How to Write a Good College Application Essay (2024)

How to Write a Good College Application Essay (1)

You’ve completed all the college-required documents and assessments, and now it’s time to make an impression on the admissions committee with your essay for college admission.

For college applications, the words you use might make the difference between acceptance and rejection.

Although you’ll spend days researching and drafting your essay, admissions officers will just spend a few minutes looking over it.

This article will show you all you need to know about how to write a good application essay.

Those Who Reads This Ends Up Reading: How to Write a Common App Essay


The college essay is not like the essays you write for your English teacher in high school; it does not need a beginning with a thesis statement. Most students are ignorant.

Your initial paragraph should captivate the audience.

The college essay must captivate the admissions reader. So the college essay opening must grab the reader’s interest and entice them to read more.

Check Also: 12 Best College Interview Tips To Help You Prepare Well

Grab the reader in many ways.

  • Begin with a question.
  • Start with a big claim.
  • Use a fun quote.
  • Put the reader in the thick of everything. Place the reader in the middle of a scene or a dialogue.
  • Message the reader directly.
  • Write down what you DO NOT want to do.
  • A single word can sometimes be a paragraph, making the reader ponder and read on.

See Also: College Interview Tips: Effective Ways to Scale your Interview

Don’t be an anonymous author.

Don’t be one of the thousands of applicants who fail to impress. In a newspaper story, the writer is obscured by the facts, and you only know that the writer can collect, organize, and deliver the facts you need now. This is real individual writing to me.

That means you should write with personality, with your own voice. Honesty, wit, speaking your mind and thinking your way all help create a voice.

Read Also: How to Write an Appeal Letter for College Admission Rejections

Don’t be dull

Trying to seem proper, impressive, or smart can be a drag. What you should be doing is standing out. Similar to wanting to be asked out again by an admissions reader.

We all want to impress our dates and stand out from the crowd. You want an opinion, not to be a stoic nerd. Write your essay as a terrific second date.

Don’t Fail to Check: How To Write A Recommendation Letter For College

Make your essay perfect.

The same is true for dates. A few considerations can improve the overall appearance of your article. Make use of a legible font.

If you want to make your work easier to read, consider selecting a strong typeface. Make certain that your essay is balanced on the page and that the margins are relaxed. Introduce the essay prompt in your own words.

Distinguish between paragraphs by indenting or using block style, maintaining all text on the left margin but allowing for additional space between paragraphs

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An essay that contains a number of blunders is unappealing. Please double-check your spelling. Make sure your basic punctuation is correct.

Did you appropriately separate the discussion from the rest of the text? Did you use the proper capitalization? In our piece on common essay faults, you’ll find more information on how to write an effective essay.

View the essay from a new perspective

If you have a different perspective on things than others, you will stand out. It is not always necessary to follow the rules while responding to an essay question.

What if you gave a negative response to the question? What would you like? Perhaps addressing your anxieties will allow you to express your hopes.

By delaying your response, you can heighten the suspense even further. Do you want to go to school? Perhaps you could include it in the last phrase of your prompt after you’ve covered all the small information pertaining to your subject of study?

To illustrate your interest in biology, you may highlight natural flora and fauna, as well as your ideas on nature, before expressing that you intend to pursue a degree in biology.

Consider hiding your response within a fable, moral tale, or descriptive passage of text.

Be precise and logical.

Your sentences and thoughts must be rationally connected if you wish to stand out. You must be easily understandable.

Make a copy of your work and reread it as though you don’t understand what is being said. Is this a logical conclusion? Is there a break between sections or are they all the same? Make a plan for your essay.

Have you started over from the beginning? Is there a conclusion to this story? Have you provided sufficient background information?

Verify sure your writing is understandable to a variety of audiences before publishing it. Try out your essay on a friend, a teacher, a parent, or even a child to see how it comes out.

