Overhead of messy yellow toolbox with tools and hardware strewn everywhere

How to Use Your Writing Toolbox for a Rich Admission Essay

Application essays hold more weight than ever as college admission changes. Here’s how to use your writing skills to make an impact on the admission committee.

The process of applying to college has become more advanced and complex, especially with schools like the University of California and California State University going test-blind. And with many other schools going test-optional, you may ask yourself: What admission requirements matter most to colleges? These new admission policies show that some colleges don’t think standardized test scores are a good or bad indication of a student’s academic worth. In my experience, I found the UC application process was based mainly off my GPA, extracurriculars, and essays. Other students I’ve encountered throughout the admission process have reported that essays in particular have had a significant effect on admission, as many applicants with extensive activities, community involvement, and perfect GPAs were waitlisted or rejected from some UC campuses. So that begs another question: How can you write an essay that carries the weight of who you are?

What’s the secret to a great admission essay?

Spoiler: There is no secret formula to writing the perfect college essay—but I’ve found that students who weave their extracurriculars into personal, meaningful stories have higher rates of admission. Instead of simply saying, “Volunteering helped me make an impact on the world and taught me to be selfless,” you should explain how volunteering was self-fulfilling and how the experience propelled your curiosity to learn more. The important points should be easy to make in your essay if you’re truly interested and genuinely passionate about your activities. Don’t write about the extracurriculars you don’t care about. The difficult part is structuring and properly wording your ideas. That’s where your writing toolbox comes in.

Related: What Are Some Cornerstones of a Good College Application Essay? 

Your writing toolbox

Your writing toolbox contains the various skills and methods you use to craft an essay. One crucial tool to add to yours is personal voice. And although this may not fit everyone’s style of writing, dialogue is also worth a try. For example, if you’re describing your curiosity for a subject, bring up a time where that curiosity led to something unexpected happening and convey it through dialogue. Similes, metaphors, and allusions are other helpful tools that can help enhance your admission essays. Try alluding to a popular book, movie, or person while describing your emotions; for example, “I was so nervous, my hands felt as cold as Elsa’s.” Depending on your individual style and command of writing, these tools may be smooth or blunt in terms of the flow of the paper. Don’t use tools you’re not comfortable with; unless you have a strong command of how to use an element of writing, metaphors and allusions can seem forced and your paper will seem inauthentic. 

Inject emotions and lessons learned

Once you have some strong ideas, structure your admission essay starting with how you felt before, during, and after your extracurricular, internship, or other experience. Emphasize what it taught you and how you’ll use the lesson in the future. Instead of putting yourself on a pedestal for how well you did, highlight how you’ll become better through this learning experience. Additionally, with the proper use of dialogue, you can convey small, intense moments in a deep, rich way. This works extremely well with competitions too. If you’ve ever competed in mock trial, robotics, debate, or a sport, try using similes to show how you felt in a certain moment, how effective your tactics were, and how you felt after a success or failure. You can then relate all this back to your passion or character and how you can improve or use a specific skill. 

Related: How to Write a Strong and Unique Application Essay That Works for You 

As the world of admission changes, the weight of application essays cannot be understated. It’s the best way to represent you to a college admission committee. Many students do or compete in similar activities; however, the individual lessons you learn from them is specific to you. How you use those lessons is also unique, so strongly emphasize these elements in your essay using rhetorical tools. Although the rest of your application needs to be strong, essays will help boost your chances and show admission officers who you really are. 

Still worried about writing a great essay? Check out Our Best Advice for Writing Your College Application Essays for all the help you could need! 

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Srivarsha Rayasam

Srivarsha Rayasam is a current high school junior. She loves being busy and putting herself out there, so she’s always welcoming new opportunities to better herself as a student, citizen, and person. When she’s not immersing herself in schoolwork or organizing her schedule, she enjoys running and singing!

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Rana Slosberg

Rana Slosberg

Slosberg College Solutions LLC

My favorite part of CollegeXpress is the 800+ lists which have all kinds of hard-to-find information. These lists are helpful when I’m creating college lists, and I also use them to give students a feel for a particular college or university.

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2020

CollegeXpress has been an instrumental resource for my scholarship search and has given me the opportunity to try my best so I can graduate from college debt-free.

Cameron Lee

Cameron Lee

High School Class of 2022

I used CollegeXpress to search for colleges. It helped me narrow down the schools on the West Coast and which schools had Construction Engineering programs. I made my decision to go to OSU and I am so excited about it.

Wendy Thompson

Wendy Thompson

Owner, Westport Educational Consulting

I just discovered your site and LOVE it—fun, interesting, full of incredible information you can’t find anywhere else, and a godsend for those of us in the college counseling business. I am a fan!

Leah Maciel

Leah Maciel

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me with all aspects of applying for college. The website is extremely easy to navigate and gives access to so many resources. I was able to research all of the colleges I was interested in, find out any information I wished to know about, and keep them organized in a list. I've also been able to research scholarships and save them as resources for later. I've used many websites in my college and scholarship search, and CollegeXpress has by far been my favorite one to use.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Moody Bible Institute

Chicago, IL