College Entrance Essays

Okay, so you’ve figured out what colleges you want to apply for and you have all the applications in hand.  Now it’s time to write those dreaded college entrance essays.  Where do I even start?

Here are the steps that you should take to write your college entrance essays.

A.    Familiarize yourself with the essay questions.  Skim each application carefully and make a list of all the essay questions.  Why should I do this?  This will help get you familiar with what each school is asking you.  You can’t write an essay without completely understanding the questions, right?

This will also help you identify similarities between essay questions.  Maybe two of the schools you’re applying to are asking the same or similar essay questions.  Great, now maybe you can use the same essay and just modify it a little bit to answer each school’s respective questions.

B.    Brainstorm.  Give yourself a week or two to just brainstorm ideas for your essay.  This may seem like a rather lengthy process, but it’s worth it!  During this process, just write down everything that comes to mind when you think about that combined list of essay questions.  Don’t erase anything.  The goal of brainstorming is just to start developing ideas.

If you’re having a hard time with the brainstorming session, here is a list of questions for you to think about:

  • What are some of your major accomplishments and why?
  • What is your favorite book, movie, work of art?  Why? Have any one of these had a significant influence on your life?
  •  What’s your favorite extracurricular or community service activity?  Why?
  •  Can you think of one person who’s had a major impact on your life?  Who are they and what type of impact did they have?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years from now?  Why?

C.    Create an outline.  Once you have a topic for your first essay, then create an outline.  An outline is a great way to organize your ideas.  Don’t worry, the outline doesn’t have to be perfect.  The point of this exercise is to get you to start thinking about how to format your essay. 

D.    Write a Rough Draft.  Once you have an outline, start writing a rough draft of the essay.  Keep in mind that this is only a rough draft.  Similar to the outline, it does not have to be perfect.  Just follow your outline, and flesh out your ideas in an organized manner.  Once you’ve completed your first draft, put your essay away and come back to it in a few days.  Your brain needs some time to recuperate.  When you come back to the essay in a few days, you’ll be able to review the essay with a completely different set of eyes.  You’ll be surprised at all the errors you’ll catch and the information that you’ll want to add. 

E.     Get Input.  It’s important to have someone else review your essays. Preferably multiple people.  These should be people that you trust, who will give you their open and honest opinion (i.e. family, close friends, counselors, mentors, teachers, work supervisors, etc.).  Ask them to review the essay for spelling, punctuation, grammar errors, and flow.  Also have them tell you how well  it answers the question being asked. 

F.     Final Version.  Once you’ve gathered input from those that you trust, it’s time to create the final version.  After you’ve reviewed everyone’s comments, notes, etc., you may decide that you don’t want to include everyone’s suggestions.  That’s okay.  Remember what they are…suggestions.  At the end of the day, this is your essay.  Once you’ve completed the final version, take a read through it one last time.  You can never be too anal when it comes to completing your college entrance essays. 

To view some sample college admissions essays, check out these posts:

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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