A good college application essay sets its author apart from thousands of other applicants. Here are some steps you can take to make your essay stand out.

Start early. Give yourself enough time to think about your essay and revise it as needed.

Write about something you're familiar with.

Be yourself. The admissions team is interested in who you are - not someone you think they want you to be.

Be original. Though many college applications will have standardized essay questions, try to put an original, creative spin on your response. Make the essay your own.

Write an essay that shows how you're unique. For example, one student who wrote about her distinctive laugh got accepted on early decision to Columbia University. Include any experiences or jobs that might set you apart from other applicants.

Be authentic. There's no need to embellish your experiences.

Use a relaxed, comfortable tone of voice but avoid being too familiar, sarcastic or comic.

Check to make sure your essay answers the questions asked. Avoid wandering too far from your subject matter.

Proofread your essay for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Mail your application early to avoid any postal mishaps.