College application essay: How to ace your College Application Essay

College Application Essay prep

Writing a college application essay can be stressful, especially if you are under the impression that it can make or break your dreams. The truth is, your college admission essay needs to breathe life into your entire application. It should accurately reflect your general personality, providing an explanation of who you really are beyond a set of grades, tests scores, and extra-curricular activities. The good news, however, is, with the right college application essay tips and help, acing your essay is not as scary as it may seem to be.

Factors that determine the importance of a college application essay.

While there is a general breakdown as to how important your college admission essay is, its actual influence will vary based on these factors:

  1. College type and size

Generally, public colleges tend to receive more admission applications than private colleges. These colleges also have limited resources with which to evaluate candidate applications. For instance, state colleges tend to screen candidates first using their GPA and test scores before reviewing the essay and extracurricular activities. At these colleges, your essay may not carry much weight, especially if your academics are strong. However, the more selective the college is, the more important your essay will be.

  1. Your profile’s strength

If you are an average candidate with good but less-competitive test scores and grades, you will need a strong essay to grant you a chance into the admission pool. However, your essay is less likely to boost your admission chances if your grades and test scores are way below average. If your profile is outstanding, with a high GPA, competitive test scores, and great extracurricular activities, then the essay may not have a huge impact on your overall application. However, it is still important that you aim to deliver a strong essay, especially if your dream college is highly selective.

  1. Your anticipated major

Taking into account your specific interests, talents, and anticipated major makes the importance of your college application essay even more nuanced. If you are hoping to enroll for a humanities subject like Creative Writing, Journalism, or English, and list writing-oriented extracurricular activities like a contribution to your high school newspaper on your application, then your college admission essay ought to reflect your talent and anticipated major. A poorly done essay may leave the admission office confused – and may wonder whether you are a right fit for the college.

Popular college application essays and how to respond to them

  1. An outline of your life and achievements

A resume is an effective method of showcasing your achievements. Unfortunately, they tend to be quite boring to read. But, a college application is essentially your resume, outlining your grades, test scores, and extra-curricular activities – which make your essay listing achievements completely redundant.

A better strategy would be to single out that one experience that stands out and write about how it has shaped you into the person you are today. This is particularly effective for an experience that would benefit from an additional explanation or one that has an interesting background. The idea is to present a cohesive essay that you can possibly come up with.

  1. Sports challenge, success, or injury

Coaches at every level are known to reiterate how the lessons learned on the pitch are critical for life. And these lessons and stories have featured in countless books and movies as well as college admission essays.

If you are going to write a college admission essay about sports, you are better off steering of these common topics:

  • Trusting teammates
  • Overcoming adversity
  • The thrill of victory
  • Refusing to give up
  • The pain of defeat

Here is an example:

Instead of writing about how your team trained and improved to defeat your rivals or win a championship, you should consider writing about a unique way the sports shaped your personality. Along a similar line, you could also write about discovering your motivation for playing the sport.

  1. Immigrant story

America is a nation of immigrants, and while not every student has an immigrant story, most of them so. Some of the immigrant stories commonly written about include:

  • Adapting to a new way of life
  • Learning a new language
  • Struggling to fit in
  • Adjusting to a new lifestyle

If you are an Asian student, you might want to avoid an immigrant-themed college admission essay as this topic often calls attention to one’s background. Rather, to make an immigrant admission essay work for you, consider making it extremely unique and as personal as possible. You may consider singling out a specific experience and writing about it. You can, for instance, write about your experience when you first landed in the U.S. Talk about the challenges you experienced traveling to work or school, and how it inspired your zeal to succeed.

  1. Tragedy – Death, abuse, and divorce

Tragedies shape personalities – which, naturally, make them a natural theme for college essays. However, most tragedy stories tend to focus on the tragedy itself rather than the applicant. The key to writing a college admission essay about a tragedy that is not cliché is to focus on the applicant. For a start, avoid over-used themes like, “life is short” and “make every day count.” Instead, highlight how the tragedy in question affected and shaped your persona. For instance, if you lost a family member to substance abuse, you can center your essay on your subsequent commitment to drug awareness and prevention programs and advocacy.

