Essay Writing Tips

College Essay Tips

A college essay is a sample of your writing to help you reveal something that your grades and test scores can't- your personality. This is huge for students that might not meet the middle 50% GPA or SAT Score where an admission officer can make sense of who you are, as well as showcasing your writing skills.

Tips to Help You Write Your College Essay

  1. Get Started by Brainstorming. Starting the essay can be the hardest part. Brainstorming about your personality traits and defining your strengths is a good place to begin.
  2. Let Your First Draft Flow. After you've gathered your notes, create an outline to organize your essay and decide where you want examples to appear. Now you're ready to write your first draft. Don't worry about making it perfect. Just get your ideas flowing and your thoughts down on paper. You'll fix mistakes and improve the writing in later drafts.
  3. Develop 3 Essay Parts
    • Introduction: One paragraph that introduces your essay.
    • Body: Several paragraphs explaining the main idea with examples.
    • Conclusion: One paragraph that summarizes and ends the essay.
  4. Be Specific. Give your essay focus by figuring out how the question relates to your personal qualities and then taking a specific angel. Make sure everything you write supports that viewpoint.
  5. Show Don’t Tell
    • Don’t simply state a fact to get an idea across, such as “I like to surround myself with people with a variety of backgrounds and interests.”
    • Do include specific details, examples, reasons and so on to develop your ideas. For the example above, describe a situation when you were surrounded by various types of people. What were you doing? Who did you talk with? What did you take away from the experience? Tell the story.
  6. Be Honest. The essay question might ask you about your best quality, an experience that shaped you or the reason you want to attend a certain college. Don't be tempted to write what you think the admission officers want to hear; answer the question honestly.
  7. Get Feedback. Show your draft to family, friends or teachers. Ask if it makes sense and sounds like you. Consider their feedback and make changes, but keep your voice. Ask teachers, mentors, family, friends, etc. for feedback on your essay. Reach out well in advance of any deadlines, and give them at least two weeks to give their feedback. After receiving feedback, revise, revise, revise! You should plan on going through many drafts. Remember, you don't have to take all the feedback you get — go with what you think will be most helpful.
  8. Proofread and Make Corrections. Read your essay over carefully to check for typos and spelling and grammar errors. It's best to ask someone who hasn't seen it yet to look as well. They're likely to see mistakes you won't catch. Make final edits carefully. Your spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting should be flawless. It helps to read your essay out loud to catch mistakes you might otherwise skim over. Check to make sure that your edits and revisions haven't taken out your voice and personal writing style.

Scholarship Essay Writing Tips

Tips to Help You Write a Great Scholarship Essays

  • Provide insight into who you are and what you value
  • Be personal and unique in a way that highlights your identity and/or personality
  • Have a certain depth of purpose
  • Engage the reader
  • Leave an impression on the reader
  • Challenge the reader to consider a subject, topic or opinion in a different light
  • Speak to the scholarship's selection criteria which could include: academic ability, curiosity, service, initiative, leadership and character
  • Have been PROOFREAD and have gone through several edits and revisions
  • Follow instructions and respond to the essay prompt
  • Make a reading committee what to meet you in person

General Tips

Length: You should ensure that the essay is an appropriate length- one paragraph is way too short for a question that requests a 1-page response. At the same time students should not exceed the maximum page or word allowance

Topic: Read your essay aloud to ensure that the tone you desire comes across in the final product. This can help you determine if your sarcasm or humor is likely to be misinterpreted, if your emphasis is unintentionally melodramatic, if your sincerity rings ture, etc.

Format: Remember to use separate paragraphs to create distinctive sections in the essay and distinguish ideas from each other. An essay that is one long paragraph instead of being broken up into different points can be difficult to read, and the reader may get lost. Follow instructions regarding point-size, font, etc. Not doing so is a sign of carelessness.

Some Specific Tips:

Essays About Other People: If writing about a special person- from your own life or a famous historical figure- you should relate this person to your own life, goals or aspirations. If you don't provide some information as to why you chose this person to write about, the essay becomes a biography of someone else without any insight into why you find your subject compelling or admirable.

Essays About Challenges: This type of essay is most effective when it provides insight into who you are by describing the challenge and illustrating why it was important to you to attempt to overcome it. Describe the actions taken to work towards your desired result and tell your reader what you learned from the experience or how the experience has changed you.

Your Email Address: When listing your email address consider using a more professional address. Individuals reviewing your application and reading your essay are professionals. So, instead of an email address that entertains your friends and family opt for using your first name and last name initials (name.initial@...) or a similar identifier (initialastname@...)

This information was adapted from Colorado Mesa University University, Financial Aid Office