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College admissions

Course: college admissions   >   unit 4.

  • Writing a strong college admissions essay
  • Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes
  • Brainstorming tips for your college essay
  • How formal should the tone of your college essay be?
  • Taking your college essay to the next level
  • Sample essay 1 with admissions feedback
  • Sample essay 2 with admissions feedback
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a formative experience
  • Student story: Admissions essay about personal identity
  • Student story: Admissions essay about community impact
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a past mistake
  • Student story: Admissions essay about a meaningful poem

Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

Pose a question the reader wants answered, don't focus exclusively on the past, experiment with the unexpected, don't summarize, want to join the conversation.

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12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay

College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.

Pamela Reynolds

When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.

Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.

So, what does this mean for you?

Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.

A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.

A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.

Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.

Be Authentic

More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.

Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.

Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.

Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.

Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.

Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.

Grab the Reader From the Start

You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.

Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.

Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.

Focus on Deeper Themes

Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.

College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.

They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.

Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?

Show Don’t Tell

As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.

The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.

Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.

Try Doing Something Different

If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?

If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.

You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.

However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.

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Write With the Reader in Mind

Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.

Use transitions between paragraphs.

Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?

Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?

Write Several Drafts

Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.

Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.

Read It Aloud

Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.

Don’t Repeat

If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.

Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.

Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.

Ask Others to Read Your Essay

Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.

Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.

Pay Attention to Form

Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.

“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.

In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.

End Your Essay With a “Kicker”

In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.

It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.

So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.

While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.

Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!

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About the Author

Pamela Reynolds is a Boston-area feature writer and editor whose work appears in numerous publications. She is the author of “Revamp: A Memoir of Travel and Obsessive Renovation.”

How Involved Should Parents and Guardians Be in High School Student College Applications and Admissions?

There are several ways parents can lend support to their children during the college application process. Here's how to get the ball rolling.

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How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

how to make a college essay better

What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

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We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

What exactly goes into writing a great college essay, and more importantly, what does it take to write one that stands out from thousands of others, landing itself in the “Accept” vs. “Reject” pile?

Breaking Down the College Essay

Let’s start by breaking it down into manageable parts and examining the required elements.

What’s the point of the college essay?

Almost every standard college application requires first-year applicants to submit a personal essay. If you are one of these applicants, you may be wondering, what’s the point?

With so many colleges deciding to go test-optional, (many do not require standardized tests and instead focus solely on your transcripts, essay, and recommendations), the essay is the one place in your application where you can illuminate your character in words and ideas, rather than in numbers and percentages. It is your chance to show schools who you are, what makes you tick, and why you stand out from the crowd.

Admissions counselors will read your essay and try to determine whether or not they want you at their school. While reading, they will be asking themselves, “What will this person bring to our community? Will they make our school a more valuable place?”

What are the prompts?

There are seven personal essay prompts in the Common Application. You may choose to write about obstacles you’ve encountered, your accomplishments and realizations, moments when you experienced extreme gratitude, or select your own topic.

No one prompt is considered “better” than another, but they can vary slightly from year to year, so be sure to read through all of them for your application cycle. At the end of the day, if there is something you feel really passionate about, you can likely adapt it to fit a prompt.

How long should your essay be?

The essay should be 650 words, which might sound like a lot at first, but you will be surprised by how quickly you reach that limit once you get going. Most of the students I work with end up making cuts to shorten their essays before submitting. The word limit is non-negotiable. You will not be able to submit an essay that’s even one word over the limit.

Writing the College Essay

Start early..

Your parents, teachers, and guidance counselors know what they are talking about when they tell you to get started on the essay during the summer before your senior year. Don’t leave it until the last minute. Once senior year starts, life is a whirlwind. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay. Aim to start in July or August before senior year.

Starting can be as easy as creating a document where you generate an ongoing list of potential topics. You will want to draft your essay in a separate document anyway. You can copy and paste it over into the Common Application once you have a final, edited version.

Additionally, starting doesn’t always mean sitting down in front of a computer and typing. Talk about topic ideas out loud with anyone who will listen. Discuss ideas for topics with your family members over dinner or on car rides with friends. Think about ideas when you are out for a run or bike ride. Almost all colleges and universities have samples of “College Essays That Worked” in the admissions section of their websites. Reading through these may inspire you.

Keep the focus narrow.

Do not think too big. Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.

That leads to another suggestion: Don’t write about Covid-19. Your essay might touch on something that’s an offshoot of your time spent in quarantine or a loss connected to Covid, but it should not be about the pandemic specifically. There’s no question Covid-19 had, and still has, a major impact on all of us, but that topic has been written about by many students from every angle possible. Colleges want to read something different.

The Common Application has added an optional question that gives all applicants a place to address the impact that Covid has had on them personally and educationally. If you feel you have a story you must tell connected to the pandemic, this is the place to share it.

So, what should you write about?

When brainstorming topics, think about challenges you have faced and how you’ve handled them. You can also ask people who know you best how they would describe you in a few words and why. Their responses can be great jumping off points for writing your essay.

Some students choose to write about seemingly small, ordinary topics that illuminate their character beautifully, and are both poignant and thought-provoking. One student I worked with wrote about growing up hiking with her parents from the time when she was a baby in a backpack carrier, to a grumpy middle schooler, to an appreciative, nature-loving young adult who found outdoor experiences were an essential part of who she was at her core.

Other students choose to describe major life events, or especially challenging experiences that have impacted them deeply. An essay that comes to mind is one written by a student who battled loneliness and isolation due to anxiety and depression, and ultimately found invaluable reprieve in the arts, a passion that they hoped to continue to pursue at the college level.

Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, be sure the essay rises above a strict recounting of a story. Instead, use the narrative to reveal your true self. It’s okay to be vulnerable and honest; in fact, it’s critical you do so. Admissions counselors will not judge you negatively for depicting moments of weakness or fear, or for having different politics than they might. More likely, they will be impressed by your level of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and introspection.

Be authentic.

Admissions counselors want value-adders. What adds value to a college campus? Students who display energy, resilience, leadership, passion, inclusivity, unique outlooks, and people who can inspire others. Your essay should tell a story that highlights traits like these. No one else has lived your life or experienced what you have in the way that you have; tell your unique story. Use a voice that’s real to you.

This is not the time to experiment with overly formal academic nor romantic, flowery language. Use words you would normally use and show the reader what makes you, you. There is no need to over-inflate things. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.

Be creative.

The college essay is not like a typical English paper. It’s a true blend of the creative and the literary. In creative writing classes you often hear the advice, “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece. Describe sights, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and sounds as you write.

That said, just because you are being creative does not mean your essay should lack structure. This is not the time to experiment with a completely outlandish form. You don’t want to make your readers work to understand what you are trying to say. You want them to be entirely absorbed in the story you are telling. The easiest way to do this is by making your essay easy to read.

Think of the typical five paragraph structure for English papers. Your essay should have an introductory paragraph with a thesis/hook, supporting body paragraphs, and a conclusion that ties everything together. Your story might lend itself to six or seven paragraphs instead of five, depending on where the natural narrative breaks lie, and that’s fine. Just make sure it has a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Be flawless.

Your essay should not have any spelling, formatting, or grammatical errors. Mistakes do not put your best foot forward to admissions counselors, and they are distracting.

Be sure to read, re-read, and share your submission with others to prevent the possibility of mistakes. Use tools like spell and grammar check, and ask at least two other people to read your essay and offer feedback. You can ask a trusted family member to take a look, or even reach out to a friend with exceptionally good writing skills. We often get so close to our own words that we miss obvious errors. Even the best writers in the world rely on editors to help catch mistakes.

Another option is to ask your English teacher or guidance counselor to review your essay. In some schools, students will work on the college essay in English class during the fall of their senior year. This gives them a chance to receive both teacher and peer feedback, which can be incredibly valuable.

Finally, read your essay aloud before hitting submit. It may feel silly, but you will be amazed at the errors you will catch this way.

Make a point.

By the time you reach your conclusion, be sure your essay makes some sort of point. This is what will separate it from the competition. Ask yourself what you want your reader to walk away thinking and knowing about you, and allude to that in your final sentences. A strong conclusion that helps tie the entire essay together, and also points to the bigger picture, is key.

To achieve this, as you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had. Above all, remember that the conclusion should not be an afterthought, nor should it simply summarize the previous few paragraphs.

In many ways, the conclusion is the most important part of your essay as it’s the last thing people will read. Be sure to give it the time, effort, and energy it deserves. You want your readers to pause and reflect at the end of your essay. You want them to feel something, versus just moving on to the next essay on their list.

Finally, remember….

While some students are able to afford pricey college counselors to help guide them through the application process, at the end of the day, there is no magic formula that someone can pay thousands of dollars for when it comes to writing the college essay. Everyone has a unique story to tell and that is priceless. As long as you give yourself the time to brainstorm, and write and then rewrite, as well as ask for feedback from others along the way, you can end up with a solid final product.

One lesson you will learn at college is that the world is full of a wide array of brilliant, interesting, diverse individuals who all have unique life experiences. You are one of those people. Enjoy the process of telling your story, and then relish the opportunity you will have to create more stories as you move onto the next chapter of your life.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

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  • How to Write a College Essay

College admissions experts offer tips on selecting a topic as well as writing and editing the essay.

how to make a college essay better

Students can go online to review essay requirements for the colleges they want to apply to, such as word limits and essay topics. Many students may start with the Common App, an application platform accepted by more than 1,000 schools. Getty Images

For college applicants, the essay is the place to showcase their writing skills and let their unique voice shine through.

"The essays are important in part because this is a student's chance to really speak directly to the admissions office," says Adam Sapp, assistant vice president and director of admissions at Pomona College in California.

Prospective college students want their essay, sometimes called a personal statement, to make a good impression and boost their chances of being accepted, but they have only several hundred words to make that happen.

This can feel like a lot of pressure.

"I think this is the part of the application process that students are sometimes most challenged by," says Niki Barron, associate dean of admission at Hamilton College in New York, "because they're looking at a blank piece of paper and they don't know where to get started."

That pressure may be amplified as many colleges have gone test optional in recent years, meaning that ACT and SAT scores will be considered if submitted but are not required. Other schools have gone test-blind and don't consider such scores at all. In the absence of test scores, some admissions experts have suggested that more attention will be paid to other parts of an application, such as the essay.

But just as each applicant is unique, so are college admissions policies and priorities.

"Being test optional hasn't changed how we use essays in our selection process, and I wouldn't say that the essay serves as a substitute for standardized test scores," Barron wrote in an email. "A student's academic preparation for our classroom experience is always front and center in our application review process."

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled against college admissions policies that consider an applicant's race. The ruling, though, does not prohibit students from writing essays on how their race has affected them, which experts say could significantly affect how students approach this portion of their applications.

Essay-writing tips offered by experts emphasize the importance of being concise, coherent, congenial, unique, honest and accurate. An applicant should also flex some intellectual muscle and include vivid details or anecdotes.

From brainstorming essay topics to editing the final draft, here's what students need to know about crafting a strong college application essay.

Getting Started on the College Essay

How long should a college essay be, how to pick a college essay topic, writing the college essay, how the affirmative action ruling could change college essays, editing and submitting the college essay.

A good time for students to begin working on their essays is the summer before senior year, experts say, when homework and extracurricular activities aren't taking up time and mental energy.

Starting early will also give students plenty of time to work through multiple drafts of an essay before college application deadlines, which can be as early as November for students applying for early decision or early action .

Students can go online to review essay requirements for the colleges they want to apply to, such as word limits and essay topics. Many students may start with the Common App , an application platform accepted by more than 1,000 schools. Students can submit that application to multiple schools.

Another option is the Coalition Application, an application platform accepted by more than 130 schools. Students applying through this application choose from one of six essay prompts to complete and include with their application.

In addition to the main essay, some colleges ask applicants to submit one or more additional writing samples. Students are often asked to explain why they are interested in a particular school or academic field in these supplemental essays , which tend to be shorter than the main essay.

Students should budget more time for the writing process if the schools they're applying to ask for supplemental essays.

"Most selective colleges will ask for more than one piece of writing. Don't spend all your time working on one long essay and then forget to devote energy to other parts of the application," Sapp says.

Though the Common App notes that "there are no strict word limits" for its main essay, it suggests a cap of about 650 words. The Coalition Application website says its essays should be between 500 and 650 words.

"While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you'd hoped it would," the Common App website states.

The word count is much shorter for institution-specific supplemental essays, which are typically around 250 words.

The first and sometimes most daunting step in the essay writing process is figuring out what to write about.

There are usually several essay prompts to choose from on a college application. They tend to be broad, open-ended questions, giving students the freedom to write about a wide array of topics, Barron says.

The essay isn't a complete autobiography, notes Mimi Doe, co-founder of Top Tier Admissions, a Massachusetts-based advising company. "It's overwhelming to think of putting your whole life in one essay," she says.

Rather, experts say students should narrow their focus and write about a specific experience, hobby or quirk that reveals something personal, like how they think, what they value or what their strengths are. Students can also write about something that illustrates an aspect of their background. These are the types of essays that typically stand out to admissions officers, experts say. Even an essay on a common topic can be compelling if done right.

Students don't have to discuss a major achievement in their essay – a common misconception. Admissions officers who spoke with U.S. News cited memorable essays that focused on more ordinary topics, including fly-fishing, a student's commute to and from school and a family's dining room table.

What's most important, experts say, is that a college essay is thoughtful and tells a story that offers insight into who a student is as a person.

"Think of the college essay as a meaningful glimpse of who you are beyond your other application materials," Pierre Huguet, CEO and founder of admissions consulting firm H&C Education, wrote in an email. "After reading your essay, the reader won't fully know you – at least not entirely. Your objective is to evoke the reader's curiosity and make them eager to get to know you."

If students are having trouble brainstorming potential topics, they can ask friends or family members for help, says Stephanie Klein Wassink, founder of Winning Applications and AdmissionsCheckup, Connecticut-based college admissions advising companies. Klein Wassink says students can ask peers or family members questions such as, "What are the things you think I do well?" Or, "What are my quirks?"

The essay should tell college admissions officers something they don't already know, experts say.

Some experts encourage students to outline their essay before jumping into the actual writing, though of course everyone's writing process differs.

The first draft of an essay doesn't need to be perfect. "Just do a brain dump," Doe says. "Don't edit yourself, just lay it all out on the page."

If students are having a hard time getting started, they should focus on their opening sentence, Doe suggests. She says an essay's opening sentence, or hook, should grab the reader's attention.

Doe offered an example of a strong hook from the essay of a student she worked with:

"I first got into politics the day the cafeteria outlawed creamed corn."

"I want to know about this kid," she says. "I’m interested."

The key to a good college essay is striking a balance between being creative and not overdoing it, Huguet says. He advises students to keep it simple.

"The college essay is not a fiction writing contest," Huguet says. "Admissions committees are not evaluating you on your potential as the next writer of the Great American Novel."

He adds that students should write in the voice they use to discuss meaningful topics with someone they trust. It's also wise to avoid hyperbole, as that can lose the readers' trust, as well as extraneous adverbs and adjectives, Huguet says.

"Thinking small, when done right, means paying close attention to the little things in your life that give it meaning in unique ways," he says. "It means, on the one hand, that you don’t have to come up with a plan for world peace, but it also means thinking small enough to identify details in your life that belong only to you."

The Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action has left some students feeling in limbo with how to approach their essays. Some are unsure whether to include racial identifiers while others feel pressure to exclude it, says Christopher Rim, CEO and founder of Command Education, an admissions consulting company.

"For instance, some of our Asian students have been concerned that referencing their culture or race in their essay could negatively impact them (even moreso than before)," Rim wrote in an email. He noted that many students he works with had already begun crafting their essays before the ruling came. "Some of our other students have felt pressure to disclose their race or share a story of discrimination or struggle because they expect those stories to be received better by admissions officers."

Some of the uneasiness stems from what feels like a contradictory message from the court, Rim says. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., said the ruling shouldn't be construed "as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise." But he added that colleges may consider race only if it's tied to an applicant’s individual experiences or qualities, such as demonstrating courage against discrimination.

Personal essays shouldn't serve as a way for universities to ask students about their race as a means to admit them on such basis, Roberts added.

