What Should I Write My College Essay About?
Applying to college opens the door to exciting possibilities, although it may require some effort. Depending on the number of colleges you're considering, you'll have the chance to craft many college essays. Each institution has its own unique prompts and questions, allowing you to share your inspiring stories and educational journey.
As tough as the college application process is, it provides a great opportunity for students to share their stories and learn more about their educational endeavors. While it's not the only aspect of the application process, college essays are one of the biggest components that admissions committees review.
A great college essay can exponentially boost your chances of being accepted into the university, so you want to ensure that the content adequately fulfills all requirements. It can be difficult to condense your life story and academic achievements into a few hundred words. However, with determination and creativity, you can craft an outstanding essay that showcases your unique qualities and aspirations.
This Bold blog will explore different aspects of writing a college essay and provide some insightful tips on making your essay stand out. So, let's get started!
Understanding the Purpose of a College Essay
Before choosing the right topic for your college essay, it is essential to understand the purpose behind the college application essay so that the intention is successfully executed. The essay is distinctive because it is the only piece of the application that allows you to speak directly with the admissions officer.
It provides additional information to your application beyond grades and test scores, so it plays a critical role in the admissions process. It is your opportunity to speak to your strengths, identity, and future impact using the nuances of the essay topics.
When reviewing applications, admissions officers often screen students based on a sea of numbers and statistics. They see your GPA, SAT scores, and class rank, all statistical-based data. However, they do not describe the person behind those numbers.
A personal statement serves as a window into your world, allowing admissions officers to better understand who you are as an individual.
Check out our MLA format guide for essay tips!
The Role of the College Essay in Admissions
The college essay is vital for admissions officers to gauge how you articulate your thoughts and showcase your writing skills. Furthermore, it provides insight into your personality, character, and potential contribution to the college campus.
Through your essay, admissions officers can also assess your communication skills, ability to think critically, and capacity for self-reflection. They want to see how you can deliver a thoughtful essay that abides by the particular essay topic.
The college essay should demonstrate your intellectual curiosity and willingness to take risks in expressing your ideas. By evaluating your writing, they will be able to understand if you will thrive academically and contribute meaningfully to that school's campus culture.
When crafting your essay, always make sure to be true to yourself and let your voice shine through. Considering officers are sifting through hundreds of essays, you should discuss the aspects that speak to your originality. Do not get caught up in writing what you think the admissions officers want to hear. Instead, focus on telling your story to reflect who you are and what you believe in.
Regardless of what you choose to write about, whether that be a life-changing experience, a personal challenge you've overcome, or a small topic that showcases your interests and passions, the key is to make it personal. Share your emotions, thoughts, perspective, and whatever else separates you from another. These attributes will allow the admissions officers to learn about the real you and better understand your potential influence on campus.
Choosing the Right Topic for Your College Essay
Once you have set the intention, start brainstorming ideas and writing your piece. Remember, the goal is to select a subject that reflects who you are and captivates the reader's attention. Here are a few strategies to help you choose a compelling topic:
Reflecting on Personal Experiences
Many students choose a common approach to discuss a distinctive event that played a huge role in formulating their life. While this may vary from person to person, it is usually an experience that largely alters their life for the better or, the worse. While the paper focuses on recounting the event, the story allows students to illustrate their future aspirations properly.
This route would allow you to reflect on significant personal experiences that have shaped you. Ruminate about moments of personal growth, including challenges you have overcome or meaningful relationships that have profoundly impacted your life. These experiences can provide excellent material for a compelling essay topic and separate yours from becoming another generic essay.
Identifying Your Passions and Interests
Another topic idea is identifying your passions and interests. Explore which extracurricular activities have played a significant impact on your life. Ask yourself what subjects or activities bring you joy. Colleges want to see applicants who are genuinely passionate about something and are willing to pursue it. So, feel free to write about topics you are truly enthusiastic about.
Colleges want a diverse array of students composing their classes. Share them instead of shying away from the aspects that make you unique. Yet, use your interests to voice a greater message. A good college essay needs to articulate a deeper message about your identity. Explore why, how, and where this hobby has gotten you.
