As college applications start to approach, you’re probably finding yourself more concerned about what it is you will need to do for the college essay. It is, after all, the best opportunity you have to separate yourself from other applicants by showing why you should be seriously considered for a specific school or program. It’s unlike any other essay assignment in that it is a personal piece and is designed to complement your grades and test scores by bringing the human element to the evaluation process.
Most college essays are only between 250 – 500 words, so there is little room for error. But despite its short length, you shouldn’t leave it until the last minute. You should plan on spending at least a few weeks to adequately brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, and proofread the essay adequately if you want to be considered a serious applicant. Here’s what you need to know:
- Read the college essay prompts carefully.
Colleges often provide applicants with 8 – 10 questions of varying length to choose from. It’s important that read each one very carefully and that you highlight keywords that tell you precisely what it is admissions is looking for. Some may seem harder than others, so stick with what you can manage given the application deadline.
- Select two or three options that interest you.
Ideally, you should be able to pick out at least two or three essay prompts that interest you. This is good because the more intrigued you are about a topic or the more you feel compelled to communicate something about yourself within the context of the prompt, the more your enthusiasm and dedication will come through in your writing.
- Write the first draft with plenty of descriptions.
The college essay follows much of the same rules as a narrative or descriptive essay. You should paint a picture in the reader’s mind, and the easiest way to do so is by using plenty of vivid images. Engage all of the senses and let the topic come to life. This is only a draft at this point, so you don’t have to worry about writing perfectly. Write in short or long sentences. Vary your words and don’t be afraid to use a dictionary or thesaurus as long as it doesn’t slow you down.
- Start making your revisions for effectiveness.
Set your college essay aside for a couple of days. This will allow you to clear your head and address other responsibilities that may be distracting you from the application process. When you return to the essay you will be able to rethink and restructure the content more efficiently. This is an essential part of the writing process, so allow it enough time to be effective.
- Always edit, edit, proofread, and proofread.
Finally, don’t forget to edit and proofread. Don’t just do this once; do this a few times until you are 100% satisfied with word choice, sentence structure, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. If you start early enough you can usually ask a college advisor, a teacher, or a parent to review and critique your college essay. Don’t hesitate to take the help, every bit of it improves your chances.
If you believe you need more help, consider hiring a professional academic writer. You will have the opportunity to select a professional with experience writing these types of essays and can work with you one-on-one to craft an excellent written piece that is sure to have a positive impact on the admissions review committee.