, ,

5 Tips for Awesome College Application Essays

If you follow my blog (and if you do, thank you! I appreciate it!), you know that I’m a big believer in making informed decisions about how you approach each aspect of the college application process. This week, I would like to introduce you to award-winning script writer, Sharon Epstein. Sharon, a Writer’s Guild award winner and alumni interviewer for Cornell, founded Applying To College, specializing in college essay writing and interview skills.Today, she has some tips to share with you on writing awesome college essays.

Why is the essay so important? With so many academically talented students applying to colleges with strong grades and SAT scores, the essay is one piece of the puzzle that helps a student stand out from the crowd. Recommendations and extracurricular activities also help, but that’s a conversation for another day.Read on…

Stressed? You may be wondering how you’re going to write a great college application essay. Don’t worry, itcan be done. Here are five ways to help your essay stand out and get noticed:

1. Make Yourself Shine

Your college essay should represent you in a positive light. So think about your best qualities: Are you compassionate? Do you have a business mind? Are you an awesome big brother? Write down your ideas andthen think of an example that illustrates each one. You’ll probably find that one or two of your ideas stand out from the rest.

Two reasons to toss an idea: 1. You don’t have a specific example to write about. 2. Fifty other students can write the same essay, which means it’s not unique enough to you.

2. Show How You’ve Grown

Whatever essay topic you choose, you need to show what you learned from that experience. Let’s say, for instance, that you’ve got an Uncle Joe and you want to write about how important he was in your life. Don’t spend the entire essay on Uncle Joe’s biography, make sure the reader knows how he influenced you and how you use those lessons in your life today. Similarly, if you’re writing about your family’s traditions, don’t just explain your traditions, spend time on how those traditions have shaped you.

3. Don’t Choose a Topic that’s Too Big

The Common Application limits you to 500 words; that’s five or six paragraphs for your entire essay. So focus on one aspect of yourself, or on an event that took place in a short period of time. Instead of writing about your entire summer vacation, for example, choose one thing that happened during your vacation and write about what you learned from it.

4. Use Detail

Detail sets the scene for your reader. You probably know that every story needs the “who, what, when, where and why,” but also ask yourself “how did it look, feel, smell, sound or taste?” Then choose (but don’t overuse) a few good adjectives and adverbs. Give characters names and write a bit of dialogue if it fits. Well-placed details will help your essay come to lifeand make it more memorable to read.

5. Edit

Okay, here’s the nagging part – leave enough time to edit. Well-edited essays make a good impression; essays with mistakes don’t. So make sure commas and periods are in the right place and that everything is spelled correctly. Don’t just rely on spell check, because spell check can miss mistakes (“their” vs. “there” for example). And if the name of the college is in your essay, make sure it’s the correct school. (Don’t laugh, people do it a lot.) This is a great time to ask a teacher or other adult who’s good with grammar to help you proofreadBe careful: Too many mistakes will leave your college reader with a poor impression of both you and your writing skills. For some college admissions officers, that’s a deal-breaker.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on writing an awesome college essay, please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you! You can also email me at or Sharon at

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

Want Great College Advice Delivered Monthly?
Sign Up Here For The Dobler College Consulting Newsletter!

1 Comment

  1. […] coach, to talk about tips for awesome essays. If you didn’t get a chance to read the post, here it is. Read it. It’s really […]

Leave a Comment

Related Posts