Ask them not to pass judgment, but rather to simply read what you have to say. “Explain to me exactly what you got out of this,” you say to her. Any misunderstandings should be resolved.

Leave an impression on your reader

People remember the most recent events. The most essential things are said on the way out, Alan Alda stated in a commencement address to his daughter’s graduating college class. “I love you,” he said at the end.

Similarly, you should end your college essay with something memorable that outlines your most essential traits. Memorable endings let the reader feel something. Or they condense a multi-line conclusion into a single phrase or sentence. Maybe they end with a heartfelt, basic truth.


Your application essay should have three qualities: a distinctive perspective, outstanding writing, and a real voice.

SEE ALSO: How to Write a Common App Essay

While there is no magic topic that guarantees admittance to the college of your choice, everyone has experiences that can be used to write the best possible application essays.

  • Favorite foods
  • Activities
  • Challenges
  • Failure
  • Commitment

Colleges don’t want ideal people. They want students who will improve their courses, dorms, and communities. Isn’t there a story about what you bring to the world, Those are the essays you write best.


Essays are vital in college admissions. A great essay can increase your application’s chances of acceptance. A poor college essay can also jeopardize your chances of getting into your preferred university.

This article will teach you what not to include in your college essay.

Academic and personal achievements summary

Resumes are becoming more common when you enter college. Employers and schools like them to highlight your qualifications, experience, and skills.

Obviously, this format is perfect for college essays. However, resumes are exceedingly dry and boring.

Achieving a sporting goal.

Coaches, parents, and even classmates have all stated that skills learned from sports may be applied to everyday life.

While there is some truth behind this, it is a topic that has been explored extensively in pop culture.

One man’s journey

The United States has the world’s largest immigrant population. The good news is that immigration-related college essay topics aren’t in short supply.

Why? Well, because there are tens of millions of other people with similar stories.

Tragedies you’ve experienced

Tragedies are universal and frequently formative. In other words, as everyone faces challenges, it is a typical topic for college essays.

Sadly, this makes these topics cliche. Also, these writings tend to focus on the catastrophe rather than the subject’s impact.


Let’s get to the point.

Follow the directions.

They say the toughest part is starting. You may find it unnecessary to state that you must carefully read the directions, but given the excitement and stress of this time in your life, it is.

If you don’t follow the application essay criteria, the admissions officer may presume you won’t follow the university’s program’s directions. The page and word limits are there to help you structure your contribution.

After you’ve read the directions and taken notes, create an outline for your essay and decide what message you want to express. Now it’s time for the first draft.

Begin with a hook.

Listen to your gut

Universities value originality and quality of thought, so don’t try to rehash well-worn phrases or concepts; instead, write about what you truly believe.

The application essay is your chance to show an admissions officer your dedication and topic understanding. Show how your selected program will help you attain future goals.

Avert clichés

Remember that there are thousands of other students applying to your selected university. Reread your essay, erase cliché sentences, and try to discover a new approach.

SEE ALSO: Is Business Analyst a Good Career Path? | 2023

Back up your claims with examples.

That implies if you wish to explain an idea, you offer detailed information and instances to support your thoughts.

You can do this by writing about what actually motivates you and how you established a conviction.

A clear essay plan

You will have a word limit, so don’t try to cover everything in your essay. Plan your essay in three parts (introduction, body, and conclusion) and decide on the major concepts you want to express.

Ask for proofreading.

Asking a teacher or parent to proofread your essay will help them discover problems as well as ensure that the writing is authentic.

After reading so many examples and guidelines, it’s hard to know if what you just wrote is a true reflection of who you are. Enlist the help of others to polish your essay.


An essay for college is a look into your thoughts and how you see the world. To make your essay believable, make sure everything you write supports that point of view.

Determine how the essay question relates to your personal traits, and then write from a certain perspective.

Now go write an amazing essay! Success!

