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How to Write a College Admission Essay?
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Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Winning College Admission Essay

Writing a college essay is never a piece of cake, especially when your future depends on it. While writing a casual argumentative essay or cause and effect essay, you only risk getting a low grade. However, when it comes to writing a college application essay, the stakes get much higher. Whether you like it or not, the quality of your admission essay will directly affect whether you will be able to study at the college of your choice or not, which is why it is so important to get things right!

To help you succeed, we’ve prepared a step-by-step guide on how to write a college admissions essay that will make you stand out from the crowd.

What Is a College Admissions Essay?

As you could’ve already guessed from its name, a college application essay is a part of your admission package submitted to enroll in a college. And to be more specific, it is one of the most vital parts of your application.

In a nutshell, a college admission essay, which is also often referred to as an application essay, personal statement, or statement of purpose, is a short written statement submitted by an applicant that is seeking to enter at a particular university, college, or graduate school.

The purpose of an admission essay is to complete your college application and show the admission committee that you are the right fit for their institution. According to CollegeBoard, admission officers are typically looking to see the applicants’ ability to follow the requirements, write well, and build logical arguments. At the same time, with the help of an application essay, they want to know more about the personality of each particular applicant. Therefore, this essay is basically your opportunity to show off your skills, highlight your best qualities, and prove that you deserve to study in the college of your choice.

Looking for the answer to the question of how to write a college application essay, it is vital to understand that the requirements can vary depending on the school you are interested in. Sometimes, colleges will let you choose a topic yourself. In other cases, one may be required to write a paper according to the given college essay prompts. These common admission essay topics can range from being open-ended to extremely specific, and even somewhat strange. A famous example comes from the University of Chicago, that had a pretty odd prompt for admission essays:

“What would you do with a foot-and-a-half-tall jar of mustard?”

Working with such tricky prompts can be rather challenging. But don’t worry, most colleges will give you more than just that to work with.‍

As strange as some admission essay prompts can get, it is essential to maintain a positive attitude and discover complex ways of tackling them. Regardless of what topic one chooses to explore, all the elements used should be directed towards creating one big idea. That will give your application essay a smooth, logical flow.

Although there are no universal rules on how to write an admission essay, there are a number of strategies and tips that can help make this process significantly easier and a lot less stressful. In this article, we will discuss various methods that students can use to approach their admission essays.

College Admission Essay Format: General Rules and Tips

A college essay format and general rules are pretty standard. Typically, your admission paper should follow a basic 5-paragraph format. This means you will need to include one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

As for other requirements, most colleges will require you to stick to the following recommendations:

  • One-inch margins on all sides;
  • 1.5 or double-spaced;
  • Easy to read fonts (the Times New Roman is considered to be a standard choice);
  • 12 pt font size;
  • Clearly delineated paragraphs.

These are the general rules and requirements that are acceptable across most institutions. However, be sure to always check the admission essay format requirements of each particular school you are applying to. Keep in mind that essays that fail to follow the formatting rules can be disqualified.

Now, let’s get down to details and look at the most useful tips that will help you create a flawless essay.

Writing a College Entrance Essay: Preparation Stage

Before diving into your college admission essay, it is always a good idea to take a step back and plan out what you want to write. This will make the process much faster and easier in the long run.

Basically, the pre-writing process should consist of the following steps:

  1. Read the requirements and prompts;
  2. Pick the topic that suits you;
  3. Brainstorm;
  4. Organize the most positive aspects that you want to mention. Brainstorm all the points later and keep the best ones.
  5. Define how long your essay should be and set a word limit for each point.
  6. Create a rough draft. Once all your ideas are in place, create a detailed college application essay outline.

Now, let’s look at some of these steps in detail.

How to Pick a Perfect College Admission Essay Topic

First of all, to prepare for writing a paper, you need to choose a compelling topic. Regardless of whether you are choosing a topic yourself, or picking it among the provided prompts, here are the key qualities of a good college admission essay topic to keep in mind:

  • It should be thoughtful and relevant
  • It should be personal and reveal your individuality
  • It should give you the scope to highlight your best qualities
  • It should be engaging
  • It should provide an insight into your experience or aspect of your background
  • It will help you tell the admission committee something they don’t already know (i.e. something that can’t be seen from your application)
  • It should not be too brad

These tips should help you choose the right topic or prompt. However, regardless of your choice, the most important tip is to be yourself. It is not necessary to write about some really major achievement or unbelievable experience. The committee wants to know who you are as a person, so even if you write about something very basic, but manage to share your story - you will win!

Define How Long Should a College Application Essay Be

Typically, a basic application essay format does not imply any word count limitations. However, it is recommended to keep your essay about 650 words long. This is the optimal length for such a paper because essays that exceed 650 words are often too wordy, whereas shorter ones can look incomplete and fail to deliver the core idea.

Nevertheless, always pay close attention to the specific requirements of the chosen college as there may be differences in instructions.

College Admissions Essay Prompts for 2020 - 2021

According to the Common App, in 2020-2021, essay prompts will remain the same as they were in 2019-2020.

