Your Guide to Writing a Compelling College Application Essay

So much of your college application is focused on numbers—your GPA, SAT or ACT score, class ranking—but numbers and percentages don’t demonstrate who you are as a person outside of your academic achievements. So, how do you show what makes you special? How do you stand apart from the rest?  

That’s where the personal statement and essays come in. When you apply to a college, you’ll be asked to write one or more essays as part of your application submission. This is your chance to really shine as a prospective student and introduce yourself to the admissions committee, highlighting your unique qualities, experiences, and goals.

As you begin to brainstorm what you want to share in your writing, keep these tips on hand to help you craft a compelling message:

  • Start with a strong opening: Hook your readers with an attention-grabbing opening that makes them want to keep reading. Depending on what fits the topic or essay prompt, you could start with a personal anecdote, a quote, or a thought-provoking question.
  • Be honest and authentic: Avoid trying to impress the admissions committee with what you think they want to hear. Instead, focus on being genuine in your writing, while still putting yourself in a positive light. They want to get to know who you are, so just be yourself!
  • Highlight your strengths and achievements: Use examples from your life to illustrate your strengths, achievements, and leadership skills as well as what’s different or impressive about you and your life story. This could include academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or personal experiences that have shaped you.
  • Explain why you’re a good fit for the program: Why should the college choose you and what makes you a great candidate for admission? You can address these questions in a variety of ways, such as discussing specific classes or professors that interest you or how your goals align with the school’s mission.
  • Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply telling the admissions committee that you’re passionate about something, show them by telling stories of your experiences and how they’ve influenced your interests and goals.
  • Edit and revise: Take time to review your writing to make sure you’ve been concise, clear, and error-free. You should ask someone else to read it over and provide feedback. It’s always a good idea to get another opinion of what you’ve done well and what can be improved.   

You have a personal history that no one else has and a story to tell. Let those experiences, skills, and life lessons shine through in your personal statement and essays. Remember to be yourself, don’t rush, and be thoughtful in what you share. This is your chance to show what a great fit you’d be for your dream college. 

For more resources and information on preparing for college, visit the K12 College Prep Center.

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