How do you write an introduction to a college application essay?

l Opening Hook. It’s important to draw your reader in from the very first sentence.

l Summary of Your Topic, Ideas, or Argument. Your opening paragraph should introduce the subject matter and the points you intend to make.


Thesis Statement. Your thesis statement comes at the end of your introduction.

The very first sentence of your essay should be the “hook” or “grabber.” This sentence “hooks” readers or “grabs” their attention, making them want to read more. This first sentence should provide rich details, engage a reader’s curiosity, or otherwise stand out from the rest.

A college essay format and general rules are pretty standard. Typically, your admission paper should follow a basic 5-paragraph format. This means you will need to include one introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.

Admissions officers look for students whose essays reveal their character and perspective through their real experiences, not contrived situations. Admissions officers say most essays they read are safe, generic and do nothing to make them remember or want to advocate for the students who wrote them.

College essays aren’t formal, academic pieces of writing like those you write in your English classes. Instead, they should sound like you so the reader can figuratively hear your voice and get a sense of your personality.


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How to Write a Good College Application Essay (2024)


How do you start a college application essay? ›

The introduction has to reveal to the reader what your essay is about and catch their attention. You could open with an anecdote or an interesting story that will show some of the best parts of your personality and character, offering an insight that will help the admission officers get to know who you are.

What should a college application essay include? ›

Every application essay you write should include details about yourself and past experiences. It's another opportunity to make yourself look like a fantastic applicant. Leverage your experiences. Tell a riveting story that fulfills the prompt.

What not to say in a college application essay? ›

Many essays included things that you should not do in your college admissions essay including:
  • Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
  • Never write about a "topic"
  • Never start with a preamble.
  • Never end with a “happily ever after” conclusion.
  • Never pontificate.
  • Never retreat into your thoughts.

How do you write a college killer essay? ›

10 tips for writing a killer college essay
  1. Spend some quality time with the essay prompts. ...
  2. Write honestly about yourself. ...
  3. Write about something that is important to you. ...
  4. Think of the essay as a 3-dimensional snapshot of who you are. ...
  5. Straddle the fine line of being boastful and subtle.

What is the best opening sentence for a college essay? ›

The very first sentence of your essay should be the “hook” or “grabber.” This sentence “hooks” readers or “grabs” their attention, making them want to read more. This first sentence should provide rich details, engage a reader's curiosity, or otherwise stand out from the rest.

What makes a college essay stand out? ›

A standout college essay has several key ingredients: A unique, personally meaningful topic. A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook. Specific stories and language that show instead of telling.

How do you convince college to accept you? ›

  1. Earn Good Grades in Challenging Courses. ...
  2. Get a High SAT/ACT Score. ...
  3. Write a Compelling Personal Statement. ...
  4. Demonstrate Interest. ...
  5. Secure Strong Letters of Recommendation. ...
  6. Apply to a Diverse Selection of Colleges. ...
  7. Opt for an Early Admission Plan. ...
  8. Manage Your Online Reputation.

Do admission officers read the whole essay? ›

Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process. It will be anywhere from one reader to four readers.

What 3 things need to be included in a college essay? ›

11 Things Students Should Include In Their College Application...
  • Write about yourself. ...
  • Focus on one facet of yourself. ...
  • Tell a good story. ...
  • Keep it real. ...
  • Present yourself in the best light. ...
  • Include information not elsewhere in your application. ...
  • Leverage your native culture, traditions, and experiences.
Jul 20, 2016

How do I start a college essay about myself? ›

Start your essay with a creative introduction that will make the readers want to continue reading your essay. You may choose to start with a personal story or experience. Avoid using cliches such as “from a young age” or “for as long as I can remember.” Also, avoid using quotes.

What should a college essay talk about? ›

Tackling the Common App Essay Prompts
  • Prompt #1: Share your story.
  • Prompt #2: Learning from obstacles.
  • Prompt #3: Challenging a belief.
  • Prompt #4: Solving a problem.
  • Prompt #5: Personal growth.
  • Prompt #6: What captivates you?
  • Prompt #7: Topic of your choice.
  • Describe a person you admire.

