How to Jump Start Your College Admissions Essay

Colleges are starting to release essay prompts for the 2012-13 admissions cycle. Do you know how to answer a prompt?

First, you must understand the question. Read the prompt carefully and figure out what you are being asked before trying to answer it. Next, ask yourself why you are writing an essay, and for whom. In other words, know your audience.

You are writing an essay because colleges want to know who you are. They also want to know that you can write (though they are not expecting Hemingway-level work) and whether you are a good fit for their school.

You are writing for college admissions officers – someone you likely  know little about. So show them who you are in a story about you. Make sure the story is genuine, and keep it focused. You wouldn’t want to write about an entire summer working on a potato farm in Idaho, but you might want to write about a moment during that summer experience and explain why/how it influenced you. Think about the first time you woke up before dawn, or the moment you tried to text your best friend from the middle of a field – and it didn’t work.  How did this experience change you? What did you learn about yourself?

Here are five tips to help you jump start your college application essay:

1) The STORY is most important. What happened? Why does it matter? A college essay does not need to be written about an impressive topic; the essay is a story about you.

2) Your story should sound like YOU – a 17-year-old student who wants to go to college. It does not need to sound sophisticated like a professor or famous author. And it shouldn’t sound like your mom, dad or older cousin.

3) There is not a right way or wrong way to write your essay. Your best essay will grow out of the process of writing it.

4) This is your journey, so write your own essay. Admissions officers can tell if someone else helped you too much or wrote the essay for you.

5) You are interesting. College admissions officers want to like you, and they want to like your essay. You do not need to be a superstar student to impress admissions officers; anyone can stand out. They want to read stories that help them know who you are, whether you like adventures, have a wicked sense of humor, are competitive or a bookworm. Trust your gut!

Need some help getting started on your essays? Check out the  Wow Writing Workshop schedule or call 800.497.WRITE.