How to Write an Awesome College Essay: Make Admissions Sit Up & Take Notice!

Writing an Awesome College Application Essay: Here's What you Need to Know

You know that essay you just spent weeks and weeks perfecting? The edits, the revisions, the conversations with your guidance counselor and / or English teacher regarding the very best techniques to use in order to make your college essay the best of the best?  

Well, sad to say that although you put in hours of effort, it is very likely that the admissions officer who reviews your application will spent about five minutes reading your essay. Yes, five minutes is it!  

Not to worry, though. Although admissions officers cannot dedicate hours of time to reading essays, they do know exactly what to look for.

If your essay has the ability to catch their eye and make them sit up and take notice, then you have done a good job!  Read on for some tips and techniques to make certain your college essay earns an A+!

If you like learning, say it!

Right off the bat, it is important to back up your transcript with words and insights about your learning likes and dislikes. Explain what subjects appeal to you and why and how your love of those specific areas will benefit you in the college setting. 

How are you going to apply what you have already learned? How will you take it one step further? What educational benefits do you, as a student, offer the particular college or university? How will your mind make their school a better place? This is the chance to sell yourself and market yourself well. Toot your own horn and talk about just how smart you are!

Choose your words… carefully!

You want to sound intelligent, but you do not want to sound like a walking dictionary.

Admissions officers are well aware of how to use a thesaurus to change words within an essay and if too many “interesting” word choices pop up in your essay, they may begin to suspect that your writing style in this instance is a bit more formal than the writing you produce on a daily basis. Don’t send up warning flags by using too many SAT level words. 

Leave the SAT words for the actual SAT! Now, this is the time to use your own words, your own style of writing and to let your unique personality shine through. 

Make it personal!

The essay is your chance to stand out and showcase your personality in a way that your application cannot. The application is like the staple of a recipe and your essay is the spice and seasoning.

This is not a place for “just the facts” or for summarizing your impressive high school achievements. Your application and transcript have already spoken for you in those areas. Tell a personal story; write for you, not for them. Let the admissions officer know what makes you who you are. 

Don’t talk about your winning baseball record, talk about how your dad instilled a love of the game in you when you were four years old.  Don’t list all the leads you’ve had in high school musicals, discuss the part you wanted more than anything but did not get. How did you grow from that experience?  

Focus on what made you stronger, tougher, and more resilient during your high school career. That shows that you have the strength of character to cut it in college!

Follow directions… it’s important!

If the essay comes with specific directions make sure you follow them. Nothing is worse than having written a great essay, but only enclosing one copy when the directions asked for three, or writing in hand when they asked for it to be typed. 

This may seem minor to you, but it is a major faux paus for college admissions officers. Think about it from their perspective: if you cannot take the time to read and follow their directions, what else might you not bother to follow directions for? Your exams, dorm regulations, campus policies? 

It sends the message that you are above the rules if you do not follow the directions, and once that message is sent, it cannot be retracted.

These steps sound basic and easy, but there is no hidden trick to unlocking the secret of the college essay. Common sense and an interesting story to tell are what you need to succeed!

Good luck and happy writing! 

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