Can a bad essay ruin your college application? ›

If a student's essay isn't great OR good, the admission officer will probably just skim past the essay and move right on to your transcript and your test scores to evaluate your candidacy for admission. Bad essays don't get read.

Can a bad college essay get you rejected? ›

Curating and word-smithing a compelling essay is a key factor to getting accepted by your college of choice. If you are applying to top colleges, you do not get a pass for poor essays, you get a rejection.

Is it bad to use I statements in college essays? ›

Using “I” in an essay is not wrong, but it is unnecessary. The reader can safely assume that the ideas in the essay are by the writer since the writer's name is on the paper.

How do you write an unforgettable college essay? ›

10 Tips for writing an unforgettable college essay
  1. Your topic is not OSFA (One Size Fits All). ...
  2. We want the feels from the start. ...
  3. Reeeelllllaaaaxxxx. ...
  4. Review, revise, repeat x3. ...
  5. It's not a text, tweet or #nofilter. ...
  6. Develop your narrative. ...
  7. Does your essay sound like you? ...
  8. We've read the rest of your application.
Jul 31, 2017

Should you introduce yourself in a college essay? ›

A college essay is absolutely a way to introduce yourself to the college, but it shouldn't be taken so literally. Rewriting your application in the form of an essay is a waste of valuable time, for both you and the college admissions officer. Instead, focus on a unique way to introduce yourself.

How long should an essay for a college application be? ›

The primary essay for your college application, often called a personal statement, is typically around 400-600 words. The Common App personal statement — which is used as the primary application essay by more than 800 colleges — must be 250-650 words.

What should the first paragraph of a college essay look like? ›

Your opening paragraph should introduce the subject matter and the points you intend to make. They should give some background to support the thesis statement you'll make at the end of the introduction.

What are the best starters for a college essay? ›

Start with a vivid, specific image

If your topic doesn't lend itself to such a surprising opener, you can also start with a vivid, specific description. Many essays focus on a particular experience, and describing one moment from that experience can draw the reader in.

Is it cheesy to start a college essay with a quote? ›

In most cases, quoting other people isn't a good way to start your college essay. Admissions officers want to hear your thoughts about yourself, and quotes often don't achieve that. Unless a quote truly adds something important to your essay that it otherwise wouldn't have, you probably shouldn't include it.

What not to do in a why college essay? ›

Don't tell colleges that a particular extracurricular is important to you. Show them your past experience and your interest in a club on campus. Instead of telling them you work hard, show them what you have done. Instead of saying you are creative and innovative, show them what you have created.

What to do if a college rejects you? ›

How to Deal with College Rejection
  1. You Can Write an Appeal Letter. ...
  2. Know You are not alone. ...
  3. It's not personal. ...
  4. Don't Dwell on the “what ifs” ...
  5. Celebrate the acceptance letters. ...
  6. Embrace the schools that did accept you. ...
  7. Consider Your other options.
Dec 22, 2022

What makes a college not accept you? ›

Failure to meet high GPA or test score standards. Insufficient academic rigor. Lack of demonstrated interest. Application essay errors.

Can colleges reject you for being too good? ›

While there is some anecdotal evidence that overqualified students get rejected, these students aren't usually turned down because of their better-than-average grades or test scores. Most likely, the overqualified student isn't the right fit for a school or they haven't shown enough interest to admission officers.

What do admissions officers look at first? ›

Admissions officers look at “hard factors” (GPA, grades, and test scores) and “soft factors” (essays, extracurricular activities, recommendations, and demonstrated interest) to gain a full picture of applicants.

What do admissions officers want in a college essay? ›

In your application essay, admissions officers are looking for particular features: they want to see context on your background, positive traits that you could bring to campus, and examples of you demonstrating those qualities.