Rim says he expects there to be a lot of confusion from parents and students as they navigate that line when writing their essay. He says his guidance will vary with each student depending on their specific situation.

"For a student from an immigrant family, sharing their racial and cultural background may be integral to understanding their identity and values and therefore should be included in the essay," he says. "On the other hand, a student who has never meaningfully considered ways in which their race has shaped their life experience and worldview should not push themselves to do so in their essay simply because they believe it will better their chances."

While admissions officers try to learn about students via the essay, they are also gauging writing skills, so students want to make sure they submit top-notch work.

"The best writing is rewriting," Sapp says. "You should never be giving me your first draft."

When reviewing a first essay draft, students should make sure their writing is showing, not telling, Huguet says. This means students should show their readers examples that prove they embody certain traits or beliefs, as opposed to just stating that they do. Doing so is like explaining a joke to someone who's already laughed at it, he says.

"Let’s say, for example, that the whole point of a certain applicant’s essay is to let admissions officers know that she thinks outside the box. If she feels the need to end her essay with a sentence like, 'And so, this anecdote shows that I think outside the box,' she’s either underestimating the power of her story (or the ability of her reader to understand it), or she hasn’t done a good enough job in telling it yet," Huguet says. "Let your readers come to their own conclusions. If your story is effective, they’ll come to the conclusions you want them to."

After editing their essay, students should seek outside editing help, experts recommend. While there are individuals and companies that offer paid essay help – from editing services to essay-writing boot camps – students and families may not be able to afford the associated fees. Some providers may offer scholarships or other financial aid for their services.

The availability and level of feedback from free essay advising services vary. Some college prep companies offer brief consultations at no charge. Free essay workshops may also be available through local high schools, public libraries or community organizations. Khan Academy, a free online education platform, also offers a series of videos and other content to guide students through the essay writing process.

Colleges themselves may also have resources, Barron notes, pointing to pages on Hamilton's website that offer writing tips as well as examples of successful admissions essays. Likewise, Hamilton also holds virtual panel discussions on writing admissions essays.

Students have other options when it comes to essay help. They can ask peers, teachers, school counselors and family members for help polishing an essay. Huguet says it's typically wise to prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to seeking feedback on essays. Too many perspectives can become counterproductive, he says.

"While it can be valuable to have different perspectives, it's best to seek out individuals who are experts in the writing process," he says. "Instructors or professors can be helpful, particularly if they possess subject expertise and can provide guidance on refining arguments, structure and overall coherence."

Proofreaders should not change the tone of the essay. "Don't let anyone edit out your voice," Doe cautions.

And while proofreading is fair game, having someone else write your essay is not.

When an essay is ready to go, students will generally submit it online along with the rest of their application. On the Common App, for example, students copy and paste their essay into a text box.

Sapp says even though students often stress about the essay in particular, it's not the only thing college admissions officers look at. "The essay is the window, but the application is the house," he says. "So let's not forget that an application is built of many pieces."

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Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 13 best college essay tips to craft a stellar application.

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College Essays


In many ways, the most labor-intensive part of your college application process is the essay. It’s not just about forwarding transcripts or entering a list of extracurricular activities—you have to craft something personal and compelling to show the admissions committee who you are beyond your resume.

In this article, we’ll go over our 13 best tips for writing college essays. We’ll give tips for every step of the process including planning, writing, and editing your essay, as well as some quick and easy tips to boost any essays you already have written! With these college essay tips, you’ll be that much closer to the best admissions essay ever!

5 Tips for College Essay Planning

Doing a good job planning makes the college essay process that much easier. These five college essay tips will help you get started and pave the way for a great final product.

#1: Make a Plan of Attack for Your Essays

The first thing you’ll need to do is identify all the essays you’ll need to write and their deadlines. It may help you to make a spreadsheet with the essay guidelines for each school, the word count, the prompts, the due date, and any special instructions. This will help you figure out:

How many essays you’ll need to write, and how long those essays need to be.

Whether you can reuse any essays: In general, you can reuse essays for prompts that are about your life, broadly similar in theme, and have a similar word count. You probably can’t reuse essays that are very specific to the college, like “Why This College” essays .

Which essay you should write first: You’ll probably want to start first on the essay with the earliest application deadline. Alternatively, if you have plenty of time or the deadlines are close together, you could start with the longest essay (which will take the most time) or the essay that will be used for the most schools (like a Common Application essay). Do what you feel most comfortable with.

With all this information gathered, you’ll be able to make a plan of attack for your essays and make sure nothing gets lost in the application shuffle. (In fact, I actually advise keeping track of all necessary components of your application in a spreadsheet for the same reason).

#2: Start Early

You want to start writing way before the deadline. If possible, give yourself at least two months, and maybe even more time if you can. This will make sure that you have enough time to adequately plan your essay, draft it, and edit it.  

And, of course, the more essays you have to write, the earlier you should start!


Don't worry, you don't need to start this early.

#3: Choose the Right Topic

Choosing the right topic has two facets: first, choosing the right prompt (if there’s a choice) and second, choosing the right topic to write about for that prompt.

The Right Prompt

If there’s a choice of prompts, you may want to actually start by brainstorming the specific topic or thing in your life that you want to write about, and then reverse-engineer back to the most appropriate prompt. Most college essay prompts are pretty vague, so a broad range of topics and issues can be applied.

You can also use prompts to help you brainstorm if you’re having a hard time figuring out what to write about. Think about the prompt that seems most appealing to you at first. What intrigues you about it? What do you think you could communicate about yourself through that question?

Here’s some tailored guidance on some of the most common college essay prompt types . And if you’re writing a Common Application essay, here’s advice on how to choose the right Common App prompt for you .

The Right Topic

When you’re trying to choose something about your life to write about, consider the following:

What are you excited to write about? A good college essay can be about a wide variety of topics, but it should show that you’re passionate about something. This could be anything from a hobby you have to your favorite book or even your most beloved stuffed animal, just so long as you can make it memorable and positive. Also, your writing will be a lot better if you are writing about something you care about and are interested in!

Whatever you write about should be primarily about you. You should be the focal point. Even if you’re writing about someone who has influenced you, for example, you need to relate it back to yourself. What does this tell admission officers about you?

What makes you stand out? This should be something that goes beyond what’s in the rest of your application. Your test scores and GPA are already there. What really shows something unique about you?

Choose a topic you can be honest about . If you’re not being genuine, it will end up coming through in your writing. So don’t write about how much your membership in Youth Group meant to you if you only went to make your mom happy and you actually didn’t care that much.

In general, you should avoid topics that are overly controversial, like things that are politically charged, doing things that are illegal, or anything involving graphic descriptions of any bodily function. So if you’re going to write about recovering from hip surgery, probably leave out the gory details of you being constipated and your oozy scars.

Check out our 35 brainstorming techniques for college essays for even more help coming up with a topic!

If you’re really stumped, consider asking your friends and family what they think could be good topics. They may help you figure out something memorable and interesting. But also, don’t feel like you have to write about a topic just because someone else thinks it would be great. You need to be genuinely interested in what you’re writing about to write an engaging essay!


Be as passionate about your topic as this man is about table tennis.

#4: Decide on Your Approach

In general, there are two main approaches you might take to write your essay. It might primarily take a narrative format, or it might take a thematic format.

In a narrative format, you’ll be relating a particular anecdote or experience and what it means to you. In a thematic format, you’ll present a particular theme—say, your love of parakeets or your secret talent for balancing books on your head—and expound on that theme in a descriptive way to reveal more about you and your personality.

Sometimes your approach will be determined by the prompt or topic that you choose. For example, if a prompt says to relate a particular event or anecdote, you’ll probably use a narrative approach. By contrast, if you want to write about how your favorite book changed your life, that will probably be a thematic essay.

#5: Write an Outline

Doing a little bit of outlining before you put fingertips to keyboard to write your essay is always a good idea. You don’t necessarily need to make a super-detailed plan before you starting writing, but a general idea of where you are going and the points you want to make will be very helpful when you start drafting. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending a lot of time staring at a blank Word document.


Yes, good, very detailed essay plan. 

4 Top College Essay Writing Tips

Here are four tips for writing college essays and making sure your work  stands out in a good way:

#6: Use Specific Details

The more details you use, the more your writing will come alive. Try to use words that are vivid and specific, instead of ones that are vague like “nice,” “good,” and so on. This will really flesh out the scene and help the reader picture what’s going on.

So take something like this:

One of my biggest accomplishments in life was teaching my little brother to ride a bicycle. I encouraged him to keep going when he fell down. Now he’s a great cyclist!

To something more like this:

One of my biggest accomplishments in life was teaching my eight-year-old brother to ride the racy red bicycle he got for his birthday. He wanted to give up when he took a tumble and skidded across the sidewalk. But while I bandaged up his knees with Batman band-aids, I convinced him to give it another try. I told him to think about how he would be able to bike all around the neighborhood exploring. Now I smile whenever I see him zooming down our street—wearing his helmet, of course!

See the difference? Wouldn’t you rather read the second one?


Think how boring this angel statue would be if it was just kind of vaguely chiseled out of the rock.

#7: Be Genuine

It’s important to get beyond the superficial in your personal statement. You should be writing about something that’s genuinely important or significant to you, so try to get beyond the surface. Instead of writing vague platitudes about how you really like the violin but it’s hard, really get at the meat: did you ever think about quitting? What’s frustrated you the most? What really keeps you going?

This means you shouldn’t try to write about things where it’s too painful to be honest. So if your parents got a divorce last year, it may be too raw to write about, which is perfectly fine. If, however, they got divorced when you were 5 and you can honestly reflect on how it changed your life, go for it.

Of course, you want to be honest in a reasonable and appropriate way. If you overshare, it will make it seem like you have bad judgment or don’t understand social norms—not good impressions to give the admissions committee. So probably don’t write about how much you despise your mother and think she is evil since she had an affair with your school librarian. It’s fine to feel how you feel, but there are some things that are a little too charged to write in your college essay.

#8: Be Unique, but Not Bizarre

You definitely want your writing to set you apart—but you want it to set you apart in a good way. This means you want high-quality writing about unique experiences and qualities you bring to the table that aren’t covered elsewhere in your application.

This does not mean you should get really avant-garde with your essay formatting. Don’t send in a piece of art instead of an essay, or make a video, or write a poem instead of an essay, unless those things are explicitly allowed.

Similarly, while your essay doesn’t have to be 100% deadly serious in tone, you should be careful with humor. This doesn’t mean absolutely no jokes or tongue-in-cheek moments or that your essay should read like an 18th-century book of sermons. But if your essay relies too much on humor, you’ve got a lot riding on whether or not the person reading your essay “gets” it. They may well be annoyed. So deploy humor carefully and selectively.


Sermons not necessary.

#9: Avoid Cliches and Platitudes

The more cliches you use in your writing, the more boring and less insightful your essay will be. Cliches are phrases that are so overused that they are essentially meaningless, and they are likely to make any reader roll their eyes. Phrases like “a dime a dozen,” “outside the box,” “cold as ice,” “dirt cheap,” “flash in the pan,” and so on are frequently deployed in conversation because they convey a common idea quickly. But you don’t want your essay to be common, so avoid cliches. Try to think about how you can communicate the same idea in a more specific and interesting way.

Here’s a list of over 600 cliches . But for the most part, you won’t need a list; you’ll know something is a cliche because you will have heard it a million times already.

You should also avoid platitudes or sweeping generalizations about life. These are statements that are so broad and far-reaching as to be both obvious and completely uninsightful.

So avoid making statements like “And that’s how I learned that hard work pays off,” or “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” You may think you sound sage or wise, but the truth is, platitudes are going to sound immature and poorly-formed to the reader. Similarly, don’t say things that sound like they could come from an inspirational quote account on Instagram. (See, ahem, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take,” “Shoot for the moon,” and so on.)

How do you avoid the platitude problem? Try to keep what you’re saying specific to you. So instead of saying “And that’s how I learned that hard work pays off,” try, “This experience helped me to realize that when I put concentrated effort into something that’s important to me, I can accomplish it even when there are roadblocks.” Keep the focus on what you can and will do in your own life.


Avoid saying anything like this at all costs.

2 Tips for Editing Your College Essay

You may think that once you’ve gotten a draft done that you’re good to go. Not so! Editing is one of the most important parts of writing the best college essay possible, and here are two essential college essay tips for editing.

Tip #10: Ask for Help

It’s always wise to get another set of eyes on your college essays. In fact, several sets of eyes is even better! Other people can help you make sure your essay flows, you have enough detail, that everything is relevant, and that you sound as engaging and interesting as you really are! They can also help you catch typos and other minor errors—although you’ll want to double and triple-check for that yourself before submitting.

Here’s advice on how to ask for help with all parts of the college essay process , including editing.

Tip #11: Be Prepared to Cut a Lot

Brace yourself for cutting up your initial draft into tiny little ribbons and rearranging the remaining pieces Frankenstein-style. A first draft is really just a starting place to get your ideas down before you revamp the entire thing into a more streamlined, better organized, highly polished version. So you have to be ready to let go of pieces of your essay, no matter how much you love a particular turn of phrase or analogy. The ultimate goal is to turn the rough stone of your first draft into a polished and clear piece of writing—and that’s going to take a lot of chipping and sanding!


Your finished essay is like this duck: many pieces arranged into an amazing whole.

2 Final Tips for College Essay Success

Here are two quick but essential college essay tips you can implement easily.

Tip #12: Have a Standout First Sentence

One thing you can do to give any essay a boost is to make sure that your first sentence is attention-grabbing. If you can pique the interest of the admissions counselor right away, you’ll help keep their attention throughout your essay.

Here’s our guide to getting that perfect first sentence!

Tip #13: Triple-check for Typos and Errors

The most important quick thing you can do for your essay is to make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors. It will make your essay look sloppy and unfinished, and that’s the last thing you want! College admissions officers expect a polished product, and there’s nothing less polished than misspelled words and comma splices.


Looking all polished up and mighty fine.

13 College Essay Tips: Key Takeaways for a Great College Essay

To recap, here’s our 13 tips for the best college essay ever:

College Essay Planning Tips:

  • Create a plan of attack for all of your essays so you can keep track of everything.
  • Start early—at least two months before the due date, if not more.
  • Choose the right prompt and topic for you.
  • Decide between a narrative or a thematic approach to the topic.
  • Outline before you start writing!

College Essay Writing Tips:

  • Use vivid, specific details.
  • Be genuine—get beyond the superficial.
  • Be unique, but not bizarre.
  • Avoid cliches and platitudes; they are boring and unimaginative.

College Essay Editing Tips:

  • Get other people to look at your essay.
  • Be prepared to change, cut, and rearrange a lot!

Final Tips for College Essays:

  • Make sure your first sentence is stellar.
  • Triple check for typos and grammatical errors!


Imagine the essay you could write about the time you painted Mr. Lurker's claws.

What’s Next?

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Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

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How to Write Better Essays

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9 College Essay Tips on How to Write Better Essays

Want to learn how to write better essays? We’re here to help. In this guide, we have collected the best college essay tips from our experienced team, who have guided hundreds of students through the college admissions process. Our experts have taught many students how to write better essays, helping them gain admission to some of the most competitive schools in the country. 

This guide will teach you how to write better essays and provide you with 9 college essay tips to keep in mind as you write your supplemental essays and personal statements. Our admissions experts have extensive experience with college essay prompts and the college application essay format. They’ve guided hundreds of students through how to write better essays. 

In addition to our college essay tips, this guide will provide insight into college essay prompts, supplemental essays, and other tips on how to write better essays overall. We’ll go over the different essay prompts you may encounter and offer some tips on tackling common essays. This guide will also detail how to use essay examples to help with your writing process. We’ll also offer tips on how to help your essays stand out. If you’re looking for college essay help, continue reading below. 

College Application Requirements

college essay tips

While the college essay is a major part of the college admissions process, it’s not the only element to consider. Many college application requirements include transcripts, extracurriculars, recommendations, as well as supplemental essays. You may also need to submit a college resume and a separate personal statement in addition to your Common App essay . It’s important to pay attention to the college application deadlines as well. Different schools will have different college application requirements, including different college essay prompts. 