For example, if you deeply love literature, you can explore how your favorite books have shaped your worldview and influenced your personal growth. You can analyze the themes and messages of these literary works and discuss how they have inspired you to become a lifelong learner and pursue a degree in English literature.
Addressing Challenges and How You Overcame Them
Colleges appreciate applicants that have demonstrated resilience and the ability to overcome challenges. Problem-solving is a huge component of life, so they want to understand how you have maneuvered life given your difficulties. Furthermore, these challenges sometimes help explain other college application aspects, such as low test scores. Consider writing about a strenuous experience and how it has shaped you. Avoid dwelling too much on the negative aspects but focus more on your personal growth and the lessons learned.
For example, you could demonstrate positive character traits if you faced academic setbacks during high school due to personal matters and managed to turn things around through hard work and determination. To expand the superficial parts of this essay topic, you can discuss the strategies you implemented to improve your grades and how this experience taught you the value of perseverance and resilience.
By addressing challenges and showcasing your ability to overcome adversity, you can demonstrate your character strength and potential for success in the face of obstacles.
Common Mistakes to Avoid in Your College Essay
As important as choosing the right topic, it's equally essential to be mindful of common pitfalls and mistakes that can diminish the finish of your essay. Perfecting the essay can take students months, as the details are important. Let's take a look at some of these mistakes:
Overused Topics and Clichés to Avoid
While certain stories may be important to you, it is important to differentiate what is unique to you and similar to other students. Admissions committees read hundreds of college applications daily, so if the topic is common, they might have already seen it - decreasing your strength.
Avoid overused and clichés topics, such as writing about winning a sports game or a mission trip. Admissions officers have read countless essays on these subjects, so unless you can provide a personal twist, try to choose something that distinguishes you from the crowd.
Instead, consider exploring and discussing a lesser-known hobby or interest that has shaped your perspective or personal growth. You may discuss another personal struggle or setback if that does not apply. By sharing a unique and personal experience, you have a better chance of capturing the attention of the admissions officers and leaving a lasting impression.
The Risk of Being Too General or Vague
Another common mistake students make is being too general or vague in their essays. These admission officers have no prior knowledge of your background aside from this essay, so the message should be clear. While writing, it is easy to avoid including the small details that compose the overarching theme, but to others, it can be really important.
Your essay should provide specific examples and details to illustrate your points. Avoid using broad statements without any supporting evidence or personal anecdotes. For example, instead of concluding that you are a hardworking individual, provide specific instances where your dedication and perseverance have led to significant achievements to let officers come to that conclusion.
Focus on incorporating personal anecdotes to make your essay more engaging, showcase your critical thinking ability, and provide evidence to support your claims. This level of specificity will demonstrate your unique qualities and make your essay more memorable.
Avoiding Controversial Topics
While authenticity is crucial to your college application, exercising caution when discussing controversial topics is also necessary. Avoid discussing sensitive subjects that could offend or alienate the reader. Colleges are looking to foster collaborative environments in their campus communities. Respectful and open-minded discussions are encouraged, so be mindful of the tone and potential impact on the reader.
Instead of making an argumentative essay on a polarizing subject, it might be better to make it more about a particular experience you have faced. You will demonstrate your emotional intelligence and maturity by sharing a personal story highlighting your ability to empathize with others and handle difficult situations. This demonstration will leave a much more positive impression on the admissions officers and show them that you can navigate complex issues gracefully and sensitively.
Tips for Writing an Effective College Essay
Hopefully, by this point, you have already begun to think of potential topics and are ready to start the writing process. Writing a college essay is as daunting as thinking of a topic, but you can create a compelling and memorable piece with the right approach. Here are some tips that may guide you along the way:
When writing your paper, try to avoid putting pressure on it, and allow the story to flow. Many students get caught up with making a piece that the admissions team will like instead of writing something that accurately portrays a meaningful story. One of the most crucial aspects of writing a college essay is authenticity.
