The College Application Essay-Writing Process

College Admissions


If you haven’t started work on your college application essays yet, put that on your list of things to do soon. Application essays may not be long, but that doesn’t mean you should start and finish in one day or one weekend. Writing a good essay is a process, and it takes time.

What are the steps to follow if you want to write a seriously good essay?

Brainstorm. First you need a topic. Sometimes schools tell you to write whatever you want, but even if one of your schools assigns a topic, you’ll need to decide how to approach it. Don’t just go with the first thing you think of. Brainstorm ideas. Then think about how you would develop each idea in an essay and what that essay would say to colleges. Choose a topic that you can write about well and that will give admissions officers a strong, positive insight into who you are.

Outline. Organize your thoughts in an outline. This will help you make sure your ideas are fully developed, make sure you say everything you want to say, and control the flow of your essay.

Write a first draft. Using your outline, write a draft of your essay. Then walk away from it. You can reflect on what you’ve written, but try to get enough mental distance from your essay that you can come back later and evaluate it with fresh eyes.

Revise. Take a critical look at your essay. What works? What doesn’t? What’s missing? What should be cut? How does it flow? What sounded great when you wrote it but doesn’t hold up for you now? Consider these questions to help you strengthen your essay through revision. You might repeat this step several times. You can also ask for feedback from teachers, parents, friends or professionals.

Proofread! Once you’ve finished your final draft, make sure you review it very carefully for typos, missing words, spelling and grammar errors, and other mistakes that are so easy to make when you’re writing and revising. You want to make sure your essay leaves a great impression.

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