Your grades and extracurricular activities can provide colleges with a great overview of your school performance. However, the best college admissions essays give schools a deeper understanding of your identity and goals. College essay prompts are designed to help admissions officers decide who may be a good fit for their campus. Many college essay tips will focus on showcasing your personality and highlighting aspects of your high school career that colleges may not know about. If you’re looking to learn how to write better essays, we’ve detailed the kinds of college essay prompts you may encounter below. 

Common App essay vs. supplemental essays

Through the college admissions process, you will encounter both the Common App essay and supplemental essays. The Common App essay , sometimes known as a personal statement, has a 650-word limit. Students have a choice between seven college essay prompts, and they can send the Common App essay to multiple schools. The college application essay format allows students to highlight a personal interest, accomplishment, or important story. The best college admission essays leave a great impression on the reader and make them feel as if they know the author in a personal way. Researching college essay tips and college essay ideas can help you learn how to write better essays. 

In addition to the Common App essay, you will also encounter supplemental essays. Supplemental essays are typically shorter than the Common App essay, often between 150-300 words. Supplemental essays are school specific, and are designed to see how much you know about the school you’re applying to. In the next section, we’ll detail the different kinds of supplemental essays you may encounter. We’ll also give you some college essay tips to help you learn how to write better essays. 

What is a supplemental essay?

college essay tips

Supplemental essays are essays assigned specifically by a school. While the college application essay prompts may be similar, it’s important to make sure each essay is unique for each school. The supplemental essay allows schools to get more information about you and your interests outside of your Common App essay and overall college application. Not all schools will have supplemental essays, but it’s important to allot time to write these additional essays. Some schools will have 2-3 additional essay prompts, which could mean a lot of extra writing if you aren’t prepared. 

There are many different kinds of supplemental essays. Some schools have very short essay prompts, such as Columbia . These may ask students to list influential books, movies, and ways they explore their interests.  Other schools ask for additional personal statements in addition to the Common App essay, such as Harvard. Some schools will list the supplemental essays as optional, such as the Fordham supplemental essays. CollegeAdvisor recommends students complete every supplemental essay for each school on their college list . This includes all “optional” college essay prompts. 

Here are some college essay tips for some of the most common supplemental college essay prompts. These college essay topics are found at many colleges, and it’s likely that you will encounter them at some point through the admissions process. Reading these tips can help you when pondering what to write your college essays about .  These tips can help you learn how to write better essays and help brainstorm some college essay ideas:

Tips to Write Better Essays

college essay tips

1. Why School Essay 

The Why School essay is one of the most common college essay prompts. This essay asks you to explain why you’re interested in that specific school. As you tackle these college essay prompts, make sure to pinpoint your exact reasons for applying. 

2. Why Major Essay

The Why Major Essay is designed to help schools understand why you’re interested in your intended major. Try to explain your interest, and how that school will help you with your goals—see the UPenn supplemental essays for an example. 

3. Cultural Diversity Essay 

Many schools use the Cultural Diversity Essay to get to know your background better or allow you to highlight important aspects of your identity. The Tufts supplemental essays include a Cultural Diversity Essay. This prompt asks students to explain how their background has shaped who they are. 

4. Personal Challenge Essay 

The Personal Challenge Essay allows students to describe an obstacle they have overcome. Many of the best college essays highlight a student’s personal struggle, but it can be challenging to not overshare . Be sure to read college essay examples to help you strike the right balance. 

5. Extracurricular Activities Essay

The Extracurricular Activities Essay allows you to elaborate on your college resume. It offers you an opportunity to discuss your favorite club, sport, or community project. The Yale supplemental essays   include an Extracurricular Activities Essay, asking students to reflect on how they have worked to enrich their community. 

6. Unique or Oddball College Essays 

Some colleges are known for their unique essay prompts, such as the University of Chicago . These college essay prompts require students to get creative, and some of the best college admission essays come from a unique or oddball prompt. While these prompts may be intimidating, they can be a great opportunity for you to flex some creative muscles. They can also be a lot of fun to write, so don’t shy away from them!

7. Short Essays 

Short college application essay prompts can be some of the more challenging essays to write. Learning how to write better essays can help you with the short essay prompts, as you need to be concise and thoughtful about what you include. Every word will matter in a short essay prompt. So, think carefully about what you want to say and how you will say it. This will help you write the best college admission essays possible.

You may encounter a number of different supplemental essays, but all of them have the same goal—to help admissions officers learn more about you and your goals. If you’re still feeling stuck on your essays, U.S News has a great guide on How to Write a Supplemental Essay . Harvard also has great essay writing resources, including 12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay and student perspectives on the college essay. Vanderbilt has also compiled some essay writing tips, and the Smith College essay tip sheet can also come in handy. 

Do colleges care about supplemental essays?

While it’s hard to say exactly how supplemental essays factor into the admissions process, we do know that colleges care about your essays. The supplemental essay is the best opportunity for you to speak directly to the colleges you’re applying to. As such, it can serve as a great way for admissions officers to get to know you better. While college essay topics can feel silly or repetitive, it’s important to dedicate time and effort to your essays. 

One of the more common college essay mistakes is re-using the same essay for multiple colleges. While you can strategically re-use sentences and phrases, it’s important to make sure that each essay is unique to each college. Colleges want to ensure that the students they admit are passionate about their campus, and the best college essays effectively communicate that passion. The common college essay topics are designed to help admissions officers learn more about you, so it’s crucial to take them seriously. 

Case Study: Ivy League Essays

college essay tips

Let’s think about two hypothetical students, Lisa and Leo. They both have similar SAT scores, GPAs, and strong recommendation letters. They both were heavily involved in extracurriculars and met the admissions criteria for many Ivy League universities . Lisa wanted to learn how to write better essays, while Leo assumed the essays wouldn’t weigh as heavily as the other parts of his application. Lisa started to research college essay tips, read college essay examples , and familiarized herself with the college application essay format. She made sure to read different articles on how to write better essays, such as this one by U.S. News and Forbes’ The Perfectionist’s Guide to the College Essay . 

Leo wasn’t too concerned about college essay tips or learning how to write better essays. He did not seek college essay help and turned in the same Why Major essay to many of his top choices. While Lisa took care to make sure each of her college application essay prompts was unique and varied between each school, Leo assumed nobody would read the essays. Come Decision Day, it’s no surprise that Lisa was accepted to her top choice, and Leo was waitlisted. 

You can see why Lisa would have an advantage over Leo—taking enough time and effort to learn how to write better essays can help increase your chances of admission. Developing creative and unique college essay ideas can be a challenge, but it is worth the effort. If you research common college essay tips and read different college essay examples, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you learn how to write better essays. 

What makes a great college essay?

With so many resources and college essay tips, it can be hard to determine what makes a great college essay. When learning how to write better essays, it can be helpful to have some guidelines to keep in mind. We’ve collected 5 key components of the best college admission essays to help you learn how to write better essays: 

How to Write a Great College Essay

college essay tips

1. Compelling Hook

A compelling hook can be the difference between a good college essay and a great college essay. If you’re wondering how to start a college essay, introducing an interesting personal story or anecdote can be a great way to set up a compelling hook in your first paragraph. Learning how to write better essays will help you develop compelling hooks to help capture the reader’s attention. Part of writing a compelling hook is to land the ending as well, so be sure to finish strong.

2. Personal detail not offered elsewhere in application 

The college application essay format is designed to help you highlight details that may not be present elsewhere in your application. The best college admissions essays help add to a student’s application and offer insight that helps create a holistic profile. If you want to learn how to write better essays, then brainstorm details or stories that may be missing from your overall application. 

3. Original and engaging topics 

While many of the college application essay prompts will be repetitive, it’s important to make sure your essays have original and engaging topics. Think outside the box and try to approach your essays creatively. After all, learning how to write better essays can help you come up with original topics that will help your essays stand out. If you’re feeling stuck, U.S News has 10 Tips to Inspire College Essays to help. You can also read this U.S. News article on common essay topics and what admissions officers think of them. 

4. Unique and personal voice 

One of the biggest college essay tips is to develop your unique and personal voice. This can be the hardest part about learning how to write better essays. However, it’s crucial in making sure your essays stand out. Your essays should reflect your own voice and help the reader get to know you as an individual. Developing your own writing voice is a great skill that can take significant time and effort. If you’re struggling on developing your voice, Forbes has a great guide you can read here . 

5. Grammatically sound and free of errors 

It’s common to find college essay mistakes in the first, second, or even third drafts – making the proofreading process crucial. Ensuring that your college essay is free of errors, and follows all applicable grammatical rules, will make a great impression on admissions officers. Learning how to write better essays will help you catch any errors you make. U.S. News has a great guide on Grammar Do’s and Don’t for college essays if you’re concerned about using the proper rules.

Overall, the best way to incorporate these components is to invest a lot of time and effort into your essays. Make sure to ask for college essay help through proofreading, editing, and read-throughs. Having multiple teachers, mentors, and relatives read through your essays will help ensure the best versions are submitted. Learning how to write better essays takes a lot of time and practice, so the earlier you can start, the better.

How do I make my college essay stand out?

With college admissions becoming more and more competitive, it’s important for your college essay to stand out. If you’re interested in learning how to write better essays, we’ve compiled 9 college essay tips to help you. From help on how to start a college essay to breaking down the college application essay format, our college essay tips are designed to help you each step of the way. 

Our essay tips are designed for students across all stages of the application process, from freshmen and sophomores looking to get a head start to seniors deep in the application season. If you’re looking for more step-by-step guides, Forbes has a great guide on How to Write A College Essay. You can read it here . 

Our 9 college essay tips will help you write standout essays and help capture exactly what you want to communicate to colleges. 

9 College Essay Tips

Tackling the essay portion of your college admissions process can be daunting. In this guide on how to write better essays, we have discussed a lot of useful college essay tips including college application requirements, what makes a great college essay, and how you can write the best college essays possible. Now, we’re going to give you some practical college essay tips that will apply to any prompt you’ll encounter. 

Only the best college essays will rise to the top, so it’s important to know how to write better essays, especially if you apply to reach schools such as Ivy League universities . When considering how to write better essays, it’s important to look at college essay examples like the Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, and Yale supplemental essays. Additionally, always check out college admissions sites to see if they have specific tips for their essays. For example, here are some tips on the Smith College essay. 

With plenty of available resources and college essay tips, like this guide on how to write better essays, you can write the best college admission essays. Our college essay tips come directly from experts who have guided hundreds of students through the college admissions process, like these tips from experts at Vanderbilt . You can also check out our Success Stories , where you can read about real CollegeAdvisor students’ journeys!

Wondering how to start a college essay and how to write better essays? Great! Because we will now discuss 9 college essay tips. These tips will show you how to write better essays that showcase your unique qualities.

#1: Start Early

how to write better essays

Wondering how to write better essays? The first thing you need to know is to start early. You might have heard the first of our college essay tips before, but experts agree that you need to give yourself ample time to tackle college essays. This means enough time to develop college essay ideas, complete drafts, and review them multiple times. That way, you can steer clear of any college essay mistakes. This can be tedious, but it is an imperative part of writing the best college admission essays.

U.S. News suggests that students wondering how to write better essays should start writing the summer before senior year. Schools often release their college essay prompts at the end of summer. Ideally, by the fall you will have drafted your personal statement , finalized your college list, and started working on other aspects of the Common App. This ensures you have a solid foundation when college essay prompts are released. Additionally, this will make it less stressful to dive right into the writing process.   

Most importantly, starting early gives you plenty of time to write multiple drafts before college application deadlines . These can be as early as October or November for those applying Early Action or Early Decision. Regular Decision deadlines are generally in December or January. So, figure out when you intend to submit your college applications. Then, make a priority list of essays in the order of their due dates.

Planning your essay strategy

In addition to your Common App essay , many colleges ask applicants to submit supplemental essays. These ask students to explain what interests them about a particular school or major. These college essay prompts are generally released in the late summer. They also tend to be shorter than the main essay. So, when budgeting your time, don’t forget about school-specific supplemental essays!

Moreover, starting early gives you ample time to familiarize yourself with college application requirements. You can review the essay requirements for each of the colleges you’re interested in on their websites. There, you will find the college essay prompts, word limits, and other college application essay format guidelines. This guarantees that you are well prepared and write the best college admission essays. 

Whether you’re writing the Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, Yale supplemental essays, or responding to the Smith College essay prompts, you’ll need to follow the school-specific guidelines. So, make sure you understand what makes each of these college essay prompts unique.

#2: Practice Writing about Yourself

how to write better essays

College essays ask students to be personal and vulnerable in their writing, which may be unfamiliar to them. However, it’s an essential aspect of how to write better essays. Telling personal details about yourself and your goals does not mean simply restating your college resume . But, it also doesn’t mean you should overshare or “trauma dump.”

While you may excel in crafting research reports, personal writing can be challenging. There are a few contexts outside of the college admissions process where you will be asked to write about yourself. This is where the second of our college essay tips on how to write better essays comes into play: practice writing about yourself.  

There are various strategies you can use to practice. First, you can begin by writing a daily journal. Inevitably, you will have to write about yourself, your thoughts, and your actions. Next, you can audio record yourself talking and write from that. This will ensure your writing captures who you are and even has a conversational tone. You might also try free-writing. Just set a timer and write until it goes off! The more often you do this, the easier it will get. And, you’re bound to find some meaningful gems among the scribblings.

Targeted essay practice

Another good way to get acclimated to writing about yourself is to look at college application essay prompts from prior years and practice responding to them. These college essay prompts will likely be similar to those in your application cycle. Finally, read college essay examples written by other students to get a feel for how to respond. These exercises are key components when considering how to write better essays.

Reading college essay tips is great, but remember that practice is key. Learning to write about yourself is a vital skill when learning how to write better essays. 

#3: Familiarize yourself with the essay prompts

how to write better essays

The most common types of supplemental essays and college essay prompts are as follows: 

  • Why School Essay
  • Why Major Essay
  • Cultural Diversity Essay
  • Personal Challenge Essay 
  • Extracurricular Activities Essay
  • Unique or Oddball College Essays
  • Short Essays

College essay prompts generally fall into one of these specific college application essay format categories. So, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with them in advance to know how to write better essays. By reviewing past college essay prompts and college application essay formats, you can practice your responses in order to write the best college admission essays. No matter if you’re writing Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, Yale supplemental essays, or Smith College essays, familiarizing yourself with a wide variety of essays will give you an edge. This will increase your admissions odds at selective schools. 

Reading sample college essays

Additionally, to gain a better understanding of what universities look for, it’s beneficial to read through college essay examples of why school essays. Familiarizing yourself with why school college application essay formats will provide insight into the specific aspects of the responses that admissions officers value. So, college essay examples can teach you what to expect from these sorts of college application essay prompts. This is a key component in any student’s “how to write better essays” plan. 

Checking out other college application essay formats, such as examples of extracurricular activities college application essay prompts, can help you figure out how to write better essays about your own extracurriculars. Namely, you’ll want to focus on the impact they’ve had on you and, subsequently, your current path to higher education. 

When preparing to write your college essays, consider the word limit of the college application essay prompts. This will determine how much or how little you can include in your writing. Sometimes, less is more. And, it’s always best to aim for the suggested word limit. 

By following these college essay tips on how to write better essays, you can prepare yourself to tackle college essay prompts and craft outstanding responses. Familiarizing yourself with a variety of prompts will ensure you’re ready for anything when it comes to college essays. 

#4: Take time to research

how to write better essays

Before you start writing, you should learn more about the schools you are applying to. One of the most important college essay tips on how to write better essays is spending time researching the colleges on your list. This will allow you to uncover specific opportunities that align with your goals. And, you should want to be just as good of a fit for the school as it is for you. Moreover, a key part of how to write better essays is including school-specific details.

However, you should not only research the basic things like the college essay prompts and college application requirements. Instead, you should focus on things that are specific to the school and coincide with your interests. What major are you considering? Why is the campus setting appealing to you? What organizations do you want to get involved in? Are there professors that you’re excited to learn from? Foregrounding these details gives you a chance to prove to the admissions team that you have invested time and energy into finding the best college for you.  