Admissions officers are seeking genuine, unique voices that capture their attention. There is no better way to do that than being true to yourself. Allow yourself to shine through your writing. Share your thoughts, beliefs, and experiences sincerely and honestly.
Authenticity helps you connect with the reader personally and shows your ability to introspect. Vulnerability is never a bad thing. Share your true passions, aspirations, and challenges. Remember, the goal is to get accepted and choose a college that appreciates and values the real you.
The Power of Storytelling
College essays are different from those you have written up until this point. There are no structured rules, so feel free to be creative. Transcend past your understanding of an essay, and use this as an opportunity to tell your story captivatingly.
Consider starting your essay with a hook that reflects your personality or experiences. This strategy immediately grabs the reader's attention and makes them eager to learn more. Alternatively, you could begin with a thought-provoking question that sets the stage for the rest of your essay.
As you develop your story, use descriptive language and vivid imagery to paint a picture in the reader's mind. A great rule to follow is: show, not tell. This strategy will create a memorable reading experience and allow the admissions officers to visualize your experiences and emotions. Readers should feel like they are a part of it and are going through the same emotions illustrated in the piece.
Proofreading and Editing Your Essay
Taking the time to proofread and edit your work carefully is crucial for a polished final product. A great college essay often takes a lot of time to be cleaned up by advice from peers and superiors.
Start by checking for grammar and spelling errors. Small mistakes can detract from the overall impact of your essay, so make sure to review it a couple of times. Additionally, pay attention to the flow and coherence of your ideas. Ensure that each paragraph and sentence seamlessly transitions into the next, creating a smooth and logical progression of thoughts. Sometimes reading the essay aloud helps capture mistakes.
Although self-editing is essential, seeking feedback from others can also be beneficial. Ask a teacher, mentor, or family member to review your essay and provide valuable insights. They offer a fresh perspective and help identify areas for improvement that you might have missed.
Remember, writing is a process, and it's okay to go through multiple rounds of editing. Each revision brings you closer to a refined and impactful college essay.
Utilize School Resources
Many high schools offer writing centers or have teachers equipped with the knowledge to provide guidance and support in the college essay writing process. These programs help every high school senior navigate the complexities of crafting a compelling essay.
In most cases, you can schedule appointments with writing tutors who are well-versed in college applications. They can assist you in brainstorming ideas, organizing your thoughts, and refining your writing style. These professionals deeply understand what college admissions officers are looking for, can help you tailor your essay to make a lasting impression, and are financially accessible to every student.
Asking for Feedback from Teachers and Peers
While school resources are incredibly helpful, an outside perspective from someone who knows your best can sometimes provide fresh insights and constructive criticism. Contact your teachers, mentors, or peers for their feedback on your essay.
Teachers and mentors have a lot of experience helping students through the essay writing process. They may offer valuable suggestions on improving the paper's content, structure, and overall presentation. They may also identify areas that need further development or strengthening.
Peers can also be a great source of feedback. They can provide a different perspective and offer suggestions based on their own experiences. Peer feedback can be especially helpful in identifying areas where your essay may need to communicate your message more effectively or resonate with your intended audience.
Frequently Asked Questions About College Essays
When should I begin writing my college essays?
Most colleges open their application process in the late summer months, with deadlines in late fall. If you are applying to multiple colleges, getting a head start writing is better. You might need more time to review the material. Perfecting a college essay takes time, and you need to account for all the prompts you must complete.
How long should the essay be?
Lengths vary from college to college, but it is best to adhere to your applying institution's word or page limit. Generally, you can expect to write pieces from 250 - 650 words. Explore how long a college essay is for further information on this.
Can I reuse an essay for multiple colleges?
While there is no rule against it, students are encouraged to tailor every essay to each prospective school. Instead of writing one generic essay, personalized essays for every institution will be appreciated by admissions committees.
Have more questions regarding student life experiences? Whether that be more about the college application process, financial aid resources, and student credit cards, explore Bold.org's Scholarship Blog to answer all your questions!