How to Write a College Essay

How to Write a College Essay

Because it is true that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, it is essential that you do your best writing when it comes to your college application essay. This is particularly true if you are applying to a highly competitive school or program. While your academic record and test scores are important, it is your essay that will help you stand out from the crowded field of equally enthusiastic applicants.

1 What Should Be in a College Essay?

The main thing that you need to include in your college essay is your true voice and personality. Most college applications include essay questions or prompts that suggest certain topics to focus on, but what they are really looking for is a glimpse of your true colors. They want to see how you express yourself and what you know. Your essay should answer the question or prompt in a creative manner that highlights your unique background and personality.

2 How to Write a College Essay That Stands Out

You are one of a kind. You know that, and your parents and friends probably know it too. The key to making your college essay stand out is using it to help the college admission board get to know how awesome you are just as well as your loved ones do. Even if there is a suggested prompt or focus, most college essay questions are vague enough to allow ample wiggle room for creativity.

Unlike the academic essays of your high school years, which demanded very specific structure and left little room for voice, the college application essay is all about getting personal and showcasing your unique voice. Make sure that you focus on a topic that you can connect with on a personal level and don’t be shy about showing who you really are. The more you allow your personality to shine through in your writing, the more likely your college essay is to stand out from the crowd.

3 How Many Paragraphs Should Be in a College Essay?

Though your high school teachers likely favored the five-paragraph essay model, you are not bound by this structure for your college essay. Your essay should be multiple paragraphs with a clear beginning, middle and end, but the precise number of paragraphs is up to you and what works best for your topic. Most college essay guidelines do not reference the number of paragraphs needed.

4 What is a Good Word Count for a College Essay?

The word count is a more important consideration than the number of paragraphs for a college essay. Each college has its own guidelines for word counts on essays, so be sure to verify what the college you are applying to suggests and stay within those limits. The ideal word count is somewhere between 400 and 500 words because this gives room to express yourself fully without running the risk of boring the readers with a long text.

Kristina Barroso earned a B.A. in Psychology from Florida International University and works full-time as a classroom teacher in a public school. She teaches middle school English to a wide range of students from struggling readers to advanced and gifted populations. In her spare time, she loves writing articles about education for, WorkingMother and other education sites.