The Five Best College Essay Tips


College admissions officers want to get to know you; that is the purpose of the essay. So, most important, make sure the essay is about you. Even if the essay prompt is about someone you admire, write about why your own personality traits or values make you look up to or connect with that person. The essay should say more about you than about Grandma or your favorite figure from history.

Naturally, make sure your essay is about your most positive attributes. You can write about a negative experience or challenge, but be sure to emphasize the lesson you learned, how you changed as a result, or how you overcame obstacles. 


A very important college essay tip is to write in your own voice. Again, admissions officers want to understand who you are, what makes you tick, and so they need to hear you. Use a casual style, as if you were talking to a friend. Of course, the essay must be well structured, with a beginning, middle and end. It must be crystal clear, with smooth transitions. Edit, edit, edit for grammar and punctuation. Ask a parent or counselor to read your essay for editing purposes, but don’t let anyone change your voice. Your essay must sound like you!

Above all, answer the question. That may sound obvious, but it requires keen attention. Carefully analyze the question to make sure your essay hits on all cylinders and is fully responsive.


Reflect on your best qualities and then think of a time when you applied those qualities. What  can you share about how you solved a problem, made an improvement, came to a realization, or simply grew? Your very own stories make perfect essay topics, especially when they demonstrate your character, and special talents. 

Before beginning your essay, make a list of your best traits. Then think about something you did or that happened to you that demonstrates those traits. Showing rather than telling is the key. Writing about the time you fell off your horse during a horse show and got right back up and continued competing is much more compelling than just saying you are perseverant. Demonstrate it!


Open your essay with action, the exciting part of your story. Admissions officers spend countless hours reading essays; their eyes glaze over easily. Your opening needs to entice them to continue reading. Dialogue, or opening with a question, can be very effective. Be astonishing, and intriguing! 


My final college essay tip is to illustrate the many facets of who you are by structuring the application effectively. Don’t repeat information in the essay that is covered in other parts of your application. Admissions officers have your transcript and will read the activity section. What else is meaningful to you, and says something about you? What experiences have been significant?  How have you grown and changed?  What life lessons have you learned? What makes you you?

For help with your essay, contact Beth today at (203) 454-4543.

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