Tips for a winning college essay


Senior Thanos Sarreas works on his Common Application essay.

As the January 1 regular decision deadline approaches for most schools, students will be submitting and reviewing college essays as part of the application process. For the seniors writing their essays now and the juniors who will be doing so next year, here are a few important tips that go into writing a top quality college essay.

There are two types of essays you will generally run into while applying for college: the Common Application essay and the school required essays, or writing supplement. Depending on the school’s you are applying to, everyone will write the Common Application essay, as most schools use it. On the other hand, school required essays tend to be more specific to the college.

There are five prompts off which to base the Common Application essay. The first tip for the essay is to always start small and expand on an idea. There are only 650 words to work with, so there is not enough space to ramble about multiple life events. Stick to a topic or certain life event that means something to you and can be elaborated on. For example, you could talk about a book that you were moved by or a sporting event that was important to you.

The second tip for the Common Application essay is to be as detailed as possible. It helps the reader, an admissions officer at the school you are applying to, better understand who you are. Remember, you are trying to make your essay stand out. Consistently writing short sentences, such as “I like tennis,” will leave you sounding like everyone else. If you elaborate on your love of tennis through the use of a personal story or experience, you will intrigue and pull in the reader’s attention.

The next essay you will experience is the school specific writing supplements. The aim of these essays are either to let the student talk about themselves more or ask specific questions related to their school. You might hear questions like: “Please elaborate on how you have familiarized yourself with our school” or “Please elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or meaningful life experiences.”

A tip for these kind of essays is to toot your own horn. In the essays asking about yourself, it is your time to brag and make yourself look good. Talk about a interesting topic about yourself or an award you have won. The goal is to make yourself look as pleasing to the school as possible.

For the essay questions asking about their school, you need to make it look like you know as much about their school as possible. Talk about the emails you received from the admissions office, the college visits, tours, open houses and sports camps you attended; anything along those lines would help.

The essay is a very important part of a college application, and you should pay a lot of attention to it. Being able to answer the questions in full and talk yourself up will give you an advantage over others who do not do this as well. Remember, getting into college is the beginning of the rest of your life, and the college essays is key to helping you start that journey.