Writing a College Application Essay

The thought of writing a college application essay fills almost everyone with dread. Where to begin? What to say? How to end? You aren’t sure what they’re looking for, so how can you know what to write?

Maybe you’ve heard the expression, ‘To thine own self be true’. There’s no single way to write a winning college application essay. While crafting your writing will demonstrate your skill, the content is just as important. You need to express yourself, because that’s really what an application essay is all about. It sounds good, but it doesn’t really solve your first question: where to begin? The best tip we can give you is to begin before the beginning! Really analyze the essay prompt. What clues does it give you? Does it suggest a certain type of organization or attitude? For example, if the scholarship is for a graphic artist, the judges will most likely be looking for a creative flair in the writing. A committee offering science scholarships is probably more interested in seeing scientific minds at work.

Before you sit down to piece together your ideas, you have to generate them. If you’re a logical, organized thinker, then make lists or create an outline or timeline. If you’re a free-spirit, then plunge in with some free-writing, brainstorming, clustering, or even doodling. Scribble down any thought that enters your mind. You can always reject them later.

The next step is to cut and paste. Chop up all those ideas and organize related ones into columns. Once you have a basic idea of organization, you’re ready to begin. Still feeling intimidated? Here’s another tip: begin in the middle! Chances are that one of your ideas leaps off the page and infuses you with energy. Focus on just that idea, and elaborate it into a sentence or more. As you write, you’ll gain confidence. Soon, another idea will leap to the fore. Before you know it, you’ll have crafted a number of paragraphs that you can artfully arrange. Looking at the way the ideas flow will help you discover what your thesis is. Once you know what it is you want to say, creating a thesis statement of one or two sentences that lets the reader know which ideas will follow, and in what order, becomes a lot more manageable.

Once you have a workable rough draft, set it aside for a day or two. Then, when you take a second look, consider the structure as if it were a building. Do the ideas connect soundly, or are they haphazard? Is there a clearly identifiable introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a conclusion that does more than simply repeat your main points? No matter how inspired your first draft is, you will absolutely need to do some fine-tuning. Clarify areas of confusion, and be very careful to cut out wordiness that doesn’t directly drive your point home. Writing a college application essay is a challenge, but it’s one you already have to skills to master.