Beginning the College Application Essay
Like any important writing assignment, the first step with the college essay is planning.
The essays you’ll write for your college admissions applications may not be the most important writing you’ll ever do in your life, but the quality of your essay(s) could be the deciding factor on whether you get admitted to the college of your choice — so it certainly should be one of the most important pieces of writing you do at this point in your life.
For just about everyone, writing is a process, one that begins with some planning. You need to decide when you’re going to write the essays, where you’re going to write the essays, the content of the essays, and the style of the essays.
The when should be pretty easy for you. You need to get started on them as early as possible in your senior year — even earlier if you plan to apply for an early decision. You don’t need to start writing early, but you can start thinking about incidents in your past that best represent the kind of person you are — and especially those stories that match with the kind of students the college is seeking.
The where may be easier or harder. Are you going to try and write them at school during a free period, at home in your room, or at the local library. What environment is most conducive for you? Are you going to write notes or drafts by hand and then keystroke a more finalized version?
The essays you write should open a window into your personality, telling a story that engages the reader and inspires the reader to want to get to know you even more.
Finally, the style is fairly open — and your choice. Some students use humor well, others tell a dramatic story. Just don’t be too dark or cynical in your style; remember the audience and your goal.
Need help with any of the terms described on this page? If so, find the answers in our High School College-Bound and College Planning Glossary.
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