College Essay Guidelines

college application essay guidelinesNow that you’ve brainstormed the perfect topic, you’re finally ready to cozy up with your computer and write the best college essay you can muster. The following tips will help your essay appear polished and professional throughout the writing process.

Vary Word Choice and Sentence Length/Structure

Just as the college application essay is supposed to reflect the dynamic aspects of your personality, it also needs to be dynamic itself. Repeating the same words over and over again might seem to work for emphasis, but in reality only drags the essay down and turns it into something dull. Varying sentence structure and length also adds zing to your essay and will let your unique writing style come through, rather than sounding processed and uninspired.  

Give Specific Details

The admissions officers don’t want to read platitudes about duty and discipline – they want to know the details of what makes you special, or why what you’re writing about is special to you. Make your essay sparkle with insight into your topic, and give important details about the situation you’re writing about to keep it interesting. Remember, admissions officers are reading hundreds of essays – let the little things about yours catch their eye and hook it there.  

Be Wise with your Word Count

Your essay is only 500-700 words long – about two double-spaced pages. While that may seem daunting to fill at first, you may find that once you start writing, the challenge becomes maximizing what you’re saying and minimizing how you say it. Be clear in your writing; don’t use convoluted sentences or turns of phrase to get your point across. Confusing the reader by repeating yourself or using fifteen words when five is more reasonable will only work against you when you’re finished.  


Don’t worry about creating a perfect first draft. There are several steps in the writing process, and revision is the most important. Once you’ve finished writing the rough draft of your essay, set it aside for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes and a focus on sharpening it up. The purpose of a first draft is to start giving more solid form to your ideas, and from there you can massage them into a beautiful essay.  


Once your essay has been revised, don’t forget to proofread it a final time before you submit it. Little mistakes like misspellings can add up and reflect poorly against you, and larger errors such as addressing the essay to the wrong school can be devastating! Check the final draft for grammar snafus and have a friend or parent look it over to catch any other mistakes that may have slipped in. The college applications essay is an extension of yourself, so make sure it’s as wonderful as you are.

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Topics: college applications, college planning tips, college essay