crowd. It is essential to master the different elements of an admission essay in order to highly impress your enrollment officers and boost your chances of acceptance!

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