Tips for Writing Essays

The book, Making a Difference in College Admission, has the following points to offer on writing essays.  “Admission officers maintain that much of today’s essay writing continues to be of average to poor quality... tame, boring, stuff.” p.241

Colleges utilize essays to:
1)   screen out less able applicants,
2)   attract specific constituencies to the applicant pool or, conversely, to widen the net,
3)   acquire autobiographical data on the applicants, and
4)   measure the writing skills and level of  thinking of each student.”  p.242
1.   Be natural and write about something substantive.
2.   Write in complete sentences, with no errors in grammar, spelling or typing.  Make sure your paragraphs have beginning and ending sentences with a cohesive body. Be CONCISE.
3.   Use humor judiciously, be creative and a bit vulnerable.
4.   Use your own experiences, colleges are looking for something about you as an individual.
Use the 3 C’s:
1.   Choices you have made
2.   Challenges you have met
3.   Commitments you have made
5.   Read directions carefully.  Answer the questions that are asked.
6.   Tell the truth but focus on positives.
7.   Start early and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.  Have several people proofread it and rewrite it again!
8.   If no topics are given, you might consider:
  • writing on a personal experience or achievement that had significant meaning to you.
  • writing on a personal, local or national concern and its importance to you, or writing on a person who has had a significant influence on you and why.  p.244



1.   Whine, be negative or write what you think the admission people want to hear.

2.   Submit a messy, incomplete, rambling, wordy piece.
3.   Repeat your application or list your activities in paragraph form.
4.   Be superficial, use clichés, or impersonal topics.
5.   Improvise subjects if a specific essay question is asked.
6.   Be negative, and remember that excuses turn people off.