College essay writing tips from a high school senior


Caroline Kelly, Copy Editor

As college application season for the class of 2022 comes to an end, it would be remiss of me, as a senior, to ignore the countless hours that we all spent to craft the perfect Common App and supplemental essays. Whereas we obsess about correctly answering “the perfect way to eat a potato” (shoutout Pomona College!) or the “theme song to your life” (thanks USC!), college admissions officers spend less than fifteen minutes on each application as a whole. Thus, it is important to ensure that readers understand you as a person from the content of your essays. Here are five essay writing tips for those of you embarking on your college application journey. 

1. Be genuine. Use YOUR voice.

It is important to remember that the essays are a way for college admissions officers to get to know you! You don’t have to try to impress the reader with flowery language or random words that you find on Insert jokes or specific details about your experiences, so that the reader can see you as a person beyond the black and white statistics on the pages in front of them.

2. Don’t wander. Answer the question. 

Most college essay prompts are broad, asking you to write about lessons that you have learned or the experiences that have shaped the person you are today. With big questions and a small word count, it is tempting to try and fit in as much information about as many different areas of your life as possible. However, you need to make sure that you find a point in your essay that directly addresses the prompt. Writing focused essays will also allow you to dive deeper into certain interests, instead of just grazing the surface of multiple topics. 

3. Less is more.

Word limit guidelines often get misconstrued as word limit requirements. It is easy to fall into the mentality that you need to reach an exact word count with your college essays. College admissions officers do not have a long attention span. Repetition will take away from the content of your essay. 

4. Tell a story

If you are writing about something that you experienced, bring yourself back to that moment: what were you sensing, thinking, and feeling? By putting the reader in your shoes and allowing them to understand everything you were processing, the college admissions officers will relate to and become more engaged with your writing. Let your personality and humor shine through. 

5. Have multiple people read your essays before they are submitted

It is important to receive multiple rounds of feedback from different perspectives on your college essays’ content, structure, and grammar before they are submitted. Brutal comments from loved ones or close friends can spark some of the most valuable changes to your essays; people who know you well will want to ensure that the you in real life transfers to the you that is portrayed in your writing. 

The college essay writing process may appear daunting due to the amount of essays and drafts necessary. However, once you get started, you will realize that a lot of the prompts overlap; some of your essays will become a puzzle, piecing together sections of various essays to meet a certain prompt. The most important part is to make sure that your essays are essentially you jumping off the page. 

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