  1. Working hard in a challenging program

Well, this does not cut it for a college admission essay topic for a number of reasons. If you are seeking admission into a highly ranked college, then chances are everyone else went through tough classes and worked hard. And chances are they also faced multiple challenges and struggle to succeed.  

How to start a college application essay?

By now, it goes without saying that your college admission essay can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. Your essay should set you apart from other applicants. Here are college application essay tips that can help you realize this objective.

  1. Give yourself adequate time

You do not have to rush your college admission essay. Given that this is an important write-up, it is important that you give yourself at least one week to compose your admission essay.

  1. Start off with a template

When it comes to writing, a few things are as intimidating as a blank page. A template can give you a great starting point for your college admissions essay. You can find templates and sample essays online to help you figure out how to start your college admission essay. Templates can also be instrumental in helping you create a strong college admission essay format.

  1. Do some brainstorming

It is important that you brainstorm ideas before you begin writing your college admission essay. Chances are the college gave you a topic or a choice of topics to write about. It is important that you take time to carefully consider each topic. If you feel inclined to a specific topic, think about why you are inclined to it. Be sure to reflect on your life to find personal anecdotes that will work well with that topic.

  1. Highlight your personality

Unlike the other components of your application that are largely objective like your grades and test scores, a college application essay allows you to showcase what truly makes you stand out as a person and a student. It is important that you use your own voice and personal stories to highlight why you would be a great addition to the college community. Avoid the risk of sanitizing your essay and opinions for the risk of offending the admission panel.

  1. Avoid Thesaurus

Using words and terminology that you do not typically use in your daily interactions can sound both forced and awkward. Remember, words have nuance to them, and simply throwing in a word from the thesaurus can greatly ruin that nuance. Also, avoid overusing particular words in your essay.

  1. Polish up your spelling and grammar

Your college admission essay should be a reflection of your authentic speaking voice. However, this is not to say that you can write is like you do long, unpunctuated text messages. There is really no excuse for poor grammar or spelling errors in your college admission essay. Upon completing your essay, be sure to go over it for any grammar or spelling errors. It is ok to get a get a third party to read through and edit your essay.

  1. Share an authentic personal story

Sharing a personal story that is relevant to your topic is a great way to make your college admission essay stand out from the crowd. And your story does not have to be strictly academic. College admission officer cares about your complete persona, not simply the academic aspect of your life. However, keep in mind that your story exists to serve your topic; so be sure to avoid telling a story just for the sake of it. Leave out elements that are irrelevant to the essay. Do not be afraid to use a failure in your story if you can explain how you drew lessons from it.

  1. Cite specific examples

As a writer, you are supposed to show, not tell. And simply explaining that you are a right fit for an admission is not convincing enough. Anyone can make the same claim as you as long as there is no need for evidence to back up their claims. For stance, stating that you believe in hard work is a cheap claim that thousands of politicians make all the time. To demonstrate your belief in hard work, share a specific story that demonstrates how you took on an otherwise insurmountable task and excelled in it.

  1. Always keep it honest

While creativity is important as far as writing your college admission essay go, it is important that you avoid being “creative” with facts. Never exaggerates your accomplishments to appear better. And while you do not have to list a long list of failures and shortcomings, acknowledging your weaknesses and misjudgments can greatly demonstrate your authenticity and present you as credible. The college admission board is does not expect you to be perfect, so do not make your admission essay unbelievable to claim you are.

  1. Ask for help…but do not let someone else write your college admission essay

Getting additional pairs of eyes to read through your college admission essay is the one of the best forms of college admission essay help you can seek. Ask your proofreaders to look out for spelling and grammar errors as well as areas that may need further detailing or redaction. Your parent or teacher is great candidates for this task. You can also solicit the help of online test prep companies like The Princeton Review, Magoosh, or Prep Expert.

That said, it is important to understand that your college admission essay is a unique reflection of your personality. Even if you have a gifted writer within your circle, do not let them write your essay on your behalf. There is no better way of conveying who you are than by your own words. Besides, having someone else write your college admission essay for you can earn you an automatic disqualification.


 A college admission essay is an extremely important component of the college admission process. And while there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to college admission essay tips, certain factors may impact your essay’s influence. Online essay tutors have what it takes to master the skills you need to craft the best essay and earn admission to the college of your dream! Sign up for a test and essay prep now and get started on your college admission journey.

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