How to Write the Best College Application Essay

Bashar Hanna
4 min readDec 5, 2023

Let’s face it, the college application process can be nerve-wracking. Understandably, you want to demonstrate that you’re an excellent candidate to pursue higher education at your school of choice. Apart from filling in all the standard information required in an application form and submitting your high school marks, you should expect that you’ll need to write an application essay.

This is, by far, the most challenging part of the process. However, by following these simple steps, you can create a compelling essay and feel confident that you’ll impress the admission’s office.

Read the complete instructions

Start by carefully reading and rereading the full essay guidelines to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of what is required. Take note of the limits on the length as expressed in the number of words and pages.

This is where you’ll learn exactly what the college wants to see in an application essay and it’s your first opportunity to show that you know how to follow instructions. If you have any questions, this is the time to find the answers.

Begin early

Take time to consider the requirements and what approach you want to use. Jotting down some ideas as they come to you will help you get your thoughts in order before you seriously put pen to paper or open up your computer. Then, plan what you want to say by preparing a rough outline that has an introduction, body, and conclusion.

By beginning early, you’ll take the pressure off yourself to finish by the deadline and you’ll be able to really organize and refine your thoughts over a number of drafts.

Write naturally

Use your own words and write in a manner that you are comfortable with, rather than overthinking the process. The worst thing you can do is to try to change your style of writing to something you believe the admissions officer is looking for.

Don’t try to impress or use clichés. Remember, you have a unique personality and way of expressing yourself and the goal is to demonstrate this. Don’t worry, by being your authentic self, you will stand out. To get past your initial nervousness, imagine you’re talking to a friend about your passions, achievements or point of view: whatever you’ve chosen to write about.

Have a strong opening statement

Create an opening statement designed to captivate the reader’s attention at the outset. Think of what grabs your curiosity when you read an article. For instance, it could be a question posed to the reader. Starting with an interesting quote or an intriguing anecdote are other worthy options. The goal is to suggest to the reader that what comes next will be a good story and will reveal more about your distinctive personality, character, opinions, and life experiences.

Be clear with good examples

Be honest, clear, factual, and stick to the point. Notice any tendency to wander off topic in your writing or to become too wordy in describing your viewpoint. Express your thoughts concisely and elaborate with personal examples that relate to the topic at hand. Pay attention to how your personal experiences have helped inform what you believe is important and how, for instance, this drives your dreams and plans for your future.

End with something memorable

Your essay shouldn’t end with a fizzle. A well-written personal statement will have a closing that brings all of the pieces together and reminds the reader of the central theme. Compose an honest, coherent, and succinct sentence that reinforces the points you have made and leaves a realistic and lasting impression of who you are. This will make your composition memorable.

Ask a trusted person to read it over

It’s critical to proofread and edit your final draft. This means going over the writing several times to ensure that the spelling and grammar are correct, that the document is well organized, and that you’re getting your points across in a clear and understandable fashion. In addition, review your essay for tone and authenticity.

Put your writing down for a day or two in between edits and have a fresh look at it again. Once you’re relatively comfortable with the product, this is your opportunity to ask a trusted individual to read it over with a critical eye and give you advice.

Review with the reader in mind

While you’re reviewing your essay, think about how it might sound to an admissions officer. These are busy people who will spend hours digesting hundreds of application letters and have very limited time to spend on each one. Aside from adhering to the necessary length and other rules, are you convinced that your essay will stand out? Are there any final adjustments you might want to make?

In closing

By beginning early to craft a persuasive story in your own voice, rereading and refining with assistance, and considering the reader’s viewpoint, you can write a stellar application essay.

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Bashar Hanna

Dr. Bashar Hanna has spent nearly four years as the president and chief executive officer of Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University.