5 Quick Tips for Writing a College Application Essay

The following is a guest post written by Anna Carapellotti of Admissionado, a premier college admissions consulting company focused on helping students get into their dream schools.


Often, these final college application essays are the toughest essays to tackle, assuming that you already exerted significant effort on essay-writing this winter. So, what’s the best way to buckle down and hammer out a great essay when you have little time to do so? Here is a five-step approach to quickly (and effectively!) write a college application essay:

1. Read the prompt

This may sound like a painfully obvious first step, but many applicants will write essays that do not consider the prompt. Sometimes this is simply negligence or a misunderstanding. Other times, applicants are set on writing something that they believe will help their candidacy, even if it doesn’t really answer the question. Unfortunately, failing to address the prompt in your response will never help your application!

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So, we encourage you to carefully read the prompt—and then read it again, and consider what the admissions committee is looking for in the answer. (Hint: the prompt is likely not a trick question!)

2. Think about your answer

Now that you understand what the prompt is asking of you, it’s time to think about your answer and organize your thoughts. There are several ways to approach this: you could write an outline, do some freewriting, etc. You should approach this in whichever way allows you to get the best results. Some prompts, such as the ones that ask why you want to attend a particular school, will require doing some extra research.

While it may seem “more efficient” to just dive right into writing the essays themselves, writing an outline and doing some research will, in reality, make the essay-writing process so much easier. Besides, you’re applying to these programs because you want to attend them, so this process should be exciting!

3. Write!

Don’t just sit there staring at the blank page. Start writing and accept that the first draft is not going to be perfect; it never is. However, if you have already written an outline and organized your thoughts, as we suggested above, the first draft should be pretty good! We also suggest that you don’t worry about the word limit in early drafts. Give yourself plenty of room to flesh out your ideas.

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4. Rewrite!

To ensure a completely coherent essay, you may wish to write two to four iterations before submitting. After you have written a solid first draft, set it aside for a couple of days before going back in to edit it. (Of course, how many days you have to set your essay aside will depend largely on how far in advance you started working on your application!) Even if you’re running short on time, set your essay aside for at least 24 hours, which will allow you to come back to it with a fresh perspective. You will be more likely to notice what is missing and where your writing is lacking clarity.

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The rewriting stage is the time to ask for the input of others, as well. Ask a parent, friend, counselor, or someone else whose advice you trust to provide some feedback. They will likely notice leaps in logic or areas lacking clarity in your writing that you failed to see!

5. Trim and polish

Once you finally have a draft that you’re happy with, one that conveys everything that you want it to say, you should give it a good polish. Remember, you should adhere to any word limits required by the college/university, as failure to follow directions is seen as unsavory by admissions officers. (Often, you’ll have no choice but to remain within the word count because the online platform will not let you enter more than is allowed.) Also check to make sure that your essays are error- and typo-free!


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.