Now that school is over, high school students are ready to slow down and get some rest, and while that is perfect to reset and refresh, don’t forget that Summer gives you plenty of time to start college applications and, more specifically, college essays. As a college admissions counselor, I have helped numerous students create compelling essays that stand out. From brainstorming techniques to editing strategies, I will share how to create a memorable and impactful essay that showcases your unique qualities and sets you apart from other applicants.
Understanding the College Essay Prompt
The first step in writing a winning college essay is understanding the prompt. The essay prompt is the question you are required to address in your essay. Reading and understanding the prompt carefully is important, as it will guide your essay writing process.
When reading the prompt, ask yourself what the college is looking for in your essay. What qualities or experiences do they want to see in you? Think about how you can highlight these qualities in your essay. Consider the tone and style of the prompt. Is it formal or informal? What is the word limit?
Once you understand the prompt, brainstorming ideas for your essay will be easier.
Brainstorming Ideas for Your College Essay
Brainstorming is a crucial step in writing a winning college essay. It is the process of generating and organizing ideas for your essay. When brainstorming, it is important to keep the essay prompt in mind, as your ideas should be relevant to the prompt.
One effective way of brainstorming is through freewriting. That is, writing down everything that comes to mind without worrying about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. The exercise lets your thoughts flow freely and generate ideas without judgment. Set a timer for 20 minutes, start answering the prompt, and once the timer goes off, identify any ideas that stand out to you.
Another effective way of brainstorming is through mind mapping. Start with the prompt in the center of a blank page and write down any related ideas around it. Connect these ideas with lines or arrows to show how they are related.
Whichever method you choose, jot down any ideas that come to mind, even if they initially seem silly or irrelevant. You never know when an idea can turn into an excellent essay topic.
Developing Your Main Points and Supporting Details
Once you have generated ideas for your essay, developing your main points and supporting details is time. Your main points should be the central ideas of your essay, and your supporting details should provide evidence and examples to support these ideas.
Consider the following questions when developing your main points: What is your essay’s central message or theme? What are the key experiences or qualities you want to highlight? How can you connect these experiences or qualities to the college’s values or mission?
Once you have identified your main points, use your supporting details to provide evidence and examples that support these points. Your supporting details should be specific and relevant to your main points. They should also be organized logically and coherently.
Adding Personality and Voice to Your College Essay
A good way to make your college essay stand out is by adding personality and voice. Your essay should mirror who you are while being engaging and exciting to read.
To add personality and voice, consider the following tips:
- Use anecdotes.
- Use descriptive language.
- Write in your voice.
Editing and Revising Your College Essay
Once you have written your first draft, editing and revising your essay is important. Editing and revising will help you refine your ideas, improve your writing, and ensure your essay is error-free.
When editing and revising, consider the following tips:
- Read your essay out loud.
- Proofread your essay using a spelling and grammar checker.
- Get feedback from others. It can be a teacher, parent, or friend. Ask them to read your essay and provide constructive feedback.
Tips for Submitting a Standout College Essay
Submitting a standout college essay requires more than just good writing. It also requires attention to detail and following the guidelines provided by the college. Here are some tips for submitting a standout college essay:
- Follow the word limit provided by the college. Most colleges have a word limit for their essays, and exceeding this limit can hurt your chances of acceptance.
- Proofread your essay.
- Submit your essay on time. The college may not consider late submissions.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in College Essay Writing
Typically, students make these common mistakes, pay attention and avoid them as much as possible:
- Using cliches or overused phrases.
- Focusing too much on achievements or accomplishments without providing personal context.
- Writing a generic essay that could apply to any college.
- Exceeding the word limit provided by the college.
Conclusion: The Importance of Starting Early and Seeking Feedback
In conclusion, writing a winning college essay requires careful planning, brainstorming, and editing. Understanding the essay prompt, generating ideas, developing your main points and supporting details, adding personality and voice, and editing and revising your essay are important. Following the guidelines provided by the college and avoiding common mistakes can also help you stand out from other applicants.
Starting early and seeking feedback from others can also greatly improve your essay. Give yourself ample time to brainstorm, write, and revise your essay. And don’t be afraid to seek feedback from teachers, parents, or friends. Their input can help you refine your ideas and improve your writing.