The college essay is an opportunity to express who you are beyond the grades. You can start working on your college essay during your junior year and over the summer. The sooner you get done your college essay, the quicker the college application process will go. Check out the prompts and tips below!
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma - anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
Choose a topic that will highlight you.
Don’t focus on the great aspects of a particular college, the amount of dedication it takes to be a doctor, or the number of extracurricular activities you took part in during high school.
And Don't overthink it. The more you wonder "will this impress an admissions officer," the more likely we can tell that you've spent too much time deciding on the "right" topic, causing your essay to lose personality and authenticity.
Do share your personal story and thoughts, take a creative approach, and highlight areas that aren’t covered in other parts of the application, like your high school records.
Keep your focus narrow and personal.
Don’t try to cover too many topics. This will make the essay sound like a résumé that doesn’t provide any details about you.
Do focus on one aspect of yourself so the readers can learn more about who you are. Remember that the readers must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end.
Show, don’t tell.
Don’t simply state a fact to get an idea across, such as: “I like to surround myself with people with a variety of backgrounds and interests.”
Do include specific details, examples, reasons and so on to develop your ideas. For the example, describe a situation when you were surrounded by various types of people. What were you doing? Whom did you talk with? What did you take away from the experience?
Use your own voice.
Don’t rely on phrases or ideas that people have used many times before. These could include statements like, “There is so much suffering in the world that I feel I have to help people.” Avoid overly formal or business-like language and don’t use unnecessary words.
Do write in your own voice. For the above example, you could write about a real experience that you had and how it made you feel you had to take action.
Ask a teacher or parent to proofread.
Don’t turn your essay in without proofreading it, and don’t rely only on your computer’s spell check to catch mistakes. A spell-check program will miss typos like these: "After I graduate form high school, I plan to get a summer job." or "From that day on, Daniel was my best fried."
Do ask a teacher or parent to proofread your essay to catch mistakes. You should also ask the person who proofreads your essay if the writing sounds like you.
Check out these examples of good and poor college essay to get an idea of what to aim for.
Answer these questions to help figure out a topic for your college essay.
1.What do you do when you have no obligations? Why do you choose to do that activity? How does this activity make you feel? What does it say about you?
2.Where is the place, big or small, that you feel most at home? Describe the place. Why do you feel at home there? What do you do there?
3.What is your happiest memory? Why? What was good about it? Who and what was around you then? What did it mean to you?
4.What was the most important decision you’ve had to make? What was hard about it? What was easy? Were the consequences of your decision what you had imagined before making it? Did you plan and game out your choices, or did you follow gut instinct?
5.What decision did you not have any say in, but would have wanted to? Why were you powerless to participate in this decision? How did the choice made affect you? What do you think would have happened if a different choice had been made?
6.When did you first feel like you were no longer a child? Who and what was around you then? What had you just done or seen? What was the difference between your childhood self and your more adult self?
7.What is something that someone once said to you that has stuck with you? When and where did they say it? Why do you think it’s lodged in your memory?
8.If you could intern for a week or a month with anyone – living or dead, historical or fictional – who would it be? What would you want that person to teach you? How did you first encounter this person or character? How do you think this person would react to you?
9.What is your favorite corner of, or space in, the place where you live? What do you like about it? When do you go there, and what do you use it for?
10.What everyday thing are you the world’s greatest at? Who taught you how to do it? What memories do you have associated with this activity? Which aspects of it have you yourself perfected?