Your college essays are an important part of the college application process. While most of your application is clear-cut, the essay is one of the only places you can showcase your unique personality, goals, and passion for the college.
Some colleges have specific prompts, and others ask you to describe your story. Whatever the topic, be yourself, speak in your voice, and don’t try to cram a bunch of words from the thesaurus. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Start early
First, list all the essays you need to write and their deadlines. We recommend starting this list in the spring of your junior year or the summer before your senior year. This will give you plenty of time to think through the prompts and brainstorm writing points!
2. Create an outline
Think about each topic and how it might relate to your background or a specific experience in your life. Rather than trying to fit your entire life story into the essay, think about a simple event or piece of your childhood that gives the reader thoughtful insight into who you are as a person.
If you can’t decide on an angle, ask trusted friends or family what they think makes you stand out or what’s unique about your personality. Their answers might spark a new idea or get you thinking about the topics with a fresh perspective. Don’t worry about writing a polished essay yet. This is just a brainstorm of thoughts and potential ideas.
3. Read some examples
See if the colleges you’re applying to have essay examples on their websites. You will get a feel for the ways each college identifies exemplary work. If you can’t find any information on schools’ websites, search online for “sample college essays.” (But please do NOT plagiarize them!)
4. Edit, Review, and Edit Again!
After you’ve finished a draft of your essay, have someone you trust (a parent, counselor, or teacher) review it. They can check for grammar, spelling, and style errors. Limit the number of reviewers to one or two people because too many voices may muddle yours!
Remember, the real you isn’t perfect, so why would the person in your essay be perfect? Colleges want to see authentic, hopeful, and determined YOU!