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How to Write a College Application Essay

How to Write a College Application Essay

One of the most difficult parts of writing a college essay is selecting the idea to discuss. Schools look for student’s individuality. It's something that goes beyond test scores. In a college application essay, it is critical to capture personal charisma in original writing styles and is not scary as it may seem. Let’s take a look at how to write a college application essay based on what admission officers look for in the article full of advanced tips and examples from experts.

What if you have problems with any type of college writing? Find out how qualified writers from our EssayPro writing service can increase your chances to win!

Table Of Contents

What is a College Application Essay?

A college application essay is sometimes referred to as a personal statement. It is a type of narrative essay written by a student applying to a college, university, or graduate school of their choice.
What is the goal of such paper? A college admission essay (another name) should show applicant’s dedication in pursuing their professional academic goals. It must specify why the university's program is ideal for the applicant, and what sets this person apart from others. Sell yourself!
A full application package consists of the following:

  • Personal statement
  • Resume/CV
  • Cover letter
  • High school diploma with GPA
  • Certificates and awards

If a student has a powerful college application essay and no work experience, it might be enough - no need to develop a resume.
A college essay must be a thoroughly crafted and heavily supported presentation of your viewpoint on a specific argument. The piece must be distinct, opinionated, and deniable. Do not try to “win” the debate - earn the audience’s consideration as both sides express a desire to understand the subject matter better.
The rest of the article explains how to write a personal statement and shares some cool examples.

Knowing the Real You - Application Essay Tips

Preparation is the key to success. Before writing, brainstorm to find what makes you stand out from other applicants. Keep in mind several well-known college application essay prompts to point you in the right direction.
These prompts will get to delve into the inner you. Use them to explore personal ambitions and motivations, and remember that the main goal is to show your individuality and strengths. Here are some common college essay examples of prompts:

  • Experiencing Growth - Think of an experience that molded you into the person you are today.

  • Overcoming a Challenge - Explore a personal challenge, setback, or failure. The way you overcame it may tell a lot about your individual approach to finding solutions in different life situations.

  • Take Time to Reflect - Have you questioned or challenged a belief or idea? Did it affect or change you?

  • Show Your Academic Side - Academia is not just a place to study, but to discuss ethical and moral dilemmas; it is like an introduction to the problems of our world. Show your take on a global issue. It can give the admission officers a feeling that you’re already part of the discussion.

  • An Accomplishment - Think of a personal accomplishment that you’re proud of - but don’t brag.

  • A Captivating Topic - Describe something that captivates you. It may be a hobby, an object, a building, or anything you might find interesting (one of the great personal statement examples belong to Andy Warhol who thought that a Campbell soup can was captivating and it made his career).

Start with discussing the idea offered by the teacher and add personal thoughts.
Click on the picture down below to explore Common College Application Essay Prompts.

college application essay prompts

Defining the Audience

There is a huge difference between writing a law school personal statement and developing a medical school admission essay. Why? The goals, required skills to highlight, keywords, and approaches are different.
An essential component of communicating effectively through your college essay is developing your “writer’s sense.” Many novice writers make the mistake of writing as if they were talking to a friend. Although this technique is useful in public speaking, it won’t work in a college essay. Speaking is a very physical form of communication, whereas in writing we are confined to a two-dimensional page. Punctuation and word choice take the place of physical expressions and become tools that will aid you in communicating your tone. Consider asking yourself the following questions to set the tone of your essay:

  • Who’s your audience?
  • What’s the occasion or context?
  • What’s your message?
  • What’s your purpose?
  • What documents/ genres are used?

One more important thing is to remain ethical in any situation - avoid sensitive topics:

  • Gender
  • Racism
  • Violence
  • Politics
  • Religion

Narrow Down Your Topic

One more question is how to write a personal statement if the topic sounds general.
Narrowing down your writing topic is like looking at a pile of rocks and picking out the jewel. It’s not a cliche to say that you’ll work best when you love what you’re doing. Look for things that puzzle you, strike you as incomplete, something you find funny or amusing, details that perhaps most people didn’t notice, ideas you’d want to explore. Make it clear and compelling. Try finding a question that you and your audience will want to engage: this approach will give you a clear direction and keep you focused. You will also learn how to filter your sources to find the information you need.

Application Essay Outline

By this point, the 5-paragraph-essay format should be a no-brainer. Having finished high school, you’ve written research papers and experimented with narrative essays, mastering the 5-paragraph-format. A personal statement format follows the same rules.
Make sure you include a personal mission statement in your essay explaining the reasons to apply for a particular educational institution! The infographic below will tell more about an application essay outline.

college application essay format

Additionally, check out our page on the application essay format!

