Craft a compelling College Essay

Bitten Pencil.jpg

Here's How

The application essay is your way to set yourself apart from other talented students. Writing it is the most stressful part of the application process. 

With all the different, and at times bizarre, prompts colleges ask students to answer you can spend hours agonizing over what to say, how to say it, and how you think the reader will judge you.

To help calm your nerves, review our essay tips below.

An essay review by admission2college is available as part of The College Match Advantage Program or click here to purchase separately.

Be You Red Book.jpg

Writing a quality essay takes a substantial amount of time and work, but it's a unique opportunity to make a difference at decision time.

Having reviewed, proofed and edited thousands of essays, we know what makes an excellent, good or bad essay.

Every essay is unique, so we don’t use a cookie cutter approach in our review and editing or use a standard essay format.   

We make sure to keep your essay in your tone and voice, never changing the intent of your message.

We will never write an essay for a student but we will review, proof and edit it to ensure it is well written.

An essay review by admission2college is available as part of The College Match Advantage Program or click here to purchase separately.

Tips on Writing your Essay

1. Find a subject you care about.
2. Do not ramble, though.
3. Keep it simple.
4. Have the guts to cut.
5. Sound like yourself.
6. Say what you mean to say.
7. Pity the readers.
— Kurt Vonnegut's seven rules for writing well, which are as applicable to college applications as they are to writing everything else.


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 to 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, 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.

boy with red bowtie.jpg

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.

boy with red bowtie.jpg

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. Instead, reflect on them and write about what you have learned from them. 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

A school's application will have either individual questions or prompts (you can choose from 7 prompts on the Common Application) to respond to. Most essays have a word count of 500 to 650 words. Some schools require supplemental essays and they can have word counts of 100 to 250 words or more.

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.


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, care about and can reflect on.


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 topic think about it and reflect on it for 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. Remember to reflect on the experience.

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

alarm clock.jpg

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.

letters type.jpg

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.