Learn all that you can so that you can submit a well-informed and persuasive application. Your essay should show how the college meets your needs and how you plan to contribute to the campus environment. 

Make sure to mention any unique aspects of the school or curriculum that could contribute to your overall career goals . The more details you use, the better you will be able to paint a picture of why you belong at that school. Researching the college you are applying to will enable you to gather relevant information about its values and opportunities. Then, you can use the specific details that attract you to the school to write the most impactful essays.

#5: Outline your essays

how to write better essays

Outlining your essays is one of the most crucial college essay tips in the “how to write better essays” process. Outlines allow you to organize your thoughts, structure your college essay ideas, and ensure your essays effectively convey the intended message. 

Outlines are beneficial because they help you clarify your main points and maintain focus throughout your essay. They enable efficient use of your word limit and aid in college essay ideas development. Additionally, outlines contribute to the overall time management process. 

It can be easy to get distracted while writing and go off on a tangent. That’s okay when it comes to free-writing practices. However, when it’s time to write your actual essay, you’ll need to be more focused and intentional with your writing. By creating a solid plan, you will set yourself up for a successful essay writing process.

#6: Never repeat yourself

how to write better essays

Supplemental essays provide applicants with an opportunity to provide additional information to the admissions committee, highlighting why they are a strong fit for the school. That’s why the sixth of our college essay tips on how to write better essays is to never repeat yourself . Your essays should be used to expand upon different college essay topics, experiences, and perspectives.

You’ll likely run into a scenario in which the school you are applying to requires two types of supplemental essays. Let’s say you choose to write about similar or adjacent college essay topics for both. For example, you discuss your passion for community service in both essays, elaborating on different aspects within each. While this approach may seem coherent, it’s generally a better choice to write about two entirely different subjects for the essays. Writing about different topics demonstrates that you are a well-rounded applicant and would contribute to various aspects of the college community. 

When elaborating on extracurricular activities listed on the Common App, you’ll need to provide additional details and deeper meaning. Be strategic and don’t restate what has already been mentioned. Instead, use this opportunity to dive deeper into specific projects, achievements, leadership roles, and personal growth. 

#7: Showcase your voice

college essay tips

Your writing voice is the unique and distinctive style, tone, and personality that comes through in your essays. Think of it as your way of expressing your thoughts and ideas on the page. When writing your college essays, an admissions team should be able to “hear” your voice. 

An important element of how to write better essays is writing with an authentic voice . Your college essays should sound like you. So, unless you frequently use Shakespearean language, avoid it in your college essays. 

Use these college essay tips as tools to show who you are, what you value, and how you think. By making sure your authentic voice comes through, you can do just that. It’s vital that your essays are an authentic, personal, and vulnerable representation of who you are. Remember, you are what you write . 

#8: “Show” don’t “Tell”

college essay tips

You’ve probably heard it before, but #8 on our college essay tips on how to write better essays reaffirms the importance of showing, not telling, in your college essays. Your college essays give you the opportunity to show the admissions team who you are beyond your academic achievements. Entertaining or intriguing anecdotes are more effective at explaining your qualities and passions than just statements. 

Think about your most meaningful and favorite life stories. Do they show something about your personality, values, interests, or character?  You should use relevant anecdotes in order to show the admissions officers how you embody certain traits or beliefs, as opposed to just stating you have them.

Let’s take a look at this example of “show” vs “tell” writing:

“Tell” Writing: “I am compassionate and want to help others. I have volunteered at a local homeless shelter, which has been very rewarding.”

“Show” Writing: “Last summer, as I was volunteering at the local homeless shelter, I experienced an indescribable sense of fulfillment. I served a tired-looking woman with three young children a hot plate of food. She met me with gratitude and relief in her eyes, and I met her with a warm smile. At that moment, I saw my small act of kindness make a tangible difference in someone’s life and knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would do the same.”

As you can see, the “show” writing example paints a vivid picture and engages the reader by providing specific details and descriptions. This creates a more impactful and memorable narrative while providing evidence of the argument being made: the student is passionate about helping others. If you decide to write about a common topic like service, do it because your experience has led to thought and reflection, not because you feel like it’s what admissions officers want to hear. 

If you want to know how to write better essays, whether writing Tufts supplemental essays, Fordham supplemental essays, UPenn supplemental essays, Yale supplemental essays, or Smith College essays, showing and not telling is key. You’ll notice it in all exceptional college essay examples.  

#9: Ask for help!

college essay tips

You should approach the editing phase of your college essays with the same importance as the writing phase. This phase is connected to the first of our college essay tips: start early! The earlier you start planning your essays, the more time you’ll have to ask parents, teachers, and advisors for college essay help. Having an outsider look at your essay will teach you a lot. So, make sure you dedicate sufficient time to this critical phase. 

When you feel like your essay is ready for review, use multiple resources to increase the chances of producing an error-free essay. Begin with writing assistant programs, like spell-check, for basic errors. Then, ideally, seek college essay help from at least two knowledgeable adults. Their feedback can help when considering how to write better essays. Additionally, look to these tips from Harvard experts and Harvard students on how to write standout college essays. 

Give yourself time to receive external feedback on your college essay topics and ideas as well as grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Following these guidelines will help you to complete your college application essays before the application deadline. This will ensure you submit work that impresses admissions officers and is free of college essay mistakes. For perfectionists, this Forbes guide to the college essay may be exactly what you’re looking for. 

After reading all these tips, you should now know how to start a college essay. You can always reach out to our advisors at CollegeAdvisor for college essay help by scheduling an appointment here . We also have guides on writing college essays and supplemental essays, as well as examples of college essays that worked. However, when in doubt during your writing process, revisit these tips for a reminder of how to write better essays.

Learning how to write better essays

college essay tips

Many students struggle with figuring out how to write better essays during the college admissions process. They may think they can’t write the best college admission essays or master the college application essay format. However, with the college essay tips listed above and good college essay help, anyone can learn how to write better essays. What makes a great college essay is a combination of practice, revision, and time. 

Are you trying to master how to write better essays? Start by giving yourself enough time to work on your college application essay prompts. Many of our college essay tips require time to research, outline, and plan before you even start writing your first draft. The more time you have to revise and fix your college essay mistakes, the better your essay will be.

Following college essay tips is also important because you may not have experience with this kind of writing. College essay prompts and supplemental essays require different skills than essays for your high school classes. For example, teachers often discourage writers from being too personal in academic essays. However, college essay prompts require a great deal of personal information, and the best essays include authentic personal experiences.

When learning how to write better essays, you can always learn from past successes. Reading essays that worked is a very popular way to gain insight into the college application essay format. Moreover, they may provide inspiration for your own essays, of which there will likely be several. Many colleges ask for multiple supplemental essays, so reading widely will prepare you for the endless college essay prompts available.

Approaching Different Types of Essays

In truth, your understanding of how to write better essays for college will only deepen with practice. In other words, writing for various college essay prompts will improve your final product. Of course, reading sample essays for a variety of topics beforehand will widen your perspective and prepare you to write. With that said, you do actually have to write something—put all those tips and knowledge to good use.

Each essay will demand something different from you: extracurricular experiences, academic aspirations, and challenges faced. While the end goal remains to showcase your best sides to admissions, it can be challenging depending on the prompt. By reading and writing multiple genres of essays, you’ll figure out the best approach to any prompt.

Nowadays, there are many different college essay topics to choose from; some will be better suited to you than others. Knowing what prompts will bring out the best side of you is essential to writing great essays. And don’t worry too much about writing about a never-before-seen or wholly unique experience. Despite what some may say, common topics aren’t off-limits—you just need to fine-tune them to showcase your strengths.

Writing within a short word count is another difficult aspect of how to write better essays. Most academic essays are several pages in length, whereas some college application essay prompts allow fewer than 150 words. Short essays especially require careful word choice and, often, more than one revision. The best college essays are highly polished, refined college essay ideas—basically, start early to get ahead.

Reading College Essay Examples

college essay tips

One of the best ways to learn how to write better essays is to read successful college essay examples. Many college websites will post essay examples from their most recent incoming class. In these, you can see what admitted students wrote about and get some college essay ideas of your own. 

With that said, beware of plagiarism. You should never copy supplemental essays that were written by somebody else. Not only is it considered plagiarism, but it also will not help you answer the college essay prompts better. Developing your authentic voice, with some inspiration gained from research, is the best technique for how to write better essays.

If you’re looking for examples for a wide range of college essay prompts, CollegeAdvisor.com has you covered there, too. We’ve compiled some of the best college essays, all written by students like you who were accepted into top colleges. These sample essays and their accompanying college essay tips are excellent models for learning how to write better essays.

Another place to find great college essay help is this article featuring 10 different essays that earned their writers’ acceptance at the end of the admissions process. This article features every possible college application essay format, including Common Application essays and different variations of supplemental essays. Regardless of your college essay prompts, you can find college essay tips for how to write better essays. Unconventional college essay topics are particularly difficult to brainstorm for, so these examples can help you figure out how to start a college essay. 

More Essay Guides from CollegeAdvisor

At CollegeAdvisor.com, we know the value of looking over a variety of successful college essay examples. That’s why we’ve compiled essay guides covering the college essay prompts for over 100 of America’s top universities. From the UPenn supplemental essays to the Yale supplemental essays and Tufts supplemental essays, our guides will help you prepare for any college’s prompts.

Because each school’s essays are different, specific essay guides are an excellent place to start. If you’re seeking college essay tips for supplemental essays at a particular school, the best source is successful essays. Our articles also include guides on how to write better essays for Ivy League schools , the UC system , and much more.

What about college essay tips for non-specific essays? While each school’s supplemental essays are different, nearly all of them require some sort of personal statement . This may be through the Common Application , Coalition Application , or an alternative college application essay format. Certainly, there are many articles out there with general college essay tips, like those from U.S. News or Forbes . However, there is no better way to learn how to write better essays than reading full examples.

Use your network

Finally, don’t be afraid to consult your personal network for college essay tips. Do you have a friend, older sibling, or high school alum who attends a college on your list? You can ask them about their essay or about their experience at the school. If you live nearby, you may even be able to accompany them there to walk around campus.

Their perspective could be very valuable since they’ve already gone through the admissions process and been accepted there. Their insights into your personality can also help you consider which college essay prompts will best serve you. When looking into how to write better essays, make sure you take advantage of all the resources available to you.

Making your supplemental essays stand out

We’ve gone over a lot of advice for how to write better essays. By now, your head may be swimming with all the college essay tips and topics we provided. So let’s get back to basics and figure out the most essential things to writing great essays.

To summarize, we wanted to highlight three more college essay tips to help your supplemental essays stand out from the crowd . And, especially if you’re applying to popular schools, there will be a big crowd.

Depending on a school’s size, an admissions officer may read hundreds or thousands of applications during the college admissions process. And because college application requirements are the same for every applicant, they’re likely reading hundreds of responses to the same college essay prompts. Therefore, making your essay stand out is a great way to make a positive first impression on your application.

How to Write a Standout Essay

how to write better essays

1. Prepare with Research

The first of our additional college essay tips is to do your research. Supplemental essays often ask students why they want to attend the school or explain how they embody the school’s values. In order to write supplemental essays on these topics, you should know what makes the school appealing to you. Consider a virtual or in-person campus tour, and definitely visit the school website. This research will provide a solid foundation for your essays. Detailed, passionate college essays whose writers did their research stand out among generic essays with only surface-level knowledge of the school. So, write about what moves you, and show that you’ve thought about pursuing those passions at that school. 

2. Be Genuine

The second tip for how to write better essays is to be authentic. One of the most common college essay mistakes is writing what you think the admissions officers want to hear . Instead, use the essay as an opportunity to showcase your personality and character.

Don’t just list your accomplishments or try to cram every single accolade you’ve received into an essay. Rather, pick out some personal stories to share that answer the prompt while also providing information about you. The best college admission essays showcase qualities and tell stories not found elsewhere in your application.

3. Don’t Skimp on Time

Finally, anyone who knows how to write better essays knows that time management is paramount. These college essay tips are incredibly useful only if you allow yourself enough time to implement them, so start early! The Common Application opens on August 1st each year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start. Take some time to think about which topics are best for you, or research supplemental essays from your preferred colleges. The earlier you start, the better off you will be. 

An early start means more time to edit—after all, the best college admissions essays go through several rounds of revision. Good editing requires time and patience, which is why starting on your essays early is essential. Taking the time to try several college essay ideas and choose the best ones will ensure that you submit your best work. You also need time to rest. Sometimes, learning how to write better essays means taking a few days’ break, then coming back to writing with fresh eyes!

Starting early also gives you more time to write multiple essay drafts and share them with people for feedback. In addition to giving yourself enough time, it is important to ask for help with how to write better essays. Even if you consider yourself to be a strong writer, college application essays require very specific skills. Support during the admissions process can come from family members, friends, and teachers and will take many forms. Just make sure that your editors are not writing the essay for you or making changes that undermine your own voice. 

CollegeAdvisor is here to help

We have already established that the best college admission essays are written with lots of help and support from others. Personalized guidance is important when learning how to write better essays. An expert can often help you put these college essay tips into practice with your own writing. After all, the college application essay format is pretty different from other forms of writing you’re likely used to. In light of that, it helps to work with someone familiar with college essay topics and college application essay prompts.

College admissions can be extremely stressful. The sheer number of college application requirements that need to be completed for each school is daunting, even if you are a strong student. Plus, the skills and knowledge required for a college application are different from the ones high school classes call for. So, if you’re struggling with how to write better essays, know that you’re not alone. There are many resources available to help you. 

Those resources include CollegeAdvisor.com. In addition to our numerous free articles, we offer personalized admissions help to hundreds of students worldwide. If you’re trying to write your best college admission essays, we can lend a hand.

Getting Help from CollegeAdvisor

At CollegeAdvisor.com, our team of 400+ Admissions Experts and former Admissions Officers has helped hundreds of students approach the college admissions process with confidence. Whether you need help with how to start a college essay or already have a draft, our experts can help you create the best college application essays possible! We offer one-on-one guidance to students as they complete every aspect of their college applications, including essays. We’ll help you brainstorm topics, create drafts, edit your writing, and more so that you feel confident when you press “submit.” 

In addition to your personal college advisor, we also have a dedicated Essay Editing Team whose job is helping students with how to write better essays. They work with your college advisor to provide additional college essay help. This team of specialists will receive your essay and return it within 48 hours with targeted feedback and guidance on how to write better essays. Plus, you can keep sending drafts as you revise so that the feedback you receive will evolve as your essay does.

Finally, where applicable, CollegeAdvisor offers students the chance to have an “application dress rehearsal.” Here, your full application, including essays, is reviewed by one of our former Admissions Officers. They will review the college application essay format with you, check your materials, and flag any issues they see with the application.

They’ll also provide specific feedback based on their experience in admissions offices at the top universities nationwide. They know how admissions officers think and will use that knowledge to help you with how to write better essays. In addition, these former admissions officers will help you prepare for interviews if your school requires them. 

College Essay Tips – Final Thoughts

When it comes to college essay prompts, there are many different approaches for how to write better essays. Different college essay prompts will require different techniques. For example, the Fordham supplemental essays may require different skills and perspectives than the Smith college essay. However, the college essay tips we’ve compiled here can be used with a wide range of college application essay prompts. These tips for how to write better essays come from experts in the field with years of admissions experience.

Don’t be afraid to share essays with your advisor, a trusted teacher, or a family member for additional college essay help. They may be able to see errors that you missed and provide a new perspective on your writing. At the same time, since they know your personality, they can tell you if your writing is representative of your potential.  In addition, seeking support from a CollegeAdvisor.com expert can give you the added confidence that the advice you are receiving is backed by years of experience. 

Experts you can trust

Our experts can help you not only with how to write better essays but also with any other part of your college application requirements. Supplemental essays and college essay prompts are just one part of the admissions process where our advisors can assist you. We also offer help with financial aid, college list development, test prep, and much more.