How to Write a Personal Statement: Putting Pen To Paper

Now that you’ve got everything organized writing the essay should be easy. Hop on a computer, and type up a rough draft. Base it on your brainstorming (read more below) and outline. It’s always good to write more, and then remove all unnecessary writing, leaving only the best parts. Before you know it, you’ve got yourself a banging application essay!

Follow these writing tips in case you get lost:

  • Get several personal statement examples of high quality to have an overall picture of the content and format;

  • Keep focused from beginning to end; if you lose yourself, you will lose the reader. Your main idea should glow in every sentence;

  • Avoid cliches. You’re not fooling anyone with generic or cliched language: describe it your way, and you have a higher chance of standing out from the rest;

  • Know your reader. Admission officers go through heaps of application essays each day. If the essay doesn’t stand out right away, it’s going in the bin. That’s what usually happens to plagiarized essays, irrelevant content, boring pieces, or ones written by mom and dad;

  • Don’t worry about being overly formal! In high school, you may have been taught to write in a formal tone. It prompts to search for fancy synonyms to impress the teacher. Although we don't discard this concept entirely, college writing embodies a different, more individualistic approach.
    Being overly formal can make your essay sound artificial and supercilious. For example, experienced essay writers won’t mind using “I” in their essays where they feel like they have to. As you gain experience, you will learn to take full advantage of your literary freedom to experiment with your style and write fearlessly.

  • Simplicity is the key. You do not impress anyone with fancy synonyms, weird words, and lengthy sentences - keep it simple!

common application essay format

Freewriting as Brainstorming Tool

We have mentioned brainstorming but did not say a word about freewriting. It is untrue that experienced writers have everything figured out before they start writing an essay. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect Routinely putting your ideas down on paper must become a habit that will help you develop your writing skills. There are no perfect first drafts, and continuous revision is one of the keys to success.
Freewriting is an instrumental brainstorming technique. As you navigate through your source material, new ideas will start popping up, and it’s important to write them all down. Free writing is like free jazz - there are no “wrong” notes. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation: go put some ink on the page!

The Lost Art of Proofreading

To be a good proofreader, one has to read like a writer once the work is done. Focus on the quality of your research. It’s crucial to find the right academic sources and study them thoroughly because your ability to write depends on the ability to read and infer, separate fact from opinion, and recognize biases and assumptions.

Why is proofreading a lost art? Because no one does it properly. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ve got to polish your essay like polishing a sword for battle. It doesn’t mean skimming through it once you're done writing. If you want admission officers to take you seriously, here’s what you should do:

  1. Put the essay down for a day or two. Come back and read it with a fresh mind to find out whether the content:
  • Reads smoothly;
  • Possesses a cohesive introduction, body, and conclusion;
  • Has a strong opener that captures reader’s attention;
  • Offers a writing style and voice consistent throughout the entire essay.
  1. Give the essay to another person to read. Ask them the same questions.

10 Excellent College Essay Examples

Can we name more good titles for the college admission essay?

  • The Best Day of My Life (share a particular episode related to the specific field of study)
  • Personality Pic (tell more about one of your quirks - perhaps you “had” a fly-fishing summer job)
  • Survival Instinct ( what you would do if there was only one open admission in the target college)
  • An Inspiring Historical Figure (do not pick fiction characters)
  • The Animal in Me (say about the animal you relate to yourself)
  • Prompt in Prompt (in the college paper, introduce the most intriguing, complicated, and breathtaking prompt you have ever faced)
  • Lust for Literature (it is the right moment to speak about people around who look intelligent because of reading a lot)
  • Reading Human Mind (describe something fantastic like it was real)
  • Motivating Citation (dedicate a whole personal statement to the specific quotation)
  • The Ridiculous Way You Grew up (And How It Affects You Now)

The examples of prompts are great, but it would be hard to accomplish the content and handle personal statement format without having several free examples of the entire college applications. That is why we recommend looking at the best college application essay examples from our database of papers:

College Application Essay example

College Application Essay example

That’s it. No need to overthink it. The essay must tell your story - in your own words. If it does - you’ve got yourself a proper admission essay. If not, go back and reread it.

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

The article does a great job summarizing how to write a college application essay. However, it doesn’t articulate one critical point: target audience. What are the values of the school that you’re applying to? If you’re applying to a school that values integration and care for your society, then your essay should talk about how you volunteered at a local animal shelter or held a charity auction. If the school values things like creativity, then emphasize that aspect. While writing your application essay, in particular on the CommonApp, my advice is to have different essays for different kinds of schools. If needed, a general one that shows you in a good light will suffice, but if you have more time to personalize each essay to the particular school then by no means do so. This is a good solution for people who have multiple things that they can be proud of from their high school career. If you’re a math whiz but also a soccer champ, you can write about both of those qualities in different essays.

Dr. Joshua, from EssayPro

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