Oct   2018



Secrets to Writing Your College Application Essay

CollegeXpress Student Writer
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2020

The admission essay might be the most daunting portion of the college application. However, it’s the most important part of your application too. It’s where you can set yourself apart from other applicants and show your worth to the colleges you’re applying to.

Too many students don’t know where to start—they’re not sure how to write a good application essay or what admission counselors are looking for. Well, here are the answers to those questions, plus additional tips for that pesky essay provided with help from Maria Ornelas, an admission counselor at Vanderbilt University. 


It’s important to give yourself enough time to write the essay. One common mistake students make is simply rushing the essay since they’re so reluctant to complete it. Essay prompts are often confirmed before summer vacation starts, so it’s wise to read them, brainstorm your topic, and write a first draft or two during the summer before senioritis starts kicking in.

Admission counselors will be able to tell if you started your essay in July or a few weeks before the deadline, so make sure you don’t rush this all-important part of your application.


The essay is one of the few parts of the college application where you’re one-on-one with your admission counselor. This is where they distinguish who you are as an individual and member of the community.

Make sure to be genuine and show who you are and your value in ways you don’t get the opportunity to in the rest of the application. Sharing personal stories of challenges, funny anecdotes about a work experience, or even a witty comparison of your life to a movie can make you more than just a GPA to the admission committee.

Related: 5 Tricks for Choosing Your College Essay Topic

Follow directions

It’s crucial that you answer only the chosen prompt for the essay. Failing to do so or answering a completely different prompt will make it difficult for the reader to assess your qualifications. No singular topic will get you an automatic acceptance, but following the basic rules of the essay is the best way to impress your admission counselor.


The reader also has to be able to...well, read your essay. This is where grammar and spelling come into play. Using proper grammar and spelling not only makes it easier on your counselor, but it also shows how much effort you put forth and the time you took on your essay. It dont really look like u tried if ur essay looks liek dis.

Have trusted teachers read your essay and give you feedback. (Your English teacher may be particularly good at this.) Also let some classmates and your parents read through your essay. The more eyes looking it over, the more errors they’ll catch and improvements you can make.

Related: English Grammar Cheat Sheet for Students: Rules You Need to Know

Be careful

Be aware that faculty members could also read your application essay, so don’t try to push anyone’s buttons. For example, be weary of trying to use wit or sarcasm when approaching themes such as politics. Sarcasm doesn’t always translate in writing. There are better ways to make a statement on society without offending anyone.

Don’t slack on your application essay. Try to be consistent across any application essays, because many colleges will review admission applications as part of their scholarship considerations. It’s not to be taken lightly. Use the application essay and supplementary essay(s) as opportunities to maximize your opportunities academically and financially.

Check out our College Admission section for more tips and tricks on how to rock your application essay!

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About Enoc Curiel

Enoc attends high school as a sophmore in Houston, Texas. He is currently an associate editor for his school's yearbook and journalism department. He also plays the cello and is an officer for his school's orchestra.


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