To see all the ways that CollegeAdvisor.com can help you with your college applications, sign up here for a quick consultation with one of our experts. For even more free resources and examples of college application essays explore our site. For starters, check out this article about the Common Application essay prompts and this one for essay topic ideas.

how to write better essays

This article was written by senior advisor, Jess Klein , Bailey Bennett, and senior advisor, Alex Baggott-Rowe . Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

how to make a college essay better

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how to make a college essay better

  • Questions about Expos?
  • Writing Support for Instructors

Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs your careful analysis of the evidence to understand how you arrived at this claim. You arrive at your thesis by examining and analyzing the evidence available to you, which might be text or other types of source material.

A thesis will generally respond to an analytical question or pose a solution to a problem that you have framed for your readers (and for yourself). When you frame that question or problem for your readers, you are telling them what is at stake in your argument—why your question matters and why they should care about the answer . If you can explain to your readers why a question or problem is worth addressing, then they will understand why it’s worth reading an essay that develops your thesis—and you will understand why it’s worth writing that essay.

A strong thesis will be arguable rather than descriptive , and it will be the right scope for the essay you are writing. If your thesis is descriptive, then you will not need to convince your readers of anything—you will be naming or summarizing something your readers can already see for themselves. If your thesis is too narrow, you won’t be able to explore your topic in enough depth to say something interesting about it. If your thesis is too broad, you may not be able to support it with evidence from the available sources.

When you are writing an essay for a course assignment, you should make sure you understand what type of claim you are being asked to make. Many of your assignments will be asking you to make analytical claims , which are based on interpretation of facts, data, or sources.

Some of your assignments may ask you to make normative claims. Normative claims are claims of value or evaluation rather than fact—claims about how things should be rather than how they are. A normative claim makes the case for the importance of something, the action that should be taken, or the way the world should be. When you are asked to write a policy memo, a proposal, or an essay based on your own opinion, you will be making normative claims.

Here are some examples of possible thesis statements for a student's analysis of the article “The Case Against Perfection” by Professor Michael Sandel.  

Descriptive thesis (not arguable)  

While Sandel argues that pursuing perfection through genetic engineering would decrease our sense of humility, he claims that the sense of solidarity we would lose is also important.

This thesis summarizes several points in Sandel’s argument, but it does not make a claim about how we should understand his argument. A reader who read Sandel’s argument would not also need to read an essay based on this descriptive thesis.  

Broad thesis (arguable, but difficult to support with evidence)  

Michael Sandel’s arguments about genetic engineering do not take into consideration all the relevant issues.

This is an arguable claim because it would be possible to argue against it by saying that Michael Sandel’s arguments do take all of the relevant issues into consideration. But the claim is too broad. Because the thesis does not specify which “issues” it is focused on—or why it matters if they are considered—readers won’t know what the rest of the essay will argue, and the writer won’t know what to focus on. If there is a particular issue that Sandel does not address, then a more specific version of the thesis would include that issue—hand an explanation of why it is important.  

Arguable thesis with analytical claim  

While Sandel argues persuasively that our instinct to “remake” (54) ourselves into something ever more perfect is a problem, his belief that we can always draw a line between what is medically necessary and what makes us simply “better than well” (51) is less convincing.

This is an arguable analytical claim. To argue for this claim, the essay writer will need to show how evidence from the article itself points to this interpretation. It’s also a reasonable scope for a thesis because it can be supported with evidence available in the text and is neither too broad nor too narrow.  

Arguable thesis with normative claim  

Given Sandel’s argument against genetic enhancement, we should not allow parents to decide on using Human Growth Hormone for their children.

This thesis tells us what we should do about a particular issue discussed in Sandel’s article, but it does not tell us how we should understand Sandel’s argument.  

Questions to ask about your thesis  

  • Is the thesis truly arguable? Does it speak to a genuine dilemma in the source, or would most readers automatically agree with it?  
  • Is the thesis too obvious? Again, would most or all readers agree with it without needing to see your argument?  
  • Is the thesis complex enough to require a whole essay's worth of argument?  
  • Is the thesis supportable with evidence from the text rather than with generalizations or outside research?  
  • Would anyone want to read a paper in which this thesis was developed? That is, can you explain what this paper is adding to our understanding of a problem, question, or topic?
  • Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
  • Asking Analytical Questions
  • Introductions
  • What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common?
  • Anatomy of a Body Paragraph
  • Transitions
  • Tips for Organizing Your Essay
  • Counterargument
  • Conclusions
  • Strategies for Essay Writing: Downloadable PDFs
  • Brief Guides to Writing in the Disciplines

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How to Write a Good College Essay

Last Updated: March 7, 2023 References

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 18 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 291,876 times.

Writing a college-level essay can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't need to be overwhelming. Instead, break it up into steps. First, read your prompt carefully, then start compiling your research. While an admissions essay is typically on a personal topic, a college academic essay is formal and usually requires scholarly sources. Before you start writing, carefully research your topic and narrow your focus. Then make an outline, which will help you avoid tangents. After you're finished writing, there's still a little work left to do. Take the time to revise and proofread your essay to ensure you're submitting your best work.

Beginning Your Essay

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 1

  • For example, “analyze” means to pull apart. The prompt “ Analyze a poem by Charles Baudelaire” is asking you to divide a poem into specific elements and explain how they function.
  • Note any details such as “ Compare and contrast 2 short stories not discussed in class.” Discuss the similarities and differences of your examples' literary devices, and be sure to choose stories that weren't covered in class.
  • Your assignment instructions may include a breakdown of how your work will be graded (e.g., a certain number of points may be awarded based on organization, spelling and grammar, or the strength of your sources). If the grading criteria aren't clearly explained in the instructions, ask your teacher or professor to explain their rubric.
  • If any part of the prompt seems unclear or confusing, don't hesitate to ask your professor for help.

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 2

  • You'll likely need to include primary sources, such as the poem or story you're analyzing, or letters written by the historical figure you're discussing.
  • Secondary sources, such as scholarly articles or books, are publications by experts on your topic. Cite secondary sources to back your argument, or mention a source in your counterargument to refute the claims of its author.
  • If you have trouble tracking down good sources, ask a librarian or your professor for help. Your course syllabus likely includes useful texts, too. Check their reference or further reading sections for additional leads.
  • Your school or university library likely subscribes to academic research databases like EBSCO and J-STOR. Log in to your library's website to access these resources. You can also use free online resources like Google Scholar.

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 3

  • You could write down main ideas or keywords in bubbles or clouds. Draw lines between connected concepts and make smaller bubbles for terms connected to larger ideas.
  • Bullet point lists could help you gain a bird's-eye-view over your material. For a literary analysis, you could list examples for categories such as “Literary Devices” or “Key Events.”
  • Try journaling or free-writing to get your creative juices flowing. Write what you know about the topic for 15 or 20 minutes without censoring your ideas.

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 4

  • Try to find an overarching argument or idea that encompasses all the major points you want to address.
  • Suppose you need to compare and contrast 2 literary works. You've analyzed each example, and you've identified how their elements function. They both employ nostalgic appeals to emotion, so you'll assert that the works use similar persuasive strategies to advance opposed ideologies.

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 5

  • You'll include your thesis in the introduction. It lets the reader know exactly what you're trying to prove. Note that you should just write your claim; don't start your thesis with “I will prove that,” or “It will be shown that.”
  • Early in the drafting process, your working thesis could be “Charles Baudelaire's experiences of city life and travel abroad shaped his poetry's central themes.”
  • As your essay takes shape, refine your thesis further: “Drawing on experiences of urban life and exotic travel, Charles Baudelaire reinterpreted la voyage , a primary theme of French Romantic poetry.”

Drafting Your Paper

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 6

  • It's also helpful to plug in your sources and citations where you plan on using them. For instance, next to section III-B-3, write the source you plan on citing, e.g., “Smith, French Poetry , p. 123.”

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 7

  • The road map should mention the evidence you'll use to prove the thesis. For example, “Analyses of the key poetic elements, along with discussion of autobiographical excerpts, will show how Baudelaire imagined la voyage as darker and more complicated than his Romantic predecessors.”
  • Some people prefer to write the introduction before making an outline. Do whichever feels more comfortable. Your outline could help you structure your introduction, or your intro might lay out a road map for your outline.

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 8

  • In high school, you probably learned to write a basic essay with an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. That structure won't work if your argument calls for a more complex structure, or if your paper needs to be 10 or 15 pages.
  • For instance, in the first 2 or 3 paragraphs after the introduction, you'd need to discuss how la voyage was a recurring theme in French Romantic poetry in the 19th Century. [9] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
  • After establishing how other poets handled the theme, the next logical step is to describe Baudelaire's conception, and to support this description by citing his poetry.
  • Since the thesis argues that this conception owes to his personal experiences, you'd then discuss how city life and travel abroad shaped Baudelaire's poetry.

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 9

  • Suppose you've argued that a military conflict was caused by increasing nationalism and competition over resources. A scholar previously claimed that the conflict was solely instigated by the involved nations' authoritarian governments. You'd mention that this argument ignores the underlying tensions that set the stage for the conflict.
  • Good ways to address a counterargument include refutation (where you provide evidence that weakens or disproves the opposing perspective) and rebuttal (in which you offer evidence that shows that your argument is stronger).

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 10

  • For instance, if you argued about how a rising tide of nationalism led to a military conflict, you could write, “Unwillingness to find diplomatic solutions, bolstered by the belief of national superiority, led to this particular conflict. So too, on a global scale, rising tides of nationalism threaten the political and economic bonds of the international community.”

Revising Your Draft

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 11

  • As you read, consider whether each of your body paragraphs fully supports your thesis.
  • It's helpful to print a copy of your essay so you can write notes and corrections by hand. Additionally, take a break before you begin revising so you can approach your work with fresh eyes. [13] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 12

  • For example, when you see your essay in outline form, you might realize that the essay would flow better if you changed the order in which you present your main points.

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 13

  • The sentences, “The first author appeals to readers' emotions. The second author similarly employs pathos,” are boring and repetitive. A better structure could be, “In terms of rhetorical strategy, impassioned appeals to emotion link the pair of short stories.”

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 14

  • Be sure you've used strong, clear verbs. “The expert witness rebutted the defense's claim,” for instance, is stronger than “The expert witness went against the defense's claim.”
  • Double check that you've used the active voice whenever possible. “Baudelaire defined our understanding of modernity,” is stronger than the passive construction, “Modernity was defined by Baudelaire.”

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 15

  • Be sure to spell check with your brain and not your computer. Your computer probably won't catch a “wear” used instead of “where.”

Image titled Write a Good College Essay Step 16

  • Ask the person to look for more than just spelling and grammatical errors. Have them offer feedback on your argument's structure, and ask them to point out any spots that seem unclear or under-developed. If necessary, revise your essay once more to apply their suggested changes.

Writing Help

how to make a college essay better

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

  • If you're having trouble with procrastination, break the assignment up into small steps. For example, brainstorm for a while, take a break, then make an outline. Give yourself a little reward when you accomplish a task. [18] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Be sure to use academic language . Avoid slang, contractions, and other informal language. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to make a college essay better

You Might Also Like

Reference Essays

  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/how-read-assignment
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/evidence/
  • ↑ https://slc.berkeley.edu/you-start-writing-paper-guide-prewriting-techniques-0
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/brainstorming/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/thesis-statements/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/outlining
  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/body-paragraphs
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/college-writing/
  • ↑ https://www.unr.edu/writing-speaking-center/student-resources/writing-speaking-resources/counterarguments
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
  • ↑ https://opentextbc.ca/writingforsuccess/chapter/chapter-12-peer-review-and-final-revisions/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/revising-drafts/
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/ReverseOutlines.html
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/concise-writing/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
  • ↑ https://osuwritingcenter.okstate.edu/blog/peer-review
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/procrastination/

About This Article

Jake Adams

To write a good college essay, start by developing a concise thesis that clearly asserts your claim. As you write the essay and your thoughts evolve, so will your thesis, so don’t forget to revise it as you go. One you have a working thesis, craft an introduction that lays the groundwork for your claims. Following your introduction, you should include several body paragraphs, each of which should focus on one main topic that will help support the thesis. Finally, end your essay with a conclusion that offers a resolution to the subject. To learn how to revise your essay, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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  • How to Make Your College Essay Stand Out | Tips & Examples

How to Make Your College Essay Stand Out | Tips & Examples

Published on October 25, 2021 by Kirsten Courault . Revised on August 14, 2023.

While admissions officers are interested in hearing about your experiences , they’re also interested in how you present them. An exceptionally written essay will stand out from the crowd, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

To write a standout essay, you can use literary devices to pull the reader in and catch their attention. Literary devices often complement each other and can be woven together to craft an original, vivid, and creative personal essay. However, don’t overdo it; focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

Table of contents

Essay structure devices, storytelling devices, imagery devices, tone devices, sentence-level devices, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about college application essays.

You can frame your essay with symbolism or extended metaphors, which both work well in a montage or narrative essay structure .

Symbolism is the use of tangible objects to represent ideas. In your college essay, you can use one major symbol that represents your essay’s theme. Throughout your essay, you can also intentionally place related minor symbols to communicate ideas without explicitly stating them. The key is to use original, meaningful symbols that are not cliché.

For example, if your essay’s theme is “family,” your symbol could be a well-worn beloved Lord of the Rings Monopoly game set. Rather than directly saying, “The Lord of the Rings Monopoly game has brought my family happiness,” share stories with this game to demonstrate your family’s closeness, joy, and loyalty.

Supporting symbols:

  • Story 1: Chipped and mismatching collectible Gandalf the Grey coffee mugs surround the Monopoly board during a lazy weekend
  • Story 2: A folding card table supports our family’s mobile Monopoly game while the family plays at a campsite
  • Story 3: An extended edition LOTR box set plays in the background during Thanksgiving feasts with extended family. We have a Monopoly competition after dinner.
  • Story 4: Matching Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry Halloween outfits are proudly worn by me and my family members. We always play a game of Monopoly the afternoon before going out together to our town’s annual Halloween carnival.

In the example below, a student depicts “The Monster,” an imaginary symbolic figure that represents the student’s jealousy.

Main idea: I have been on a quest to slay the Monster, the toxic envy that overtakes me when I compare myself to one of my friends.

Narrative: I remember first encountering the Monster in second grade when Laurel bobbed her hair. Everybody raved about how cute she looked. The Monster had plenty to say about how ugly, unpopular, and undesirable I was compared to Laurel. After that day, the Monster never seemed to leave my side.

Extended metaphor

A metaphor directly compares two unrelated objects, giving deeper meaning and multi-dimensional imagery. Since metaphors create a new reality between two objects, use them sparingly throughout your essay to avoid overwhelming the reader with too many comparisons.

You can also use an extended metaphor, which builds upon a simple metaphor throughout the essay with other literary devices and more in-depth descriptions.

To brainstorm your extended metaphor, you should first identify feelings or values associated with your story and then brainstorm images associated with these feelings.

Keep the following in mind when crafting your extended metaphor:

  • Keep the comparison simple.
  • Use a few other literary devices such as imagery or anecdotes to enrich your extended metaphor.
  • Avoid making cliché comparisons.
  • Don’t exaggerate or make an unrealistic comparison.

In the example below, a student uses the extended metaphor of a museum to explore the theme of identity. Each anecdote is framed as an “exhibit” that tells us something about her life.

  • The Sight Exhibit: Flashback illustrating how racial discrimination led to my identity as a writer
  • The Sound Exhibit: Snapshots of musical memories, identity as a musical theater lover
  • The Smell Exhibit: Scents of my family’s Thanksgiving meal, identity as a daughter, granddaughter, and member of the Arimoto family
  • The Touch Exhibit: Feel of warm water washing away academic and extracurricular worries while washing dishes, identity as a level-headed honors student
  • The Taste Exhibit: Taste of salty sweat while bike training with a friend, identity as an athlete

In the next example, a student uses the river as an extended metaphor for his educational journey. The different parts of the river’s course represent different challenges he has overcome.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Here are the most effective literary devices to enrich your storytelling in college essays.

Into the midst of things, in medias res

In medias res , Latin for “into the midst of things,” is a device that involves starting in the middle of the action. Then, important details are added to fill in the story. Similar to the beginning of an action or thriller movie, in medias res immediately drops the reader into a scene, allowing them to discern the story through sensory imagery.

