Tips for Writing College Essays

We all have to do them at some point. Yes it is possible to go to a good school without one, like Cal Poly. But a lot of good schools do require a college essay. So get ready to write one.

I know it’s a pain, but if you use these tips for writing college essays, you will guarantee success.

It’s Not a Resume

This is the most common mistake students make when writing their college essays. They just list their accomplishments into an essay format. Colleges don’t want to see that, you’re already required to send them a resume.

Instead, what you need to do is tell a story as it relates to the prompt.

For instance, I wrote about my Eagle Project for my college essay. I described the exact process behind it, why I did what I did, how it made me feel, what I learned from it, etc.

Here’s how an example of how I shouldn’t write about my Eagle Project in a college essay:

“For my Eagle Project, I collected and donated used and new video games and DVDs to the Oakland Children’s Hospital where I implemented an organization system for them. This shows that I live by the Scout Law.”

This is how I should write it:

“One thing I learned from my Eagle Project was how to plan and implement a project. I had to a detailed, 44-page binder where I had to show every step of my project, from what directions I gave my volunteers to the exact flyers I was handing out.”

Concise and Precise

College essays have to be short. It varies per private school, but for the UCs, the two combined have to be 1000 words. At first this may sound easy, but trust me it’s not. It’s very difficult to get the two down to 1000 words.

The best way to do this is, as my AP Lit teacher told me, is to be precise and concise. Say what you want to say with in the least amount of words possible, and you have to use the best words to make your point.

One of the things I learned in my Newspaper class in high school is the word “that” is a very extraneous word. Take out the word “that” as much as possible and you’ll find it much easier to fit the essays into 1000 words.

Take out other extraneous words like “that”. Try to find words that can make your sentences more succinct. Go through your essay line-by-line and ask yourself if the sentence is needed to build onto your thesis. If not, delete it.


Proofread! Proofread! Proofread! You absolutely must look it over before you send it off. Look it over yourself, then have someone else look it over, since that someone else will probably catch mistakes that you might miss. Ask a parent, a friend, or even a teacher. My AP Lit teacher in my senior year of high school offered to look at our college essays and give us feedback on them.

Colleges will not be impressed if you misspell a simple word or forget to add in a word.

Put It in a Word Document

This may sound like a small point, but be sure to put in your essays in a Microsoft Word Document first. It’s a lot easier to edit your essays if you put them in Word first since you have spell check in Word.

Now you’re set to write that essay that will blow away any college. Get writing!

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Aaron Bandler

Aaron Bandler

Aaron Bandler is a sophomore at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo pursuing a Journalism major and an Economics minor. Aaron's main passion is politics. As a staunch conservative Republican, he advocates for conservatism every day of his life. Aaron is also an avid sports fan who passionately follows the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. Outside of sports and politics, Aaron enjoys playing guitar and listening to classic rock music like The Who and Led Zeppelin as well as hanging out with family and friends.
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