3 Secrets to Writing A Great College Essay

I’ll never forget writing my college entrance essay.  Sat in front of the family computer in my kitchen, literally at a loss for words.

I could hardly make it through trigonometry during my senior year of high school, how was I supposed to impress the people at the office of admissions at an actual university?  It seemed daunting.  It seemed next to impossible.  I felt like I was out of my league.

Well, with time I was able to eventually write my essay and was accepted for enrollment.  If you find yourself struggling to write an essay for your college application, don’t worry.  There are three main points you should keep in mind while writing your essay.

Be Personable

A common mistake for students writing college essays is trying to sound too academic.  That’s understandable, you want to show the world of higher education that you belong.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it becomes a problem when your essay reads as clinical and impersonal.

The point of writing a college entrance essay is to show the college that you are a worthy addition to their student body.  Show them who you are.  Don’t be afraid to use personal voice.  If you’re writing about something that happened to you, don’t just describe the event.  Go a little deeper.  How did it make you feel?  The reader should be able to picture themselves in your shoes.

Humor is also an excellent way to inject some personality into your college essay.  Self-deprecating humor shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously.  The occasional well-placed pun shows that you have wit.

Giving your essay personality can be a bit of a tightrope act.  Your essay should be personable, but it shouldn’t read like a letter to your best friend.  At the end of the day your audience has the power to decide whether you get into their school or not.  Balance is key.

Be Focused

Unless you’ve been given a prompt, it can be tough to decide on a subject or theme for your college application essay.  It’s easy to feel lost when you’re not given any type of direction to go in.

Whatever you choose to write your essay about,  the idea should be original.  That’s not to say it has to be the most one-of-a-kind tale ever told, but the reader should walk away with a decent idea of what kind of person you are.

The college experience is a time of great personal growth.  Colleges love to see people who are not afraid of change and welcome any experience with an open mind.  By showing them that you are a person open to growth and change in your essay, you are increasing your chances of getting in greatly.  The thing is, just about everybody is that kind of person, it might just takes some self-reflection to find your proof.

Think back on your life.  There are probably a lot of personal experiences that come to mind that seem so vivid that they might have happened yesterday.  These tend to be the moments that have helped you grow in some way, whether it be overcoming adversity, dealing with loss, or a major achievement.  These are the kinds of moments that you should consider writing your college essay about.  Think about how you felt before whichever experience you choose took place.  Think about your feelings during and after the experience.  You’re likely to see some changes that helped mold you into the person you are today.  Consider picking an experience that is meaningful to you and writing about that.


You could write the most inspiring essay that has ever graced the Earth and it would be wasted on your college’s admissions office if you didn’t take the time to proofread.

While it’s true that the content of your essay shouldn’t come off as too academic, you can never be too academic when it comes to grammar, punctuation, and spelling.  Take this opportunity to utilize all the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the many years of English class.  Are you confusing the various forms of “you”?  Did you put an “its” where there should have been an “it’s”?  These are all too common mistakes, no matter what grade you’re in.  Look over your essay and make sure your paragraphs are neither too long or too short.  Double check for run-on sentences or sentence fragments.  Nobody gets it right on the first try.

After you’re done proofreading the essay yourself, take advantage of your resources.  Bring it to school and have it looked over by your teachers or guidance counselors.  Show it to your parents or an older sibling.  A fresh set of eyes never hurt anyone in writing an essay.

Proofreading is an absolutely essential part of writing your college essay.  If you’re looking to send your application off right after finishing your essay, there’s something wrong.  Always proofread.

Should you find yourself at a loss for words at a computer, wondering how in the world you’re going to write your college entrance essay, don’t fear.  Just remember the three main points:  personality, focus, and proofreading.  I think you’ll find it’s easier than you think.

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John Rademaker

John Rademaker

John Rademaker is a junior at the University of Dayton pursuing a degree in Electronic Media. At school he enjoys playing guitar, watching movies, and working at the campus radio station. Away from school he can be found exploring his hometown, spending time with his family, and listening to music.
John Rademaker

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