Five Tips for Writing your College Essays

Author: Patrick Smart

It’s finally August. The college admissions process that seemed so distant throughout most of your high school experience has finally arrived for many of you. The mixed feelings of excitement and dread of beginning applications have set in, and you are about to begin this process while simultaneously balancing the tremendous amount of effort you put into academic, social, and extracurricular activities.

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One of the most daunting and essential aspects of the college admissions process is the College Essays. From my experience, I can confidently say that I believe college essays are one of the most determining factors in the schools I was accepted to. I was more often accepted for universities I put more effort and time into their respective essays.

Knowing how important these essays are, I thought I would provide some tips on how to write your college essays best.


Read Essays Available Online

While all college essays sound very different in terms of content, there are a lot of similarities in the style excellent college essays are written. I highly recommend doing a search through the internet to read as many as essays as possible. See what patterns you see in the essays. For example, in essays about the extracurriculars you were involved with in high school, many essays might talk about extracurricular activities that you want to be involved with at the college you are applying to. You have these online, free resources to spark your creativity and elevate the style in which you write your essays; of course, never copy or plagiarize. Nevertheless, reading the essays of others might spark an idea for your own essays, in your own unique voice and style.


You don’t have to have fixed every world problem to be impressive

One issue you can run into when reading College Essays online is feeling overwhelmed by the content of other individuals' essays (not everyone should be expected to broker world peace or contribute to a cancer cure in high school). I would recommend making a list of all the important aspects of your life that have occurred over the 4-5 years. This could be anything from being on the soccer team, working at Starbucks, hearing an amazing scientist who spoke to your high school, the time you moved in 8th grade, that family trip you took to the Utah National Parks, anything really. Look through this list and try to see if any patterns emerge. You may have done a million different things in high school, but there is probably more consistency than you expected. Maybe your teammate’s concussion before a soccer game got you interested in the science of brain injuries more than you realized, maybe your love for doing stage-crew in your high school’s theater program sparked your interest in pursuing an engineering degree in college. You don’t have to have necessarily worked in a doctor’s office your whole life to want to be a doctor. Sometimes the more unique narratives are the most compelling!


Look to the future

College might seem like a long time, but in reality it is just a short step in your future career path. When a university chooses to accept you, they are choosing to accept you not only for what you will accomplish in four years, but forty years. Be ambitious! Show universities that their investment in you (through your acceptance) will help better their university and the world. I remember I wrote an essay on the importance of humanities education in a post-artificial intelligence world. I think this essay showed that I was thinking about the future and wanting to apply what I would learn in college to tackle these urgent future problems.


Write in your voice

I think the phrase “Be Yourself” often can be a bit over-saturated, but it still has a lot of truth to it. Every applicant has a unique personality that can add a bit of flavor to your essays. This doesn’t mean you need to crack 50 jokes in an essay or name-drop a bunch of books you like to show you have a personality, but the voice you write in should feel like an authentic version of yourself. For example, for one school, I remember writing an essay about how Stan Twitter (the obsessive fandom side of Twitter) could be related to modern American political demagoguery. It’s a small thing (I was quite active on Stan Twitter at the time), but it’s an experience that was authentic to me. It connected my personality to my academic interests and also showed that my academic interests were not my entire personality (important).


Get people to read your essays over

This piece of advice I know can be difficult for many people, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to have others read your essays. Do not be afraid to ask teachers at your school, talk to extended family members, or even DM some older friends on Instagram who are already in college and ask if they have 10 minutes to look an essay over. Having an extra set of eyes on your essay can make a huge difference and improve the quality of your work. Better to have a set of friendly eyes on your essay than the first read over by an admissions officer

I hope these essay tips help! My last piece of advice would be to get started on these essays as soon as possible. Things are going to get busy as the fall kicks into full swing!