Unlike a linear chronological narrative, flashbacks can be used to transport your reader from the present moment to a key past event to give a clearer understanding of your current personality, values, and goals.

Dialogue is a conversation between two or more people. Using dialogue in your essay can sometimes create suspense, transport readers into a scene, or highlight an important message. However, it should be used sparingly and strategically to avoid an anti-climatic or redundant moment.

Famous quotes should be avoided since they are overused, but using quotes from important people in your life can be original, personal, and powerful. But make sure the quote adds value to your essay.

You can use both figurative and literal imagery throughout your essay to paint a clearer, richer image in your reader’s mind.

Similes , like metaphors, compare two unrelated objects but use the words “as” or “like.”

In a metaphor, the two objects are considered the same, but in a simile, the word “like” or “as” creates some distance between the objects.

Five senses

Illustrate your five senses with descriptive language to help your readers quickly imagine your story in a vivid, visceral way. Sensory language also helps to convey your interest and knowledge of a topic.


Personification uses human characteristics and behaviors to describe inanimate objects, animals, or ideas. This can help show your emotional connection to something in an original and poetic way.

Here are a few tone devices to help improve your essay’s authenticity and voice .


While most slang is too informal for college essays, regional colloquialisms can sometimes improve your essay’s authenticity when used strategically, enhancing your ability to connect with admissions officers and adding a memorable element.

However, you should ensure that they don’t seem shoehorned in or otherwise affect the flow, clarity, or professionalism of your essay. If applying to schools outside your region of origin (or if you’re applying as an international student ), be sure the colloquialism is one that will be widely understood.

Hyperbole is dramatic exaggeration to express the intensity of your feelings about something. Use hyperbole sparingly to ensure the greatest impact and avoid sounding overly dramatic. Make sure to be original, avoiding overused comparisons.

Sentence-level devices are useful for dramatic effect or to highlight a point. But use them sparingly to avoid sounding robotic, redundant, or awkward.

To have the greatest impact, use these devices against the backdrop of varying sentence structures and at a critical or vulnerable moment in your essay, especially during reflection.

If you want to know more about academic writing , effective communication , or parts of speech , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

Academic writing

  • Writing process
  • Transition words
  • Passive voice
  • Paraphrasing


  • How to end an email
  • Ms, mrs, miss
  • How to start an email
  • I hope this email finds you well
  • Hope you are doing well

 Parts of speech

  • Personal pronouns
  • Conjunctions

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

Though admissions officers are interested in hearing your story, they’re also interested in how you tell it. An exceptionally written essay will differentiate you from other applicants, meaning that admissions officers will spend more time reading it.

You can use literary devices to catch your reader’s attention and enrich your storytelling; however, focus on using just a few devices well, rather than trying to use as many as possible.

You can use humor in a college essay , but carefully consider its purpose and use it wisely. An effective use of humor involves unexpected, keen observations of the everyday, or speaks to a deeper theme. Humor shouldn’t be the main focus of the essay, but rather a tool to improve your storytelling.

Get a second opinion from a teacher, counselor, or essay coach on whether your essay’s humor is appropriate.

Avoid swearing in a college essay , since admissions officers’ opinions of profanity will vary. In some cases, it might be okay to use a vulgar word, such as in dialogue or quotes that make an important point in your essay. However, it’s safest to try to make the same point without swearing.

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Other students also liked, style and tone tips for your college essay | examples, what do colleges look for in an essay | examples & tips, how to write about yourself in a college essay | examples.

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12 Ways to Quickly Improve Your Academic Essay Writing Skills


Written by  Scribendi

Anyone can learn to produce an academic essay if they begin with a few basic essay-writing rules. 

An academic essay must be based upon a solid but debatable thesis, supported by relevant and credible evidence, and closed with a succinct and thorough conclusion.

By adhering to the best way to write an essay, you can create valuable, persuasive papers even when you're under a time crunch!

What Makes a Good Essay?

As previously noted, the foundation of any good academic essay is its thesis statement. 

Do not confuse your thesis with your opening sentence. There are many good ways to start an essay , but few essays immediately present their main ideas.

After you draft your thesis, you can begin to develop your essay around it. This development will include the main supporting points of your essay, which will scaffold its main body. 

Essays also typically include a relevant and compelling introduction and conclusion.

Learn How to Write a Great Thesis Statement .

Good Ways to Start an Essay

Understanding How to Write a Good Essay

When writing an academic essay, you must take a number of qualities and characteristics into careful consideration. Focus, development, unity, coherence, and correctness all play critical roles when it comes to distinguishing an exceptional essay from one that is less than perfect.

The following essay-writing tips can help writers organize, format, and support their essays in ways that fit their intended purpose and optimize their overall persuasiveness. Here are 12 essay tips for developing and writing your next academic paper.

1. Know What You Are Going to Write About Before You Start Writing

While untrained writers might just sit down and start typing, educated and experienced writers know that there are many steps to writing an essay.

In short, you should know what you want to say before you type a single word. The easiest way to narrow down a thesis and create a proper argument is to make a basic outline before you begin composing your essay.

Your outline should consist of rough notes that sketch out your introduction (including your thesis), the body of your essay (which should include separate paragraphs that present your main supporting points with plenty of evidence and examples), and your conclusion (which ties everything together and connects the argument back to your thesis).

2. Acquire a Solid Understanding of Basic Grammar, Punctuation, and Style

Before getting into more refined essay-writing techniques, you must have a solid grasp of grammar, punctuation, and style. Without these writing fundamentals, it will be difficult to communicate your ideas effectively and ensure that they are taken seriously.

Grammar basics include subject and verb agreement, correct article and pronoun use, and well-formed sentence structures. Make sure you know the proper uses for the most common forms of punctuation. Be mindful of your comma usage and know when a period is needed.

Finally, voice is tremendously important in academic essay writing. Employ language that is as concise as possible. Avoid transition words that don't add anything to the sentence and unnecessary wordiness that detracts from your argument.

Furthermore, use the active voice instead of the passive whenever possible (e.g., "this study found" instead of "it was found by this study"). This will make your essay's tone clear and direct.

3. Use the Right Vocabulary and Know What the Words You Are Using Actually Mean

How you use language is important, especially in academic essay writing. When writing an academic essay, remember that you are persuading others that you are an expert who argues intelligently about your topic.

Using big words just to sound smart often results in the opposite effect—it is easy to detect when someone is overcompensating in their writing.

If you aren't sure of the exact meaning of a word, you risk using it incorrectly. There's no shame in checking, and it might save you from an embarrassing word misuse later!

Using obscure language can also detract from the clarity of your argument—you should consider this before pulling out a thesaurus to change a perfectly appropriate word to something completely different.

Want to learn more? Read 10 Academic Phrases Your Writing Doesn't Need .

4. Understand the Argument and Critically Analyze the Evidence

While writing a good essay, your main argument should always be at the front of your mind. While it's tempting to go off on a tangent about an interesting side note, doing so makes your writing less concise.

Always question the evidence you include in your essay; ask yourself, "Does this directly support my thesis?" If the answer is "no," then that evidence should probably be excluded. 

When you are evaluating evidence, be critical and thorough. You want to use the strongest research to back up your thesis. It is not enough to simply present evidence in support of an argument. A good writer must also explain why the evidence is relevant and supportive.

Everything you include should clearly connect to your topic and argument.   

Research Databases

5. Know How to Write a Conclusion That Supports Your Research

One of the most overlooked steps to writing an essay is the conclusion. Your conclusion ties all your research together and proves your thesis. It should not be a restatement of your introduction or a copy-and-paste of your thesis.

A strong conclusion briefly outlines the key evidence discussed in the body of an essay and directly ties it to the thesis to show how the evidence proves or disproves the main argument of your research.

Countless great essays have been written only to be derailed by vague, weakly worded conclusions. Don't let your next essay become one of those.     

6. Build a Solid Thesis to Support Your Arguments

A thesis is the main pillar of an essay. By selecting a specific thesis, you'll be able to develop arguments to support your central opinion. Consider writing about a unique experience or your own particular view of a topic .

Your thesis should be clear and logical, but it should also be debatable. Otherwise, it might be difficult to support it with compelling arguments.

7. Develop an Interesting Opening Paragraph to Hook In Readers from the Get-Go

No matter how you begin your essay, you must strive to capture the reader's interest immediately. If your opening paragraph doesn't catch the eye and engage the brain, any attempt at persuasion may end before the essay even starts. 

The beginning of your essay is crucial for setting the stage for your thesis.

8. Always Remember to Edit and Proofread Your Essay

Any decent writer will tell you that writing is really rewriting. A good academic essay will inevitably go through multiple drafts as it slowly takes shape. When you arrive at a final draft, you must make sure that it is as close to perfect as possible.

This means subjecting your essay to close and comprehensive editing and proofreading processes. In other words, you must read your paper as many times as necessary to eliminate all grammar/punctuation mistakes and typos.

Here are some common mistakes you should learn to avoid in academic writing. 

It is helpful to have a third party review your work. Consider consulting a peer or professional editing service. Keep in mind that professional editors are able to help you identify underdeveloped arguments and unnecessarily wordy language, and provide other feedback.

Get Critical Feedback on Your Writing

Hire an expert academic editor , or get a free sample, 9. when developing your essay's main body, build strong and relevant arguments.

Every sentence in the main body of your paper should explain and support your thesis. When deciding how much evidence to include in an academic essay, a good guideline is to include at least three main supporting arguments.

Those main supporting arguments, in turn, require support in the form of relevant facts, figures, examples, analogies, and observations. 

You will need to engage in appropriate research to accomplish this. To organize your research efforts, you may want to develop a list of good research questions . 

Learn how to write a research question that will help frame your research.

10. Choose the Format of Your Essay before Writing It

The final shape that your essay takes depends a great deal on what kind of format you use. Popular college essay format types include the Modern Language Association of America ( MLA ), American Psychological Association ( APA ), and Chicago Manual of Style ( Chicago style).

These formats govern everything from capitalization rules to source citation. Often, professors dictate a specific format for your essay. If they do not, you should choose the format that best suits your field.

11. Create Clear Transitions between Your Ideas

Although unnecessary transition words are the enemy of clarity and concision, they can be invaluable tools when it comes to separating and connecting the different sections of your essay. 

Not only do they help you express your ideas but they also bring a cohesive structure to your sentences and a pleasant flow to your writing. Just be sure that you are using the right transition words for the right purpose and to the proper effect.

12. Always Include an Organized Reference Page at the End of Your Essay

As a key component of MLA, APA, and Chicago Style formatting, the reference or Works Cited page is an essential part of any academic essay.

Regardless of the format used, the reference page must be well organized and easy to read so that your audience can see exactly where your outside information came from. 

To produce a properly formatted reference page, you may have to familiarize yourself with specialized phrases and abbreviations, such as " et al ." 


How to Write a Good Hook for an Essay

The key to a good hook is to introduce an unexplored or absorbing line of inquiry in your introduction that addresses the main point of your thesis. 

By carefully choosing your language and slowly revealing details, you can build reader anticipation for what follows. 

Much like an actual worm-baited fishing hook, a successful hook will lure and capture readers, allowing the writer to "reel them in."

How to Get Better at Writing Essays

You can get better at writing essays the same way that you improve at anything else: practice, practice, practice! However, there are a few ways that you can improve your writing quickly so you can turn in a quality academic essay on time.

In addition to following the 12 essay tips and guidelines above, you can familiarize yourself with a few common practices and structures for essay development. 

Great writing techniques for essays include brainstorming and tree diagrams, especially when coming up with a topic for your thesis statement. Becoming familiar with different structures for organizing your essay (order of importance, chronological, etc.) is also extremely helpful.

How to Write a Good Introduction for an Essay

To learn how to write a good essay, you must also learn how to write a good introduction. 

Most effective essay introductions begin with relatively broad and general subject matter and then gradually narrow in focus and scope until they arrive at something extremely specific: the thesis. This is why writers tend to place their thesis statements at the very end of their introductory paragraph(s).

Because they are generally broad and often relate only tangentially to an essay's main point, there is virtually no limit on what the beginning of a good introduction can look like. However, writers still tend to rely on somewhat cliché opening sentences, such as quotations and rhetorical questions.

How to Write a Good Conclusion for an Essay

Briefly put, a good conclusion does two things. It wraps up any loose ends and drives home the main point of your essay. 

To learn how to write a good conclusion, you will want to ensure that no unanswered questions remain in the reader's mind. A good conclusion will restate the thesis and reinforce the essay's main supporting points.

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College Essay Style Tips

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You may have an amazing story to tell for your college application essay, but your writing is going to fall flat if it doesn't use an engaging and effective style. For your essay to truly shine, you need to pay attention to not just  what you say, but also how you say it. These style tips can help you turn a bland and wordy admissions essay into an engaging narrative that improves your chances of being admitted.

Avoid Wordiness and Repetition

Allen Grove

Wordiness is by far the most common stylistic error in college admissions essays. In most cases, students could cut one-third of an essay, lose no meaningful content, and make the piece much more engaging and effective.

Wordiness comes in many forms with many different names—deadwood, repetition, redundancy, BS, filler, fluff—but whatever the type, those extraneous words have no place in a winning college admissions essay.

Example of Cutting Wordiness

Consider this brief example:

I have to admit that theater did not come naturally to me, and I remember that I felt remarkably self-conscious and nervous the first few times I set foot on the stage. The first time I was on stage was in the eighth grade when my best friend talked me into auditioning for our school's performance of the play Romeo and Juliet  by William Shakespeare.

In this passage, four phrases can be pared back or cut entirely. The near repetition of the phrase "the first times I set foot on the stage" saps the passage of energy and forward momentum. The essay spins in place rather than taking the reader on a journey.

Revised Version

Consider how much tighter and more engaging the passage is without all the unnecessary language:

Theater did not come naturally to me, and I felt remarkably self-conscious and nervous the first few times I set foot on stage in the eighth grade. My best friend had talked me into auditioning for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet .

Not only is the revised passage much more effective, but the author has cut 25 words. This may prove important as the writer tries to tell a meaningful story within the application essay length limits .

Avoid Vague and Imprecise Language

Watch out for vague and imprecise language in your college application essay. If you find that your essay is filled with words like "stuff" and "things" and "aspects" and "society," you may also find that your application ends up in the rejection pile.

Vague language can be removed easily by identifying what exactly you mean by "things" or "society." Find the precise word. Are you really talking about all of society or a specific group of people? When you mention "things" or "aspects," be precise—what exact things or aspects?

Example of Imprecise Language

Although short, the following passage is far from precise:

I like lots of things about basketball. For one, the activity allows me to develop abilities that will help me in future endeavors.

The passage says very little. What endeavors? What abilities? What things? Also, the writer could be much more precise than "activity." The writer is trying to explain how basketball has made her mature and develop, but the reader is left with a painfully fuzzy sense of how she has grown.

Consider the greater clarity of this revised version of the passage:

Not only do I find basketball fun, but the sport has helped me develop my leadership and communication skills, as well as my ability to work with a team. As a result, my love of basketball will make me a better business major."

In this case, the revision actually adds words to the essay, but the additional length is needed to clarify the point the applicant is trying to convey.

Avoid Clichés

Clichés have no place in a college admissions essay. A cliché is an over-used and tired phrase, and the use of clichés makes prose unoriginal and uninspiring. With your essay, you are trying to get the admissions officers excited about you and your essay topic, but there is nothing exciting about clichés. Instead, they diminish the essay's message and reveal the author's lack of creativity.

Example of Clichés

Think about how many phrases in the passage below you've heard hundreds of times before:

My brother is one in a million. If given a responsibility, he never falls asleep at the wheel. Who others fail, he is not one to make a mountain out of a molehill. To make a long story short, throughout high school I have tried to emulate my brother, and I credit him with many of my own successes.

The author is writing about her brother, a person who has had a major influence on her life. However, her praise is expressed almost entirely in clichés. Instead of her brother sounding like "one in a million," the applicant has presented phrases that the reader has heard a million times. All those clichés will quickly make the reader uninterested in the brother.

