How to Write the College Essay

As anyone who has ever attempted to write an essay knows, the hardest part is always the first sentence. However, when writing your college application essays, the difficulty often does not stop there. The essays for the common application may seem trite and cliché to many students, which makes them nearly impossible to write about. Furthermore, it is incredibly difficult to write an essay that highlights your attributes without sounding feverishly self-promoting. For some schools, the supplemental essays can be even more challenging, with prompts that seem obscure or overly complex. No matter what the topic, there are a few valuable tips for mastering the college essay that can help any struggling writer.

The most important aspect of the writing process is picking a topic. To begin with, it is important that the story be true. It is almost impossible to create genuineness out of a fabricated story. Choose a story that shows improvement or perseverance, even if you have to admit to being sub-par to begin with. It is exponentially more impressive to see upward trend than stagnation. Secondly, choose a topic that demonstrates your character; while great achievement is always impressive, great achievement in the midst of strong values and ethics is more impressive. For instance, use an example in which you were forced to make a choice and show how your decision reflected your morals and priorities. However, it is worth noting that a great deal of the value of the essay is based on writing style and ability: no one assumes that people around age seventeen have had a plethora of life-altering encounters. Thus, it is certainly possible to make up for a less than flamboyant and awesome story with your ability to artfully recount the story.

The next important consideration in drafting the college essay is length. There truly is skill in conciseness. The guidelines for the common application ask for two essays totaling no more than one thousand words between them; that means stick to approximately five hundred words per essay. If you use the majority of your word allowance on one essay, you may end up shortchanging the other. Conversely, using too many words on an essay may become redundant. Part of the limitation is about showing that you can tell a brilliant story in a small number of words. Anyone can tell a story with unlimited space; it takes much greater skill to tell it quickly by choosing your words wisely.

Lastly, it is important to meticulously edit your paper. Grammatical mistakes can take a beautiful essay and reduce it to an unsavory mess. You should pay careful attention to structure and mechanics whenever writing an essay.

The college application process can be intimidating and scary for many students. However, with some simple planning, it can prove an easy task. When you get stuck, walk away for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes. If you follow these steps, you will be on your way to a great essay!

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