How to Write a College Essay: A Guide to Crafting an Exceptional Application Essay

How to Write a College Essay: A Guide to Crafting an Exceptional Application Essay

As a high school student preparing to apply for college, one of the most daunting tasks ahead is writing the college essay. It can be overwhelming to sit down and think about how to encapsulate your entire life, passions, and dreams in just a few pages.

But fear not, with the right tools and mindset you can write an outstanding college essay that highlights your uniqueness and catches the admittance officer’s attention. In this guide, we’ll break down the steps of writing a college essay, share tricks to make your essay stand out, and provide advice on how to structure your essay successfully.

5 Steps to Writing an Effective College Essay

Step 1: Understanding the prompt

The first step in crafting an exceptional college essay is to fully understand the essay prompt. Most colleges will provide a set of prompts, which serve as a guide for applicants. Carefully read and analyze each prompt and think about what message the admissions committee is trying to elicit. Make sure to highlight key points or themes before moving to the next step.

Step 2: Brainstorming ideas

Once you’ve grasped the prompt, the next step is to brainstorm ideas. Reflect on your experiences, achievements, and obstacles and think about how they relate to the prompt. Write down any and all ideas that come to mind, as even those that seem irrelevant could potentially be developed into an intriguing essay topic.

Step 3: Creating an outline

With your ideas in hand, it’s time to start thinking structurally and create an outline. A well-constructed outline will guide your writing and ensure that you stay on track and cover all of the key points you want to make. Your outline should have an introduction, body, and conclusion, with each section providing detail and examples that support your thesis.

Step 4: Writing the essay

Now comes the time to write the actual essay. Here, you should focus on writing clearly and concisely while weaving in personal anecdotes and other relevant details. Make sure to use strong, active verbs and vary the sentence structure to keep the reader engaged. Remember that the essay is a chance to showcase your unique voice, so let your personality shine through.

Step 5: Editing and revising

The final step is editing and revising your essay. Go through each sentence carefully to check for spelling and grammatical errors, and make any necessary structural changes to ensure that your essay flows seamlessly and is easy to read. Once you’ve done that, read it over once or twice more to search for any inconsistencies or areas of weakness. Consider having someone else read it over too, as a fresh pair of eyes can catch things that you might have missed.

Top Tips for Crafting a Winning College Essay
Top Tips for Crafting a Winning College Essay

Top Tips for Crafting a Winning College Essay

Tip 1: Show, don’t tell

Showcasing your strengths and passions through stories and examples, rather than simply stating them, can make your essay more engaging and memorable. Use action verbs to convey your experiences and highlight your personality as well as the lessons you have learned.

Tip 2: Be yourself

The admissions committee wants to get to know the real you, so don’t be afraid to showcase your quirks and unique personality traits. Your essay shouldn’t sound like it was written by anyone but you. Authenticity is key to crafting an exceptional essay, and colleges value originality and personal insight.

Tip 3: Use specific examples

Support your claims with specific examples from your life, experiences, or achievements. Detailing how you accomplished a task or tackled a challenge helps the admissions committee better understand what sets you apart and makes you a good fit for their school.

Tip 4: Be concise

Avoid rambling or getting bogged down in unnecessary details. Your essay should be clear and concise with every sentence adding value and purpose to your message. Stick to the point and use the allotted word count wisely.

Tip 5: Use active voice

Active voice makes your sentences clear and direct, providing impact and making your essay easier to read. Passive voice can feel dull and lackluster, thus creating a disengaging tone. Try to use action verbs to energize your essay.

Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Strong College Essay


  • Focus on a specific experience or subject
  • Show your personality
  • Use your voice


  • Use cliches or overused phrases
  • Use quotes excessively
  • Write a generic essay

How to Make Your College Essay Stand Out

Captivating opening sentence

The first few sentences of your essay can set the tone and capture your reader’s attention. The goal should be to pique their interest and compel them to keep reading. Make it memorable.

Unique perspective or topic

While it may be tempting to just write a standard essay, standing out means approaching your essay differently. Consider topics or examples that are unique to you or your experience that will make your essay memorable and engaging.

Use of vivid language

Using descriptive, emotive language to illustrate your points can make your essay more captivating and memorable. It can also help convey your personality and perspective more clearly.

Tying in personal experiences

Your personal experiences and life stories are valuable tools to make your essay unique. By tying in your own life experiences or achievements, you can show the admissions committee who you are and how you will fit into their school’s community.

Writing a College Essay That Gets Noticed: A Comprehensive Guide

To truly craft an exceptional college essay, you must focus on each element and piece them together with thoughtful care. In this section, we will walk through the essay’s sections and discuss how to take your essay skills to the next level.

Introduction, Body, and Conclusion

Your essay has three primary sections: the introduction which provides an overview of your essay topic; the body where you demonstrate your specific qualities using examples and experiences; and finally, the conclusion, where you summarize your ideas and restate your thesis or main points.

Tips for Taking Your Essay to the Next Level

  • Be unique. Stand out from other applicants by weaving in personal stories and unique perspectives.
  • Make your essay engaging. Use fun, descriptive language that draws in your reader and shows your personality.
  • Don’t be afraid of voice. Experiment with new ways to present information or write in your own unique style.

Techniques for Structuring Your College Essay for Success

Chronological Structure

A chronological structure focuses on detailing events in the order they happened. This structure is ideal for recounting important events and showcasing personal growth.

Thematic Structure

A thematic structure is focused on one or more themes, such as your personality, values, or beliefs. This structure is ideal for crafting a comprehensive and multifaceted essay that showcases your personality.

Problem-Solution Structure

A problem-solution structure is ideal for addressing an issue or challenge that you faced in your life and how you overcame it. This structure can show your resilience and problem-solving skills.

Comparison-Contrast Structure

A comparison-contrast structure is excellent for exploring differences and similarities, and for showcasing your ability to think critically and analyze situations.


A college essay is a unique opportunity to showcase your personality and stand out from other applicants. It should be authentic, memorable, and provide insight into who you are as a person. Remember, it’s never too early to start brainstorming, drafting, and revising your essay.

By following the steps and tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to writing an exceptional college essay that wows the admissions committee and helps you get accepted to your dream school.

So take a deep breath, focus, and begin putting together an essay that demonstrates your unique passions, talents, and life experiences.

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