Consider how much more effective this revision of the passage is:

Throughout high school, I have tried to emulate my brother. He takes his responsibilities seriously, yet he is generous when dealing with the shortcomings of others. This combination of reliability and graciousness makes others turn to him for leadership. My own successes in high school are due largely to my brother's example.

This new description of the applicant's brother truly does make him sound like someone who is worth emulating.

Avoid Overuse of "I" in First-Person Narratives

Most college admissions essays are first-person narratives , so they are obviously written in the first person. For this reason, the very nature of application essays raises a particular challenge: you are being asked to write about yourself, but an essay can start sounding both repetitive and narcissistic if you use the word "I" twice in every sentence.

Example of Overuse of First Person

Consider the following passage from an application essay:

I have always loved soccer. I'm not exaggerating—my parents tell me I was pushing around a soccer ball before I could walk. I began playing in the community league before I was 4, and when I was 10 I began playing in regional tournaments.

In this example, the writer uses the word "I" seven times in three sentences. Of course, nothing is wrong with the word "I"—you will and should use it in your essay—but you want to avoid overusing it.

The example can be rewritten so that instead of seven uses of "I" there is only one:

Soccer has been a part of my life for longer than I can remember. Literally. My parents have photos of me crawling around as a baby pushing a ball with my head. My later childhood was all about soccer—the community league at age 4, and participation in regional tournaments by 10.

Many applicants aren't fully comfortable writing about themselves and highlighting their accomplishments, and they've also been trained by high school teachers not to use "I" at all when writing an essay. A college admissions essay, however, absolutely needs to use the word "I." In general, don't worry too much about the frequent use of "I" unless it becomes excessive. When you use the word multiple times in a single sentence, it's time to rework the sentence.

Avoid Excessive Digression

Digression isn't always wrong in a college admissions essay. Sometimes a colorful aside or anecdote can help engage the reader and enhance the reading experience.

However, in many cases digression adds little to an essay other than extraneous words. Whenever you deviate from your main point, make sure the deviation serves a legitimate purpose in your essay.

Example of Excessive Digression

Consider the middle sentence in this short passage:

Although it wasn't academically challenging, I learned a lot from my job at Burger King. In fact, the job had rewards similar to several other jobs I have had during high school. The Burger King job, however, was unique in that I had some difficult personalities to negotiate.

The writer's mention of "other jobs" does not enhance his point about Burger King. If the essay isn't going to talk more about those other jobs, there's no reason to bring them up.

If the author deletes that middle sentence, the passage is much stronger. 

​Although it wasn't academically challenging, my job at Burger King forced me to negotiate some difficult personalities."

Note that this revision does more than cut out the digression. It also cuts and combines the first and third sentences to remove wordiness.

Avoid Overuse of Flowery Language

When writing your admissions essay, be careful to avoid overusing flowery language (sometimes called purple prose ). Too many adjectives and adverbs can ruin the reading experience.

Strong verbs, not adjectives and adverbs, will make your admissions essay come to life. When an essay has two or three adjectives or adverbs in every sentence, the admissions folks will quickly feel like they are in the presence of an immature writer who is trying too hard to impress them.

Example of Flowery Language

Keep track of all of the adverbs in this short passage:

The game was spectacularly wonderful. I didn't score the defining goal, but I did manage dexterously to pass the ball to my amazingly talented teammate who adroitly kicked it between the goalie's desperately reaching fingers and the rigid frame of the right-hand corner of the goal.

The majority of adjectives and adverbs (especially adverbs) can be cut if the verbs (the action words) of the passage are chosen well.

Compare the overwritten example above to this revision:

The game was close. I won't receive credit for our win, but I did pass the ball to my teammate who kicked the ball into the narrow space between the goalie's hands and the upper corner of the goal post. In the end, the victory was really about a team, not an individual.

The revision focuses more on making a point, not melodrama.

Avoid Weak Verbs in Admissions Essays

For better writing, focus on using strong verbs . Think about what you are trying to accomplish with your college admissions essay: you want to grab your readers' attention and keep them engaged. Lots of adjectives and adverbs often make prose seem wordy, fluffy, and over-written. Strong verbs animate prose.

The most common verb in the English language is "to be" (is, was, were, am, etc.). Without a doubt, you will use the verb "to be" multiple times in your admissions essay. However, if the majority of your sentences rely on "to be," you're sapping your essay of energy.

Example of Weak Verbs

The passage below is perfectly clear, but keep track of how many times the author uses the verb "is":

My brother is my hero. He is the person I owe the most to for my success in high school. He isn't aware of his influence on me, but he is nonetheless responsible for much of what I have accomplished.

Every sentence in this short passage uses the verb "to be." The writing has no grammatical errors, but it flops on the stylistic front.

Here's the same idea expressed with stronger verbs:

More than anyone else, my brother deserves credit for my achievements in high school. I can trace my successes in academics and music back to my brother's subtle influence.

The revision replaces the bland verb "is" with the more engaging verbs "deserve" and "trace." The revision also gets rid of the rather cliché idea of a "hero" and the vague phrase "much of what I have accomplished."

Avoid Too Much Passive Voice

It can be difficult to learn to recognize the passive voice in your essays. Passive voice is not a grammatical error, but overuse can lead to essays that are wordy, confusing, and unengaging. To identify passive voice, you need to map out a sentence and identify the subject, verb, and object. A sentence is passive when the object takes the position of the subject. The result is a sentence in which the thing performing the action of the sentence is either missing or tacked onto the end of the sentence. Here are a few simple examples:

  • Passive : The window was left open. (You are left wondering who left the window open.)
  • Active : Joe left the window open. (Now you know that Joe is the one performing the action.)
  • Passive : The ball was kicked into the goal by Wendy. (Wendy is the one doing the kicking, but she isn't in the subject position in the sentence.)
  • Active : Wendy kicked the ball into the goal. (Note that the active form of the sentence is shorter and more engaging.)

Example of Passive Voice

In this passage describing a dramatic moment in a game, the use of passive voice robs the passage of its dramatic effect:

As the goal was approached by the opposing team, the ball suddenly was kicked towards the upper right corner. If it wasn't blocked by me, the regional championship would be lost.

The passage is wordy, awkward, and flat.

Consider how much more effective the essay would be if revised to use active verbs:

As the opposing team approached the goal, a striker kicked the ball towards the upper right corner. If I didn't block it, my team would lose the regional championship.

The revision is slightly shorter and far more precise and gripping than the original.

The passive voice is not a grammatical error, and there are even times when you will want to use it. If you are trying to emphasize the object of a sentence, you may want to put it in the subject position in a sentence. For example, let's say a beautiful 300-year-old tree in your front yard was destroyed by lightning. If you write about the event, you probably want to emphasize the tree, not the lightning: "The old tree was destroyed by lightning last week." The sentence is passive, but appropriately so. The lightning may be performing the action (striking), but the tree is the sentence's focus.

Avoid Too Many Expletive Constructions

Expletive constructions involve a couple of stylistic errors—they are wordy and employ weak verbs. Many (but not all) sentences that begin with "it is," "it was," "there is" or "there are" have expletive constructions.

In general, an expletive construction begins with the empty word "there" or "it" (sometimes called a filler subject). In an expletive construction, the word "there" or "it" is not functioning as a pronoun . That is, it has no antecedent . The word does not refer to anything but is simply an empty word taking the place of the sentence's true subject. The empty subject is then followed by the uninspiring verb "to be" (is, was, etc.). Phrases such as "it seems" produce a similarly uninspiring function in a sentence.

The resulting sentence will be wordier and less engaging than it would be if written with a meaningful subject and verb. Consider, for example, these sentences with expletive constructions:

  • It was the final goal of the game that determined the state championship.
  • There were two students at my summer camp who had severe psychological problems.
  • It is Saturday when I get to spend time at the animal shelter.

All three sentences are unnecessarily wordy and flat. By removing the expletive constructions, the sentences become far more concise and engaging:

  • The final goal of the game determined the state championship.
  • Two students at my summer camp had severe psychological problems.
  • On Saturday I get to spend time at the animal shelter.

Note that not all uses of "it is," "it was," "there is," or "there are" are expletive constructions. If the word "it" or "there" is a true pronoun with an antecedent, no expletive construction exists. For example:

  • I have always loved music. It is one of the most important parts of my life.

In this case, the word "it" in the second sentence refers to "music." No expletive construction exists.

Example of Too Many Expletive Constructions

The following passage has no grammatical errors, but the expletive constructions weaken the prose:

It was a simple rule my parents made that got me interested in the trumpet: no television or computer time until I had practiced for half an hour. There were many days when this rule angered me, but when I look back it seems my parents knew best. Today I'll always pick up my trumpet before the television remote.

The author can quickly strengthen the language by removing the expletive constructions:

My parents made a simple rule that got me interested in the trumpet: no television or computer time until I had practiced for half an hour. This rule often angered me, but when I look back I know my parents knew best. Today I'll always pick up my trumpet before the television remote.

The revision cuts just six words from the original, but those small changes create a much more engaging passage.

A Final Word on Essay Style

Keep in mind why a college is asking for an essay: the school has holistic admissions and wants to get to know you as a whole person. Grades and standardized test scores will be part of the admissions equation, but the college wants to know what it is that makes you uniquely you. The essay is the best tool you have for bringing your personality and passions to life. An engaging style is essential for this task, and it truly can make the difference between an acceptance letter and a rejection.

  • Tips for an Application Essay on a Significant Experience
  • Sample Application Essay - Porkopolis
  • How to Write a Great College Application Essay Title
  • FAQs About Writing Your Graduate Admissions Essay
  • Short Answer Response on Working at Burger King
  • Tips for an Admissions Essay on an Influential Person
  • The Top 25 Grammatical Terms
  • Short Answer Mistakes
  • Tips for Writing a Winning College Transfer Essay
  • What Is a Dangling Modifier?
  • Sample College Application Short Answer Essay
  • "Grandpa's Rubik's Cube"—Sample Common Application Essay, Option #4
  • Private School Application Essay Tips
  • Bad Essay Topics for College Admissions
  • How to Write an Outstanding College Application Essay
  • Adjuncts in English Grammar

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10 Tips to Make Your Essays Even Better

how to make a college essay better

College life is busy with different assignments, and writing an essay is one of the most common ones. It is essential to develop the skill of how to compose an essay. Every student has to understand at least the basics. Usually, you will have to write several essays per week, depending on the course you attend. In this article, you will find out some practical tips for writing and editing academic papers. Note that even the most professional and exciting essay was to be written without mistakes. If you want to be sure that the content is appropriately written, you can address assignment services and ask to edit my essay online. You will find this service very handy because you will save time and efforts. Being a writer and editor are entirely different things. If you focus on writing an essay on your own,  hire a specialist to proofread it.

Here are some tips that may help you a lot during your college years:

Start with writing the outline.

When you just start working on your college assignment, the first thing you should do even before writing itself is to make an outline of your essay. It is a detailed plan that aims to make your writing process a lot faster and professional. Make sure that your readers follow it, and it sounds like a flow.

Your sentence structure should be varied

When you write an essay, think about a proper structure . It is recommended to use different types of sentences: long, short, simple, and complex ones. Your essay will look more profound, entertaining, and engaging with people who will read it.

Provide your reader with clear arguments

Students who want to write a meaningful essay are recommended to provide reader enough evidence. Make sure that you articulate the main idea of your article in the introduction section. However, you should not overuse arguments as well. Just think whether your potential reader can determine the main points of your essay.

Stick to the main theme


When you write your essay, you should not stray from your point. All professional writers and journalists stick to the main arguments. Each sentence should be meaningful and support the topic. Once the text is finished, you should reread it and delete all that strays from the core argument.

Writing is a form of speaking with your audience

When you write your text, try to imagine that you are speaking with your potential audience. People will find it much easier to read your essay. Your writing will sound authentic once you start writing the same way as you speak. Never use too complicated words. Make sure you know and understand what you write about. Simplicity is the key to a successful essay.

Use nouns to finish your sentences

10 Tips to Make Your Essays Even Better tips writing

Not even all writers and journalists know the trick to end sentences with nouns. However, it is true that your essay will sound much more pleasant if you use simple nouns to close the sentence.

Try not to use too many connecting words

When you proofread your college essay, it is better to delete such little connecting words as “that,” “really,” and “like.” This simple tip will make your essay look polished and professional. Besides, you will help people focus on the main point.

Eliminate transitory phrases from your text

Many amateurs start their essay with such sentences as “however,” “unfortunately,” “meanwhile,” and “additionally,” Do not hesitate to eliminate these words from your essay. You will see how better the text sounds. Just stick to the point without using meaningless phrases or words.

Keep your essay simple

Some students want to make a good impression on teachers. To do this, they compose too complicated sentences. You will sound super intellectual, but do you really want to make such an impression? Get rid of the frivolous fluff and relax.

Devote enough time for editing and proofreading

If you want to be sure your essay is mistake-free, it is better to print out a hard copy. For some reason, it is easier to see your errors on an actual piece of paper.

Writing essays might be quite tricky when you do not know the main principles and rules. We hope this article helped you to make the writing process more enjoyable. Writing essays and other college assignments is a useful skill you will use a lot in your life. It is worth being adequately mastered!

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By Andy Sowards

Im a professional Freelancer specializing in Web Developer, Design, Programming web applications. Im an Avid member of the Design/Development community and a Serial Blogger. follow me on Twitter @AndySowards

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7 Tips On How To Make Your College Essay More Engaging

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With many obligations, college life can become stressful. By focusing on doing everything on time, the quality of your work will be significantly better, and you can expect better results. However, that cannot be done if you don’t make your essays more engaging.

Your texts should not look like you’ve done them just because you had to, but give them taste so the reader can relate to them better.

With a combination of writing tips, you will surely make your essays look professional. For that reason, we made this article to teach you a couple of tricks to improve your writing and earn better grades in the future.

1. See internet examples

how to make a college essay better

The first thing we all do when we need to adapt or look for examples is browse the internet. For that reason, the first thing should try is to look at other engaging essays and see their main characteristics.

You will see how most of the college essay examples are made in a way to make you continue reading with a desire to learn more. This will help you to understand what your text should look like so you can find improvements and adjust.

Another thing that can help you to transform your writing style is learning from marketing campaigns. Since they are trying to introduce us to new brands and products, their writing style is engaging enough to make us more interested.

2. Consider using a reliable writing service

how to make a college essay better

With too many essays college obligations can be overwhelming which causes serious stress-induced conditions. For that reason, using writing services can ease our schedule and contribute to having fewer problems on our backs.

However, you have to be sure that the writing service you select can adapt to the given topics. In addition, they have to be quick and reliable, so you can be sure they will turn it back on time.

For that reason, get to research and find the best writing services around you. If you cannot decide, ask friends and close ones to recommend you the service they have been using. That way, you will be sure that you have selected a great custom essay writing service that will provide great work.

3. Use an appropriate style

how to make a college essay better

In case you have enough time for the essay, try doing it on your own. After looking at examples on the internet, you should know what a great engaging essay looks like, and get to writing.

The type of language used is the most important thing you have to pay attention to. With different writing styles , the language contributes to the theme of the essay. For that reason, make sure you use the appropriate style. However, don’t do things you are not comfortable with, since that can be noticed.

The words should be eloquent and do your best to describe and explain the topic thoroughly. This does not mean that you have to use long and unknown words for yourself. Misuse of long words will create an opposite picture of what you are trying to achieve. Just match the tone and you should be alright.

4. Improve the storytelling

how to make a college essay better

The story you are trying to present to the audience, or the teacher in this case has to be perfect. That is the main thing that keeps the person interested and striving for more. If you lack storytelling features, the text looks dumb and does not get the message spread appropriately.

5. Be yours

By copying other texts and examples you have seen on the internet, you are not comfortable enough to write on your own. Although that text can give you a certain grade, it is not the same as writing it by yourself. In addition, the teacher might check it, and if it shows plagiarism, you might get in trouble.

The uniqueness of your text will make your work different from other people. This is the easiest way of getting higher grades and ensuring college progress. Especially if you can use your words better than other people, don’t be afraid to use that in your favor.

