How Do I Start My College Essay?

Starting your college essay can feel like a daunting task, but it’s all about getting off on the right foot! After you read the colleges’ requirements, brainstorming can be your best friend. ‘How do I start my college essay?’ Here are three steps to get you started.

Step #1: Read Over Colleges’ Requirements

College essay requirements will not be the same across the board. One school may ask you to write about something specific, while another gives you free reign. One could request no more than 500 words, while another is 750.

Before you begin anything else, you should have a clear idea of what the colleges you’re applying to are looking for. If you aren’t sure where you want to apply yet, use a college search tool to help you. Then follow each institutions’ guidelines accordingly. Failing to follow their instructions could result in a rejection letter.

student writing.

By Green Chameleon via Unsplash.

Step #2: Brainstorm

Now comes the hard part: What do you write about?

Brainstorming is going to be your best bet here. With essay requirements in front of you, start making a running list of topics that you could write about. These should be topics that are important to you. But if you’re hitting writers’ block, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Why you want to attend a particular college
  • An instance of personal growth
  • A time you failed
  • Times you learned from challenges or setbacks
  • Talk about your background or “story”
  • Your values
  • Problems you think you can solve
  • Your experiences within your community
  • Your passions
  • What you want to study or do with your life

However, it’s important to not write about the same thing that other students are. College admissions officers don’t want to read the same story or essay over and over. So you need to think about what makes you unique, too.

You may want to steer clear of the items below, unless you believe you have a truly unique way of presenting the information.

  • A resume like document of your achievements
  • Sports. Sports may be important to you and that’s absolutely fine, but colleges receive so many on this topic that admissions officers are sick of seeing them!
  • Very polarizing or sensitive topics
  • Your move to a different place
  • Romance

If you’re still struggling to come up with some ideas, talk to your friends and loved ones. They may have some suggestions that you hadn’t thought about!

Step #3: Start Writing

Once you have a topic in mind, you, of course, need to start writing. It can be sincerely tough writing those first few lines though. But the most important thing is just start. You can always go back and edit that initial paragraph after you wrote the rest of the essay and have a clear idea of where you went with the topic.

Your college essay shouldn’t be written overnight. So ‘how do I start my college essay?’

  • Give yourself time to brainstorm and really land on a solid topic.
  • Get some feedback from trusted loved ones, guidance counselors, or teachers, too, on your selected topics.
  • Just start writing!