How fast do colleges look at applications? ›

Every college has its own timeline for evaluating student applications. It's not unusual for a college's application process to take four to six weeks. Colleges that have an application portal allow students to go online to check the status of their applications at any time.

What are the most common college essays about? ›

Sharing how experiences or accomplishments have fueled your personal development can demonstrate maturity and the ability to handle change to admissions counselors. Personal growth and how you respond is definitely one of the most common college essay topics you'll encounter.

What is the most important part of college essay? ›

The introduction of your college essay is the first thing admissions officers will read and therefore your most important opportunity to stand out. An excellent introduction will keep admissions officers reading, allowing you to tell them what you want them to know.

What is the most common essay format in college? ›

MLA style was designed by the Modern Language Association, and it has become the most popular college essay format for students writing papers for class.

What is a good sentence to start an essay? ›

This essay discusses … … is explored … … is defined … The definition of … will be given … is briefly outlined … … is explored … The issue focused on …. … is demonstrated ... … is included …

Should I start my college essay with a question? ›

If you are having trouble figuring out how to start your college essay, here are some introductions you can use to grab the reader's attention: Begin by asking a question your essay will answer. Start with a short, vivid description of a person, place, or thing (“paint a picture”)

How do you know if your college essay is good? ›

How do I know if my college personal essay is any good?
  1. You've written multiple drafts. Assessing the quality of your essay by the number of drafts you have written is a crude evaluation. ...
  2. Meaningful character growth. ...
  3. Tasty, descriptive language. ...
  4. Spotless grammar.
May 18, 2021

How much do colleges look at essays? ›

At the top 250 schools, your essays generally account for 25% of your overall application. This is only slightly behind the 30% for extracurriculars. Essays are actually ahead of the 20% for grades and coursework, 15% for test scores, and 10% for recommendations and interviews.

What are the some of the college application mistakes to avoid? ›

As you gather everything together to send yours off, keep in mind this list of the seven most common app mistakes we've seen.
  • Writing a generic essay. ...
  • Forgetting to proofread. ...
  • Underemphasizing extracurriculars. ...
  • Crossing off a college you can't afford. ...
  • Lacking familiarity with the school.

Do colleges look at essay score? ›

In general, then, schools really look at the score, but it's not one of the most important parts of your application or even your SAT score. Your best bet if you are interested in a given school that requires the essay and you want more specific guidance how they use the essay is to call the admissions office and ask.

Should I write my college essay about failing a class? ›

You will fail at some point in college, guaranteed. Writing about a past failure and how you grew from it will give the admissions committee a sense of how you will approach difficult situations. Emerging with positive takeaways from a failure is always a good story. Choosing to write about failure has many advantages.

Can a good college essay make up for a low GPA? ›

4. Write stellar essays. Your essays account for approximately 25% of your application — 5% more than your grades and coursework. So, if you meet the overall academic thresholds (including test scores) or have extenuating circ*mstances, you can offset a weaker GPA with strong essays.

What is the best tone for college essay? ›

What style and tone should I use for a college application essay? College application essays are less formal than other kinds of academic writing. Use a conversational yet respectful tone, as if speaking with a teacher or mentor. Be vulnerable about your feelings, thoughts, and experiences to connect with the reader.

Can I start a sentence with but in a college essay? ›

College essays should have an informal tone. It's okay to write a fragment. Sometimes, fragments can even be powerful. It's okay to start a sentence with “but.” We know your English teacher likely told you in fifth grade that you should never start a sentence with “but.” BUT, on college essays, you sure can!

