Tackling College Admissions Essays with Confidence

Senior year of high school is an exciting time. You’ve finally reached the top and are almost done with school — for now. But looming on the horizon are college application deadlines. Whether you’ve had your heart set on Princeton since you were five or are still debating between a few schools, a critical part of the process is having a strong admissions essay. This not only gives admissions officers a better sense of who you are and why you’d be a good fit at their university, but it also showcases your writing abilities.

However, figuring out what to write about and how to create a compelling statement can be tricky. Plus, there are often word count limits you must adhere to meaning you can’t recount your life story or elaborate on every award you’ve ever won. It’s time to find your focus.

Selecting an Essay Topic

First and foremost, you want to carefully read the application guide to see if the college gives specific prompts to choose from or assigns a topic for the essay. If they don’t, you have a little more freedom, but you also want to choose something that brings you alive to the reader and serves a purpose. Your topic doesn’t have to be anything extravagant — focus on an event that has helped to shape who you are. Maybe you want to talk about how you re-read Little Women every year, how you built your first invention in second grade, or why you are passionate about sorting donations at the food bank. What sets you apart?

Getting Organized

Next, do a brain dump and brainstorm everything you can think of related to your topic. This will give you more information to choose from and eventually pare down for your essay. Once you have a list of ideas, sort them into different categories and scratch out things that you don’t need. Remember — you have limited space, so pick the most important and impactful details. What really exemplifies the point you are trying to make?

Take these notes and turn them into an outline that will walk you step-by-step through the beginning, middle, and end of your essay and help you stay on track. You don’t want to waste 100 words on a side tangent that doesn’t add value to the story.

Writing Your Essay

Now it’s time to write. Don’t worry about your essay being perfect the first time around. Just get the information down so you can go back and revise and edit what you’ve written. You’ll probably go through several versions, and that’s okay. The final copy may not look anything like your first draft. Try not to put off your writing until the last minute either; you want to have time to make changes and step away for a day or two to refocus.

Have a parent, sibling, friend, or teacher read your essay and give constructive feedback too. They can help you decide what to cut and what to keep, or how to change the angle to make it more compelling. Through it all, don’t forget that your essay is personal. Make it about who you are and what you bring to the table instead of trying to be something or someone you’re not.

If you’re unsure about how to get started or whether your essay is following the right structure, ask your tutor for help and sign up for Crafting Scholars’ College Essay Workshop. You’ll learn not only how to find a great topic to write about, but how to work through the writing process from start to finish to have a polished final product. Register today to reserve your spot!