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Get to the point! Six steps to writing your college application essays

college essay topics common application essay essay essay prompts
Get to the point! Six steps to writing your college application essays


Your college application essay is your chance to let the Admissions Office get to know you. Take this opportunity to consider what you want them to know about you.

1. Get started.

Review your application. Do your activities, classes, and accomplishments point to a specific trait, commitment, or special interest? Does your application beg any questions? Do a bit of Identity Development: Who am I? What is important to me?

2. Key message statement.

After reviewing your application and reading your essays, the admissions officer says, “WOW! This student sure is __________________________."

3. Brainstorm.

For ten minutes, write everything that comes to your mind about your Key Message Statement. What events in your life demonstrate the message you want to communicate? Is there an influential person who has greatly impacted you who is connected to your Key Message Statement? Do you have a collection, hobby, or community service activity that defines you? How do your dreams and aspirations fit into your Key Message Statement?

4. Examine the prompts.

Once you know what message you want to convey to the essay readers, you are ready to read the prompts. No matter what kind of essay you are asked to write - creative, factual, thought-provoking, etc. - you must make sure your Key Message Statement is loud and clear. Answer each prompt to showcase your strengths, talents, and goals. Also, look for essays that ask similar questions. With careful planning, you can shrink the number of essays you have to write — remember not to use another college’s name in each prompt you write.

5. Write your first draft.

Your essay's first sentence or introduction is often considered the most important. It is the first impression you will make on the reader. Strategize how to launch your essay to really grab the reader’s attention. Consider starting your essay in the middle of a story, or pose an intriguing question. My introduction options:

6. Refine your essay.

Take a long break from your essay, then come back and refine it.  Review your essay after your break and check the following:

  3. FLOW
  5. VOICE

Ask three people to read your essays to see if they can accurately guess your Key Message Statement.

 Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash