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How to Write a College Application Essay

Write a College Application Essay Step-by-Step Guide

How to write a college application essay may seem difficult for some prospective students? But actually, the essay is nothing to stress over. The essay is the main part of the application in which the student’s personality has a chance to shine through.

Just be yourself and have fun with the essay. Write a college application essay as if you were speaking to a friend. Another positive aspect of the essay is that it is the only portion of the application the applicant has complete control over because you can’t control what a recommender says about you, and a student can’t control grades and test scores that are already final.

The insight provided by the essay might be the determining factor that steers the admission committee towards acceptance. The following is a detailed roadmap with some helpful hints that will guide you through the steps to write a college application essay.

Step 1 – Select a Topic

The specific topic may already be specified on the application. In many cases, the choice of topic is open and left up to the applicant to decide. To spark creativity, ask yourself a series of question such as:

  • What was your scariest experience?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • What inspires you?
  • Who is your mentor and why?
  • Have you had an epiphany about yourself? What was it and how did it change you?
  • What was your biggest disappointment and how did you learn from it?
  • What experience changed your life?
  • What challenges or obstacles have you overcome? How did you overcome them? What did you learn from the experience?
  • What is the favorite place you have ever visited? What made it special?
  • What are your favorite activities? How have they shaped your life for the better?
  • What was your most embarrassing moment? What did you learn from that experience?
  • What words would teachers, friends, and family use to describe you? Give examples by demonstrating those qualities in a particular situation.
  • What are your favorite books? What did you learn from them? How did they shape your life?
  • What influences you? How did you grow as a person for the better?

Reading another person’s life story will help guide and inspire you to choose your own college application essay topic. Here are some helpful suggestions:

Step 2 – Brainstorm

  • After selecting your topic, write down potential themes, ideas, and key points without stopping for 5 minutes. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Step 3 – Outline

  • The introduction should hook the reader and be one paragraph long.
  • The body should consist of at least three paragraphs.
  • The conclusion should be the final paragraph.

Step 4 – Write the Introduction

Steps/Structure of Introduction:

  • Topic Sentence: Hook the reader by grabbing their attention. You hook a reader’s attention by introducing a real incident that will lead the reader into the essay. Speak proactively and poetically. You may use a quote.
  • Include a summary of what you will discuss throughout the essay.
  • Write a thesis statement: The point/argument you are trying to make. The thesis should not exceed 25 words.

Helpful Introduction Hints:

  • Highlight the main theme.
  • Set the tone
  • Be brief
  • Be unique
  • Provide a roadmap for your reader without setting up the scene too much.

Step 5 – Write the Body: Paragraphs 1-3

Steps/Structure of Body:

  • Topic sentence – must support thesis
  • Lead-in sentence
  • Concrete detail – Step One
  • Commentary
  • Concluding or clincher sentence
  • Tie-in sentence that connects the next paragraph

Helpful Body Hints:

  • The body of the essay should be at least three paragraphs long.
  • Introduce the paragraph with a topic sentence. The topic sentence is the main point of the paragraph. Then give supporting details in the rest of the paragraph.
  • Each Paragraph in the body needs to be at least five sentences long.
  • Each Paragraph needs to have a concluding sentence that ties-in the next paragraph of the body.
  • Use detailed descriptions.
  • Start and end with an action, if possible.
  • Be clear about the time-line of events.
  • Move forward with the story.
  • Don’t give too many details.
  • Use active verbs.
  • Don’t be redundant.
  • Tell why the story is important to you.
  • Get to the point and stay on task, no tangents.

Step 6 – Conclusion

Steps/Structure of Conclusion:

  • Include a topic Sentence
  • Restate thesis in a different way.
  • Concluding thoughts – this should be a profound clinching statement

Helpful Conclusion Tips:

  • Don’t be redundant
  • Demonstrate strength in your point
  • Complete the statement the college application essay is trying to make. Tie-up loose ends.
  • Don’t introduce a new topic in your conclusion.
  • Tone and content should be constant.
  • Rephrase the thesis but do not summarize the essay.
  • Keep the conclusion on point.


Looking at a blank piece of paper before you write a college application essay might be scary but really, writing it is nothing to be afraid of. Take the essay head-on. Remember to use you natural speaking voice and let your personality shine through.

Follow the above roadmap, and you will be able to write a college application essay effectively. First choose a topic and brainstorm for five minutes. Then write the introduction. The introduction should hook the reader’s attention and needs to be at least one paragraph long. When writing the body be sure and include at least three paragraphs. Finally, write the conclusion that closes with a clinching profound statement. If you put the proper amount of time into the college application essay, it might be the determining factor that gains you acceptance into the college of your choice.

Good Luck!