Here are the basic prompts you may face:

  1. “Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.”


  1. “The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?”


  1. “Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?”


  1. “Describe a problem you've 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, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.”


  1. “Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.”


  1. “Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging it makes you lose track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?”


  1. “Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.”

College Application Essay Format Template

Earlier in this article, we’ve discussed the general college application essay format. Yet, if you are still wondering how to format a college essay, here is a template to use as a guide for your work:

college admission essay template


Long story short, here is what each part of the essay should include:

  1. Introduction - Introduce the topic and yourself, include a “hook.”
  2. Body of text - Focus each body paragraph on a specific point or idea, build solid evidence to support it, and backup with examples.
  3. Conclusion - Wrap up the key ideas and points, and finish with a positive, thought-provoking statement.

Introduction

So, how do you start an admission essay? - You always start it with a powerful introduction!

It is vital to write an interesting, yet informative introduction. Your intro is what the college admission committee will see first, so it is important to make it attention-grabbing. And the best tactic to make the right impression is to use a powerful hook. Including a “hook” will only benefit you and not make the admissions officer bored to tears of reading a pile of admission papers. The introduction should make you stand out from the crowd of other applicants, so think of something that makes the reader want to read more of the article. Some of the most common ways to shape a good hook is using a:

  • Rhetorical question
  • Surprising statistics
  • Shocking fact
  • Powerful quote

After creating a hook, include a few sentences with background information to introduce yourself and the topic without going into too much detail. Then make a final statement (thesis) and smoothly lead onto the body of the work.

Body

When writing the main body of the essay, devote a separate paragraph to each point, and support all your ideas with evidence or examples.

Keep your writing interesting and vary the length of the sentences to make it more readable. Also, try using transition words and phrases between sections and sentences so that the reader will still be intrigued and your college admission essay does look like a list of facts about you. Try not to drift off-topic.

Conclusion

When writing the college admission essay conclusion try to tie up all the points and evidence previously stated into one or two important ideas. Make the last statements in the conclusion memorable so as to leave a good, lasting impression on the reader.

Top Tips for Writing a College Essay That Gets You in Your Dream College

We have put together the most helpful college admission essay tips to give you the best chances of beating the admissions odds.

  1. Start early. Now is the time to begin writing and applying for college, and the sooner you get your application handed in, the better the chances to get accepted.


  1. Be yourself. Always demonstrate the best of yourself, but do not sugar-coat the truth. The committee will most likely understand that you are not sincere in your essay.


  1. Thoroughly analyze the prompt. Take your time to read it and make sure you fully understand the question.


  1. Show rather than tell. Students often forget to demonstrate and backup their achievements, which takes them nowhere. So, do not forget to add details, evidence, and examples.


  1. Be vivid. An essay should be like a story with good descriptions so be clear and paint a good picture with your words. Do not write a mundane college admission essay.


  1. Try to stand out. Remember there are lots of other students applying, so make sure you can show that you are different from everybody else and be controversial in a good way.


  1. Be careful with humor. Being funny can be good in certain situations, but you do not know the admissions officer and therefore do not know how they will respond. Only use humor if it’s necessary; then double-think it.


  1. Proofread. Make sure you proofread and edit your essay, instead of simply handing it in after a quick spell-check. Let others give you a second opinion, for example, a teacher or parent. After you’ve made some corrections and gotten feedback, do not be scared to make multiple revisions of the work.

College Application Essay Examples

Although not all students realize it, looking at well-written samples of papers prior to writing can be helpful in many ways. From clear samples, you can better grasp the overall purpose of the task, understand the formatting and style peculiarities, and even find inspiration to generate some fresh ideas for your own paper. Hence, checking out a good college admission essay sample will never hurt!

For you, we have prepared a few excellent examples of college application essays:

(ref: https://apply.jhu.edu/application-process/essays-that-worked/

Create Your Flawless Admission Essay

Wrapping up everything discussed in our step-by-step writing guide, let’s once more recap some of the most important tips.

College Admission Essay Do’s


  • Start early on
  • Carefully read the requirements and prompts
  • Keep your essay concise and straight to the point
  • Choose a topic that best reveals your personality
  • Make an outline before writing
  • Check out good college admission essay examples to get inspired
  • Have a powerful opening with a hook
  • Use lots of details, facts, and examples to support your ideas
  • Proofread and edit your essay before the submission
  • Be yourself

College Admission Essay Don’ts

  • Make it too long
  • Write down your complete autobiography
  • Repeat yourself
  • Tell admissions officers what you think they want to hear
  • Over-embellish your accomplishments
  • Wait until the last minute.

Looking for Expert Help?

If after reading our detailed guide and looking at a good college admissions essay sample you still feel that you need some extra help with your college admission essay, then you’ve come to the right place!

Studying at college is never easy. Being a student, you’ll have to write a variety of academic papers, including admission essay, case study, research paper, etc. However, while there are tons of academic papers to handle, the solution is always the same.

DoMyEssay is here to make your studies simple.

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