How To Write A College Essay

College essays can be one of the toughest parts of the college application process for high school students.  Why?  Because a lot of students just don’t know how to write a college essay.

A college essay is simply a student’s effort to explain their perspective in a clear, informative, and interesting manner.  In this post, I’ll review how to write a college essay using 10 easy to follow steps.

Step 1 – What are the Requirements? The first step in completing your college essay is figuring out what the requirements are…in other words, read the instructions!  Here is a preliminary list of things that you have to figure out before you get started:

  • What’s the essay topic?
  • How long should the essay be?
  • Does the essay have to be written in any particular format?

Step 2 – Select a Topic. Usually the college will select a topic for you, but if they don’t, you should try to choose a topic that really interests you.  This will make the essay a lot easier to write.  Take some time to brainstorm about various topics.  If you need help, check out my college essay topics posting for more ideas on how to write a college essay…

Step 3 – Gather Information. Whatever topic you decide to write about, you’ll need information to support your ideas.  For example, if you’re writing about a role model, start brainstorming about what makes this person such a excellent role model or if you’re writing about an obstacle that was tough to overcome, try brainstorming about what made the obstacle so difficult and why you’re a better person because of it.  Your ultimate goal when figuring out how to write a college essay is to make the essay as compelling to the reader as possible.

Step 4 – Determine the Format. Now that you’ve selected a topic and gathered information surrounding that topic, the next step is to organize that information into a logical format.  You should start by creating an outline.  An outline will help you organize your thoughts and add clarity to your essay.

Step 5 – Start Writing. Come up with three or more main points from your outline that supports your main topic.  Each point should be further supported by specific evidence, examples, or arguments.  This is where you should use your outline as a guide.  What details did you jot down under each main topic?  Make sure you’re presenting the information in full sentences and that you have a logical flow from one sentence to the next.

Avoid using general or blanket statements like: “Everyone in the world…”  Also, try not to use ‘I statements’ like: “I think…”  For example, instead of writing, “I think Freud is the best because…” demonstrate to your reader why the statement is true by writing, “Clearly Freud is the best because…”  These are all things that you should consider when determining how to write a college essay.

Step 6 – Conclusions. Your conclusion should broadly summarize what you discussed in your essay.  Your conclusion is NOT the place where you should introduce new topics or information.  A lot of students make this mistake when they are trying to figure out how to write a college essay.  Instead, you should only be reiterating what you already discussed.

Step 7 – Revisit Introduction. Now that you’ve completed the essay, you’re in a better position to make sure that you have a captivating introduction.  Your goal is to tell your reader what they’re getting into in an interesting manner.  Avoid using statements like…”This essay is about…” or “The topic of this essay is…” or “In this essay I’m going to discuss…”

Instead, try using general statement to entice your reader.  For example, “Stop! Take a moment to think about a person who’s had the greatest influence over your life” or “Every year, thousands of animals end up in shelters, unwanted and many times abused.”  This is how to write a college essay that grabs your reader’s attention from the very beginning.

Step 8 – Evaluate the Flow. Don’t worry about typos or grammatical errors during this step; instead, the point of this process is to read your essay from start to finish to see how it flows.  Does each sentence flow from one to the next?  Does each paragraph flow logically from one to the next?  Carefully evaluate each sentence; each one should be related to the one before it.  This is how to write a college essay that flows seamlessly from one sentence to the next.

Step 9 – Make Revisions. Based on what you learned from step 8, determine if you need to make any revisions.  Sometimes a college essay just doesn’t turn out as planned, and that’s okay…just take your time and make the necessary changes.  The most important thing is to make sure that you’re ultimately happy with the way the essay is presented.  Once you’re happy with the body of the essay, double check the introduction and conclusion to make sure that they still make sense.

Step 10 – Proofread. Now is the time to check for spelling and grammar errors.  If you’re using Microsoft Word, then be sure to use the “spell check” function, however keep in mind that it only checks to see if a word is misspelled.  You’ll have to carefully read your essay to identify grammatical errors.  This is one of the most important steps that you must follow when figuring out how to write a college essay.

It’s also a good idea to have someone else proofread your college essay.  Oftentimes, it can be difficult to catch spelling and grammatical errors after you’ve read the same essay multiple times.  A fresh set of eyes can help with this problem.

This is how to write a college essay.  If you follow the 10 steps listed above, then you should have no problem with writing your college essay and getting into the college of your choice.  For more information on how to write a college essay, visit my post entitled: college admissions essay.

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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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