7 Tips for Writing an Impactful College Essay

College admissions departments have to read through a lot of applications every year. Harvard University alone received over 61,00 applications in the 2022 admissions cycle. That’s a lot of essays to read! That’s why standing out with your college essay and making an impact on the reader is so very important. You have so little time to do it, too! Here are 7 tips for writing a successful college essay!

7 College Essay Tips

1. Be Concise

Your college essay shouldn’t be a stream of consciousness. It really rarely works for students, anyway. It’s a good way to repeat what you previously said just in a different way, too. College essays also tend to have word limits (and minimums) that you can’t go over – if you do, your application may just be disqualified.

That’s why it’s so essential to be concise in your essay. You need to get your point across without being too wordy. You only have so much room to work with! Use it wisely.

2. Include Details

This might seem contradictory to the above suggestion, but it’s really not. As long as you are concise with your facts, you should have plenty of space to add important details that give life to your story. You don’t want a completed essay that reads, “This happened, so I did this. And then I did that. And finally, this was the outcome.”

Details make up our life, and they should make up your essay, too, if you want it to make an impact on the reader. They truly make it more believable, too, and help you achieve the next few suggestions!

3. Showcase Emotion

As we just mentioned, your essay shouldn’t read like a step-by-step guide to your life. That’s a good way to lose emotion in your piece. It instead should invoke some kind of emotion in your reader – perhaps an emotion you felt while going through the life-changing situation you’re writing about. If you were elated, you want the reader to experience happiness. If you were devastated, you want the reader to experience that hopelessness. 

One way to do that is to use the right keywords in your writing – ones that usually have emotion connected with them. Another way is to write from the heart and then edit it so it’s concise but evocative. 

4. Be Sincere

You should never lie on a college application – and that includes the essay. Stick to the truth. Your essay should be a true representation of yourself. Making up facts, especially those that are verifiable, could cause you to lose out on a college acceptance letter. It’s also not fair to other applicants if you’re using your college essay as a creative writing exercise!

5. Harness Creativity

Creativity should definitely have a seat at the table if you want to make an impact with your college essay! That doesn’t mean you should go all in on adding pizzazz and flashiness to your writing, but showcasing your personality is always a good idea. What makes you, you? And how can you display that in your essay? 

Adding creativity to your writing can ensure you’re not sounding like an instruction manual, too, and makes it much more engaging and exciting for the reader! 

You should also give careful thought to what you want to write about! What is something different that you’ve done or experienced that would stand out among your peers? It’s highly recommended, though, that you stay away from sports-related topics! These are very overdone and the admissions departments are tired of reading them.

6. Stay within the Rules

Always stay within the confines of the college’s essay requirements. This means surpassing the essay’s minimum word count without going over the maximum allowed amount. It also means you should be answering the question to the best of your ability if a topic is provided. 

In addition, you should absolutely stay away from any inappropriate topics – even if you think it will stand out! College admission departments don’t want to read that you’re currently using illegal drugs or about extremely personal details.

7. Show Your Written Essay to Others

To ensure you have the right amount of creativity, sincerity, and emotion in your essay, let others read it! It can be extremely helpful to have someone read it who didn’t previously know the circumstances of what you wrote about – this lets them have a true emotional reaction to your essay. They can also give you feedback on how to improve your essay to give it more of a kick, especially if it seems to be lacking in the emotion department.

Writing a college application essay isn’t like writing an essay for your history class. This part of your application requires plenty of thought, brainstorming, and polishing to ensure you’re standing out among your peers and making an impact on the reader. But by using these tips and having others read your finished work, you can develop a college essay that does just that!

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While your essay is a big part of your college application, there is a lot more that goes into your admission chances! It’s important to have a well-rounded application to increase your chances of getting accepted to your dream college. College Raptor’s College Match helps you identify where you can improve (and the best schools for you!).

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