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How to write an effective college admissions essay

How to write an effective college admissions essay

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The process of getting admitted to college can be a little nerve-wracking, and even more so, if you want to attend an Ivy League or selective college. Even if you have good grades and glowing recommendations, you still need to be able to provide the key element for your admission package – the college application essay.

In this article, we are going to provide some important tidbits to keep in mind to get the kind of results you want from your essay efforts.

Start with an interesting anecdote

The best way to grab the attention of your readers (aka the admissions officer) is to start with something interesting that has happened in your life and has helped shape who you are today. This is a great way to create a good connection with the person reading your essay. This kind of engagement can have a huge impact in the decision-making process, especially when they have swaths of essays to read through.

Never forget to see things from their perspective

What do colleges want? Well, that is quite simple. They want students who will work hard and graduate. They also want students who are looking to become successful and who will bring prestige to their institution. Be sure to remind them of the fact that your intentions are to learn, to work hard, and to become a successful person.

Forget the fancy words

We are living in an era with access to all kinds of information, and this means that it’s very easy for people to sound smart and sophisticated in writing. However, it’s also easy for an experienced admissions officer to see through such writings. The point is, be natural and avoid trying to impress them with words that no one ever uses, or rarely uses outside of Shakespearean literary works! You’ll only end up with a laborious essay that holds very little appeal.

Be genuine, be yourself

We know that it may be tempting to make yourself appear grandiose, like you are someone you are not. This is a natural thing to do when you want to impress someone. Perhaps, you want to be seen as being “normal”, in order to “fit in” and “be accepted”. The good news is that top colleges are not looking for “normal” or “conventional”, so make sure to be yourself and express what you feel.

Don’t try too hard

Nothing is more annoying than reading someone’s essay who is trying too hard to portray an idea/concept/experience in a way that feels completely scripted and fake. Perhaps, it’s harsh to use the word “fake”; but if you try too hard to get a positive response, there is a good chance that the admissions officers will see that and it could work against you.

Proofread your work

Nothing says: “I’m not really interested in applying”, more than a sloppy college application essay that is plagued with grammatical and punctuation errors. Make sure to double/triple check your essay. This is going to reflect heavily on your commitment to formal education. Many students have failed to be accepted for this reason alone.

Find a balance

There are rules and guidelines in all college entrance requirements and you need to make sure you follow them. Always balance things out by writing slightly less than the maximum amount of words allowed; but do write more than the bare minimum. This is going to create the perfect balance of length and engagement when you deliver the final version.


Being admitted to a top college is not easy; and nor should it be. However, the benefits of being accepted far outweigh the challenging admissions application process. Acceptance to a top-tier college marks the beginning of a whole new chapter in a student’s life; it’s important for you to take it seriously.

We’re sure you’ll do a great job with your college application essays once you keep these tidbits in mind.

If you’re looking for a concise guide to writing a top-notch college admission essay download my “College Admission Essay Writing Guide” HERE.

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