6. Try to explain everything simplified

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If you fail to explain your topic to your reader, it is safe to say you have failed. The main reason why are you writing a certain essay is to present the topic to a wider audience, or in this case the professor.

For that reason, you should do everything in your power to make things simple. Imagine you are explaining a topic to a child who has zero knowledge in that field. This will help you to simplify, which gives maximum engagement.

In addition, you should work on the essay from various perspectives. With that, the topic has been covered from all sides, which helps everyone to understand better. The simple explanation and storytelling in combination with correct language use and style are fundaments of making an essay more engaging.

7. Insert emotions

how to make a college essay better

Another way to improve your text engagement is by inserting emotions . By covering multiple senses, the essay is more likely to be relatable to the person reading.

For that reason, you must find a way to make the reader feel the topic under their skin. With multiple ways how you can touch the heart of the person reading, you will surely find something you are comfortable with.

In addition, you should time the essay properly. Implement periods of waiting to build up the energy and increase the anticipation. With that, when the unfolding arrives, everyone will feel it better which makes the essay more engaging.

With various mechanisms to improve the engagement of your essays, it should not be hard to achieve that. With practice, everything will feel natural and you will surely become a better writer. Since you will need the writing skills even after you finish college, it is better to learn that on time.

Until then, using professional writing services might be the right choice. Not only that you will feel free of too many obligations, but you will have the chance to learn from professionals. This will help you to progress even more, which is always beneficial.

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10 Tips On | How to Write a Better Essay

If you are thinking about “how to write a better essay” and want a solution for it, then in this blog, we will provide you the knowledge about this topic. A few students accept that writing a better essay is impossible except if you have a tutor; however, we are here to tell you the best way to improve your essay writing skills. There are some tips which can help you in writing a better essay.

Every student wants to achieve good grades in essay writing. Essay writing is an art. Not every student is a master in writing. They need the practice of writing an essay.  

Essay Writing: 

An essay is a short piece of writing. An essay is not about doing research only; it is also a way of communication. Essays require you to show that you understand the question asked from you. Essays allow you to show your analytical thinking. It helps you in learning new topics. The length of the essay must be enough to meet the purpose.            

Table of Contents

What does an essay reflect? 

An essay reflects one’s point of view. It gives knowledge into a person’s capacity to express. It provides the audience with a thought regarding the individual’s attitude, fitness, and vision. The motivation behind an essay is to assess the following parts of one’s point of view: 

  • Know-how: This is a significant parameter as it examines the knowledge levels of the author; all the more so, in the case of facts. It reflects a balanced and mindful personality with a solid environment affectability. 
  • Written capacity: This parameter assesses the writer’s appearance of interest. An elegantly written essay shows great written abilities. 
  • Sensible structure: This parameter shows the writer’s reasoning abilities and capacity to organize. It is essential to gather various parts of thoughts and organize them in a way that reflects progress and proper sequencing.

How to write a better essay?

Every student has a question in his mind about how to write a better essay and wants a solution to it. Here are some tips which can help you in writing a better essay:

how to write a better essay

1. Make a blueprint before you start the essay:

Planning for your essay will make the writing procedure much more comfortable and smooth. At the point when your essay is in a proper format, it will be a lot simpler for the audience. 

2. Change your sentence structure: 

Keeping a variety of long sentences, short sentences, complex sentences, and easy sentences will make your essay exciting and will connect with your audience. 

3. Clear arguments: 

A significant essay picks arguments and explains the thought well in the introduction part. Pick arguments that are clear and ensure the audience without much of stress can easily know what you are trying to say.    

4. Try to stick to your point: 

 Excellent essays stick to the points or topics for the entire essay. Ensure your topic points all support your thoughts. Attempt to remove whatever comes in between your points. 

5. Write the manner in which you address individuals: 

An essay will be simpler to read and will sound progressive if you write as you talk to others. Don’t utilize words you don’t know about the importance of and, rather, attempt to write such that sounds valid to you. It will look much better. 

6. Finish your sentences with the help of nouns:  

It is a tip which my teacher gave me. An essay sounds more pleasant when you end sentences with basic nouns. 

7. Remove little associating words: 

Words like “that,” “truly,” and “like” can be effectively removed from your essay. By taking out these words, you can make your essay sound increasingly cleaned and concentrated on the point. 

8. Avoid using some phrases:

You must never begin sentences with words like “however,” “sadly,” “in the interim,” “furthermore,” and “curiously enough.” Your essay will sound better if you get to your point without including unnecessary words. 

9. Keep it easy: 

Once in a while, people attempt to create complex sentences with words that sound overly intelligent. Sometimes it seems better when you remain to your point.

10. Alter your paper by printing out a printed version: 

Seeing you alter on a genuine bit of paper helps make it simpler to spot errors. 

Writing essays may be tricky, but these tips will help make the procedure somewhat less scary for you. These tips help you in writing a better essay.  

From the above tips, you get the answer to how to write a better essay question. Follow these tips and write a better essay.

Appropriate structure to the essay: 

Writing long sections with no appropriate structure is like creating a mess for readers. So what would it be a good idea for you to do?

  • Use headings and subheadings at every possible opportunity. 
  • You can also add pictures if necessary. 
  • Use bullet points or numbering at any place appropriately. 
  • Make little sections. 

The article should be made in one structure only. Make sure that you write the essay in one tone and appropriate flow. It must resemble a story – one thing must follow the other. Additionally, there must be an introduction, body, and end.

Final words:

From the above discussion, now you get clarity on how to write a better essay. Follow these tips while writing your essay. It helps in making it better. If you are facing problems in making your essay in a better way, then contact us for essay help . We are available for your help 24*7. We’re prepared to furnish you with excellent how to write a better essay writing assistance, and our certified and experienced experts are accessible 24 hours a day. Your assistance is a few clicks away. Utilize our online on how to write better essay assistance to improve your marks and spare additional time on different examinations, interests, companions, work, family. Contact our customer support if you have any queries. Numerous students take our expert’s help online, so choose wisely!

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How to Write the Community Essay – Guide with Examples (2023-24)

September 6, 2023

Students applying to college this year will inevitably confront the community essay. In fact, most students will end up responding to several community essay prompts for different schools. For this reason, you should know more than simply how to approach the community essay as a genre. Rather, you will want to learn how to decipher the nuances of each particular prompt, in order to adapt your response appropriately. In this article, we’ll show you how to do just that, through several community essay examples. These examples will also demonstrate how to avoid cliché and make the community essay authentically and convincingly your own.

Emphasis on Community

Do keep in mind that inherent in the word “community” is the idea of multiple people. The personal statement already provides you with a chance to tell the college admissions committee about yourself as an individual. The community essay, however, suggests that you depict yourself among others. You can use this opportunity to your advantage by showing off interpersonal skills, for example. Or, perhaps you wish to relate a moment that forged important relationships. This in turn will indicate what kind of connections you’ll make in the classroom with college peers and professors.

Apart from comprising numerous people, a community can appear in many shapes and sizes. It could be as small as a volleyball team, or as large as a diaspora. It could fill a town soup kitchen, or spread across five boroughs. In fact, due to the internet, certain communities today don’t even require a physical place to congregate. Communities can form around a shared identity, shared place, shared hobby, shared ideology, or shared call to action. They can even arise due to a shared yet unforeseen circumstance.

What is the Community Essay All About?             

In a nutshell, the community essay should exhibit three things:

  • An aspect of yourself, 2. in the context of a community you belonged to, and 3. how this experience may shape your contribution to the community you’ll join in college.

It may look like a fairly simple equation: 1 + 2 = 3. However, each college will word their community essay prompt differently, so it’s important to look out for additional variables. One college may use the community essay as a way to glimpse your core values. Another may use the essay to understand how you would add to diversity on campus. Some may let you decide in which direction to take it—and there are many ways to go!

To get a better idea of how the prompts differ, let’s take a look at some real community essay prompts from the current admission cycle.

Sample 2023-2024 Community Essay Prompts

1) brown university.

“Students entering Brown often find that making their home on College Hill naturally invites reflection on where they came from. Share how an aspect of your growing up has inspired or challenged you, and what unique contributions this might allow you to make to the Brown community. (200-250 words)”

A close reading of this prompt shows that Brown puts particular emphasis on place. They do this by using the words “home,” “College Hill,” and “where they came from.” Thus, Brown invites writers to think about community through the prism of place. They also emphasize the idea of personal growth or change, through the words “inspired or challenged you.” Therefore, Brown wishes to see how the place you grew up in has affected you. And, they want to know how you in turn will affect their college community.

“NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world-class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience.

We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less.”

Here, NYU places an emphasis on students’ “identity,” “backgrounds,” and “diversity,” rather than any physical place. (For some students, place may be tied up in those ideas.) Furthermore, while NYU doesn’t ask specifically how identity has changed the essay writer, they do ask about your “experience.” Take this to mean that you can still recount a specific moment, or several moments, that work to portray your particular background. You should also try to link your story with NYU’s values of inclusivity and opportunity.

3) University of Washington

“Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words max) Tip: Keep in mind that the UW strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values and viewpoints.”

UW ’s community essay prompt may look the most approachable, for they help define the idea of community. You’ll notice that most of their examples (“families,” “cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood”…) place an emphasis on people. This may clue you in on their desire to see the relationships you’ve made. At the same time, UW uses the words “individual” and “richly diverse.” They, like NYU, wish to see how you fit in and stand out, in order to boost campus diversity.

Writing Your First Community Essay

Begin by picking which community essay you’ll write first. (For practical reasons, you’ll probably want to go with whichever one is due earliest.) Spend time doing a close reading of the prompt, as we’ve done above. Underline key words. Try to interpret exactly what the prompt is asking through these keywords.

Next, brainstorm. I recommend doing this on a blank piece of paper with a pencil. Across the top, make a row of headings. These might be the communities you’re a part of, or the components that make up your identity. Then, jot down descriptive words underneath in each column—whatever comes to you. These words may invoke people and experiences you had with them, feelings, moments of growth, lessons learned, values developed, etc. Now, narrow in on the idea that offers the richest material and that corresponds fully with the prompt.

Lastly, write! You’ll definitely want to describe real moments, in vivid detail. This will keep your essay original, and help you avoid cliché. However, you’ll need to summarize the experience and answer the prompt succinctly, so don’t stray too far into storytelling mode.

How To Adapt Your Community Essay

Once your first essay is complete, you’ll need to adapt it to the other colleges involving community essays on your list. Again, you’ll want to turn to the prompt for a close reading, and recognize what makes this prompt different from the last. For example, let’s say you’ve written your essay for UW about belonging to your swim team, and how the sports dynamics shaped you. Adapting that essay to Brown’s prompt could involve more of a focus on place. You may ask yourself, how was my swim team in Alaska different than the swim teams we competed against in other states?

Once you’ve adapted the content, you’ll also want to adapt the wording to mimic the prompt. For example, let’s say your UW essay states, “Thinking back to my years in the pool…” As you adapt this essay to Brown’s prompt, you may notice that Brown uses the word “reflection.” Therefore, you might change this sentence to “Reflecting back on my years in the pool…” While this change is minute, it cleverly signals to the reader that you’ve paid attention to the prompt, and are giving that school your full attention.

What to Avoid When Writing the Community Essay  

  • Avoid cliché. Some students worry that their idea is cliché, or worse, that their background or identity is cliché. However, what makes an essay cliché is not the content, but the way the content is conveyed. This is where your voice and your descriptions become essential.
  • Avoid giving too many examples. Stick to one community, and one or two anecdotes arising from that community that allow you to answer the prompt fully.
  • Don’t exaggerate or twist facts. Sometimes students feel they must make themselves sound more “diverse” than they feel they are. Luckily, diversity is not a feeling. Likewise, diversity does not simply refer to one’s heritage. If the prompt is asking about your identity or background, you can show the originality of your experiences through your actions and your thinking.

Community Essay Examples and Analysis

Brown university community essay example.

I used to hate the NYC subway. I’ve taken it since I was six, going up and down Manhattan, to and from school. By high school, it was a daily nightmare. Spending so much time underground, underneath fluorescent lighting, squashed inside a rickety, rocking train car among strangers, some of whom wanted to talk about conspiracy theories, others who had bedbugs or B.O., or who manspread across two seats, or bickered—it wore me out. The challenge of going anywhere seemed absurd. I dreaded the claustrophobia and disgruntlement.

Yet the subway also inspired my understanding of community. I will never forget the morning I saw a man, several seats away, slide out of his seat and hit the floor. The thump shocked everyone to attention. What we noticed: he appeared drunk, possibly homeless. I was digesting this when a second man got up and, through a sort of awkward embrace, heaved the first man back into his seat. The rest of us had stuck to subway social codes: don’t step out of line. Yet this second man’s silent actions spoke loudly. They said, “I care.”

That day I realized I belong to a group of strangers. What holds us together is our transience, our vulnerabilities, and a willingness to assist. This community is not perfect but one in motion, a perpetual work-in-progress. Now I make it my aim to hold others up. I plan to contribute to the Brown community by helping fellow students and strangers in moments of precariousness.    

Brown University Community Essay Example Analysis

Here the student finds an original way to write about where they come from. The subway is not their home, yet it remains integral to ideas of belonging. The student shows how a community can be built between strangers, in their responsibility toward each other. The student succeeds at incorporating key words from the prompt (“challenge,” “inspired” “Brown community,” “contribute”) into their community essay.

UW Community Essay Example

I grew up in Hawaii, a world bound by water and rich in diversity. In school we learned that this sacred land was invaded, first by Captain Cook, then by missionaries, whalers, traders, plantation owners, and the U.S. government. My parents became part of this problematic takeover when they moved here in the 90s. The first community we knew was our church congregation. At the beginning of mass, we shook hands with our neighbors. We held hands again when we sang the Lord’s Prayer. I didn’t realize our church wasn’t “normal” until our diocese was informed that we had to stop dancing hula and singing Hawaiian hymns. The order came from the Pope himself.

Eventually, I lost faith in God and organized institutions. I thought the banning of hula—an ancient and pure form of expression—seemed medieval, ignorant, and unfair, given that the Hawaiian religion had already been stamped out. I felt a lack of community and a distrust for any place in which I might find one. As a postcolonial inhabitant, I could never belong to the Hawaiian culture, no matter how much I valued it. Then, I was shocked to learn that Queen Ka’ahumanu herself had eliminated the Kapu system, a strict code of conduct in which women were inferior to men. Next went the Hawaiian religion. Queen Ka’ahumanu burned all the temples before turning to Christianity, hoping this religion would offer better opportunities for her people.

Community Essay (Continued)

I’m not sure what to make of this history. Should I view Queen Ka’ahumanu as a feminist hero, or another failure in her islands’ tragedy? Nothing is black and white about her story, but she did what she thought was beneficial to her people, regardless of tradition. From her story, I’ve learned to accept complexity. I can disagree with institutionalized religion while still believing in my neighbors. I am a product of this place and their presence. At UW, I plan to add to campus diversity through my experience, knowing that diversity comes with contradictions and complications, all of which should be approached with an open and informed mind.

UW Community Essay Example Analysis

This student also manages to weave in words from the prompt (“family,” “community,” “world,” “product of it,” “add to the diversity,” etc.). Moreover, the student picks one of the examples of community mentioned in the prompt, (namely, a religious group,) and deepens their answer by addressing the complexity inherent in the community they’ve been involved in. While the student displays an inner turmoil about their identity and participation, they find a way to show how they’d contribute to an open-minded campus through their values and intellectual rigor.

What’s Next

For more on supplemental essays and essay writing guides, check out the following articles:

  • How to Write the Why This Major Essay + Example
  • How to Write the Overcoming Challenges Essay + Example
  • How to Start a College Essay – 12 Techniques and Tips
  • College Essay

Kaylen Baker

With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.

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College & Career Pathways (CCP): How to Write Great College Essays w/Collegewise

Need help with writing that perfect essay to impress the college of your choice? Please join us as we provide tips and advice on how to create that perfect college essay.

For ages 16 & up

This program will be held virtually and in-person.

  • Audience: Teens/Young Adults (13-18 years)


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