What words can you not use in a college essay? ›

For concise and meaningful writing, do your best to avoid these words and phrases in your admission essays.
  • 1) Contractions. ...
  • 2) Idioms. ...
  • 3-5) “So on,” “etc,” “and so forth“ ...
  • 6) Clichés. ...
  • 7-11) “Thing,” “stuff,” “good,” “bad,” “big“ ...
  • 12) Slang, jargon, teen speak. ...
  • 13) Rhetorical questions.
Mar 13, 2018

How do you write an opening hook for a college essay? ›

5 Tips to Write a College Essay that Hooks Your Reader
  1. Tip 1: Narrow Your Lens. Think small. ...
  2. Tip 2: Start with a First-Person Story. Try starting your essay with a story written in first-person narrative. ...
  3. Tip 3: Use your Senses. Nothing grabs a reader like details. ...
  4. Tip 4: Add Adjectives. ...
  5. Tip 5: Emotionally Connect.
Sep 6, 2019

How do you write a good introduction for an essay? ›

Key elements of an introduction
  1. Provide some background information and context. ...
  2. Limit the scope of your discussion. ...
  3. State your position / contention. ...
  4. Outline the structure or main supporting points of your essay.

How do you start off an essay? ›

Take a look at these common ways to start an essay:
  1. Share a shocking or amusing fact.
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Dramatize a scene.
  4. Kick it off with a quote.
  5. State your thesis directly.
  6. Pick the right tone for your essay.
  7. When you're stuck, work backwards.
Apr 14, 2023

What is the attention grabbing first sentence? ›

The attention grabber, also known as a “hook”, is the first sentence that the reader will see, and its purpose is to grab the reader's attention. A few common attention grabbers are: - A short, meaningful quote that relates to your topic. - Think of a quote that interested you during your research.

What are the 5 types of hooks? ›

5 examples of essay hooks
  • 1 Statistic hook. The statistic hook gives your audience a true and hard fact to latch onto from the get-go. ...
  • 2 Quotation hook. ...
  • 3 Anecdotal hook. ...
  • 4 Question hook. ...
  • 5 Statement hook.
Jan 14, 2021

How many paragraphs should a college essay be? ›

There is no set number of paragraphs in a college admissions essay. College admissions essays can diverge from the traditional five-paragraph essay structure that you learned in English class. Just make sure to stay under the specified word count.

What are the 7 sentence openers? ›

Again, look at this list of common subordinating words. Used at the beginning of a sentence, these words signal to you that a sentence opener follows: After, Although, As, Because, Before, If, Since, Unless, Until, When, While.

What is a catchy opening sentence? ›

Start with the chase. A good hook might also be a question or a claim—anything that will elicit an emotional response from a reader. Think about it this way: a good opening sentence is the thing you don't think you can say, but you still want to say. Like, “This book will change your life.”

What words can you use instead of I in an essay? ›

"One," "the reader," "readers," "the viewer," or something similar sometimes can be used effectively in place of first-person pronouns in formal papers, but be careful not to overuse these expressions.

What are the 3 things a good introduction should have? ›

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
  • An opening hook to catch the reader's attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
Feb 4, 2019

What is the most important sentence in the introduction of an essay? ›

The thesis statement is the most important part of the introduction. It gives the reader clear information about the content of the essay, which will help them to understand the essay more easily. The thesis states the specific topic, and often lists the main (controlling) ideas that will be discussed in the main body.

What is the best paragraph for introduction? ›

An introduction should include three things: a hook to interest the reader, some background on the topic so the reader can understand it, and a thesis statement that clearly and quickly summarizes your main point.

What not to do when starting an essay? ›

  1. Fail to address the question's topic in your introduction. ...
  2. Stray from the focus of the question (especially in the conclusion) ...
  3. Insert quotes without introducing them or relating them back to the topic. ...
  4. Fail to provide references. ...
  5. Use informal language, colloquialisms, or overuse rhetorical questions.

How do you start a college essay with a quote? ›

How to quote in an essay?
  1. Use a full sentence followed by a colon to introduce a quotation. ...
  2. Begin a sentence with your own words, then complete it with quoted words. ...
  3. Use an introductory phrase naming the source, followed by a comma to quote a critic or researcher.

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