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 Tips on Writing your Essay

Your essay is only one part of your application and at many schools it plays an important role in making their admission decisions. The college admissions counselor will be looking over your entire application; your essay, grades, activities, curriculum, etc. and creating an academic and personal profile of you from which they will make their admission decision. Your essay allows you create a truly unique picture of yourself, so make sure it communicates your thoughts and experiences.


The "WOW"

Write with emotion and passion, even if it seems silly to you. You want the reader to stop and think, WOW. Not a WOW because you did something no one else has even done or you ran a 4-minute mile. But a WOW because you demonstrate in your essay that you are a thinker, have interests that matter to you, are a person who wants to learn, knows you have much to learn and are excited to learn.

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Distinguish Yourself

Your essay...

...provides the opportunity to add clarity, richness, and meaning to the information collected in the other parts of your application by writing about characteristics and personality traits that aren’t evident in the GPA, test scores or curriculum.

...will distinguish you from other applicants whose academic records are quite similar.

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Show Your Personality

The admissions counselor reading your essay wants to hear about you, but in a way, that goes beyond simply describing your experiences and activities and instead has caused you to reflect and learn. They want to read about things that have meaning to you.

A good admissions reader (assuming all admission counselors are good readers) look for your personality to shine in a way that your academic records, test scores, etc. can’t.

Writing Your Essay

Each school where you apply will have either individual questions on their application or prompts (the Common Application has 7 prompts to choose from) for you to respond to in your essay. Most essays have a word count of 500 to 650 words.

Read the prompts or questions carefully, but how you interpret them is up to you. We recommend writing as much as you can on your subject and then cutting back. It’s always easier to cut back on your writing than to write more.

Also, write what you want to write about (meaning the first step is to get your thoughts down on paper) and them we can help you tailor it to answer the question or prompt.

We will never write an essay for you, but will work with you so it stands out. We will brain storm with you about topics, review and edit it, but will always make sure it stays in your voice.


No subject is inherently a good choice or a bad choice for an essay. Put aside what you think an admission counselor/committee wants to hear and write as well as you can about something you know well and care about.


Ask yourself how have your academic interests (art, music, theatre, math, science, etc.), interests outside of school, leadership, community service or other activates have shaped or influenced you? For each opportunity think about a deeper meaning.

How has the experience made an impact on you?

Did it cause you to think or look at things differently?

Through the experiences did you discover a passion or interest that excited you?

Did it open your eyes to something you want to learn more about?

Your ability to articulate that is important.


Thousands of students write essays discussing leadership, taking initiative, problem solving, community involvement, etc. but many don’t write about them with any depth of thought.

Ask yourself about the meaning you gained from your experiences and how you have grown from them.


Be careful with humor and clichés: What might seem funny or bitingly ironic to you might not seem that way to someone who doesn’t know you. Don’t allow clichés to speak for you.

But at the same time don’t be afraid to use humor, it always catches a reader’s attention if used in the right way.


Imagine yourself as the college admissions counselor reading your essay


As a college admissions counselor, you are reading hundreds of student essays.

Essay after essay—what would catch your attention?

That’s what we want your essay to do; catch their attention.


College Admissions Counselors are looking for things in an essay that grab their attention and feelings and convince them—to admit you.

Remember they want to admit you, not deny you.


timing is everything

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Start on your essay early:

Give yourself time to think about your topics, and carefully consider the rationale behind each question or prompt.


Be clear. Be focused. Be organized: Make sure your essay follows a logical structure.

Think about the impression it creates on someone who doesn’t know you. Input from people you trust—counselors, teachers, friends, and relatives—can help you get different perspectives on how your essay affects those who read it.

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Give yourself plenty of time for revisions: have at least three others proof read your essay.

Pay attention to rules of correct grammar and punctuation, and don’t forget to spell check.