Cathy A.
Cathy A.

College Application Essay | A Writing Guide

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14 min read

College application essay

Are you a high school student feeling the pressure of making your college dreams a reality? Feeling overwhelmed by the daunting task of crafting a compelling college application essay? 

Well, the essay is an important part of the application process but fret not!

In this blog, we're going to take you on an exciting journey of writing a standout college application essay. We'll equip you with the tools, strategies, and insider tips you need to grab the attention of admissions officers and secure your spot at the college of your dreams. 

So, let's dive in and uncover the secrets to your college admission success!

On This PageArrow Down

  • 1. What is a College Application Essay?
  • 2. Types of College Application Essays
  • 3. College Application Essay Format
  • 4. How to Start a College Application Essay?
  • 5. How to Write a College Application Essay?
  • 6. How to End a College Application Essay?
  • 7. College Application Essay Examples
  • 8. College Application Essay Topics
  • 9. How to Pick a College Essay Topic?
  • 10. College Application Essay Tips

What is a College Application Essay?

A college application essay, often referred to as a personal statement or admissions essay, is a crucial part of the college application process. It's your opportunity to go beyond test scores and present a compelling narrative that showcases your personality, experiences, and aspirations.

Purpose of College Application Essay

The primary purpose of a college application essay is to provide admissions committees with a deeper insight into who you are as a person and a student.

It allows you to stand out from other applicants, demonstrate your unique qualities, and convey why you're an excellent fit for the college you're applying to.

Essentially, it's your chance to make a memorable impression and increase your chances of admission.

How Long Should a College Application Essay be?

The ideal length for a college application essay typically ranges from 250 to 650 words. However, it's essential to check the specific guidelines provided by the college or university you're applying to, as word limits can vary.

Adhering to the specified word count is crucial to ensure that your essay is concise, well-structured, and effectively communicates your message to the admissions committee.

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Types of College Application Essays

types of college application essay -

Below-given are the three types of college application essays.

Personal Statement

The 'You' Essay, often called the Personal Statement, centers around your personal experiences, values, and identity. It aims to provide admissions committees with a deeper understanding of who you are as an individual.

Example: You might write about a transformative life event, a significant accomplishment, or a personal challenge you've overcome. For instance, recounting how volunteering in a local community project changed your perspective on service and influenced your career goals.

Supplemental Essay

The 'Why Us' Essay, also known as a Supplemental Essay, dives into your specific reasons for wanting to attend a particular college or university. It should highlight what you admire about the institution and how you envision yourself contributing to its community.

Example: You could discuss the unique academic programs, extracurricular activities, or faculty members at the college that align with your interests and goals. For instance, explaining how the university's commitment to sustainability aligns perfectly with your passion for environmental advocacy.

Unconventional or Free-Form Essay

The 'Creative Essay,' referred to as an Unconventional or Free-Form Essay, provides you with the freedom to showcase your creativity and originality. It encourages you to think outside the box and present your story in a unique and engaging way.

Example: You might use a non-traditional format, such as a poem, a dialogue, or even a multimedia presentation, to express your thoughts and experiences. This type of essay allows you to demonstrate your personality and creativity while still addressing relevant themes or topics.?

These various essay types give applicants the opportunity to showcase different aspects of their character and aspirations, allowing admissions committees to gain a more comprehensive view of who you are as a potential student.

College Application Essay Format

A college application essay format usually follows the below pattern.

Font and Size: Use Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. Maintain a font size of 12 points.
Margins: Set 1-inch margins on all sides of the page.
Spacing: Use double spacing between lines.
Title or Heading: Include your name, centered at the top of the page. Beneath your name, add your contact information (address, phone number, and email) aligned to the left.
Title of the Essay: Create a centered title or a heading for your essay. It should be concise and reflect the theme or topic of your essay.
Word Count: Adhere to the specified word count provided by the college. If there's no word limit, aim for 250-650 words, as is typical.
Paragraph Structure: Use standard indentation (around 0.5 inches) for the first line of each paragraph.
Alignment: Left-align your essay (do not use justification).
Page Numbers: If requested, include page numbers in the header or footer of your essay.
File Format: Save your essay in a common file format, such as PDF or Word (.doc or .docx).

Here is a pdf college app essay format:

Expert Tip

For a more detailed application essay format check out our college application essay format  blog!

How to Start a College Application Essay?

A good starting is key to making your college application essay stand out. Thus, it is essential to pay attention to this section.

Here are some tips to start a college application essay correctly.

Essay Start


The Full Hemingway

Start with an image-based description that focuses on specific moments to clarify dialogues, actions, or supporting details.

The Mini Hemingway

Include a brief image-based description (1-3 sentences) to explain, comment on, or provide context for the described event.

The Twist

Begin with important information or a surprising fact to grab the reader's attention from the outset.

The Philosophical Question

Start with a thought-provoking question that sets the stage for exploring possible answers or solutions in the essay.

The Confession

Begin by admitting that the author might be judged for their perspective or topic, establishing vulnerability and honesty.

The Trailer Thesis

Present a concise thesis statement (1-2 sentences) that provides a preview of the main arguments to come, usually at the end of the first paragraph.

The Fascinating Concept

Start with an unusual concept, followed by an explanation of its origin and significance in the context of the essay's theme.

The Random Personal Fun Fact

Share a surprising or quirky fact about the author themselves, creating a connection with the reader.

The Shocking Image

Mention a shocking image and discuss its importance in the context of the essay's subject matter, evoking curiosity and interest.

How to Write a College Application Essay?

Follow the steps given below to write an exceptional college application essay.

Step 1: College Application Essay Prompts 

The first step is to read the instructions and understand the essay prompts. It may suggest two or more topic ideas that may be impersonal but are aimed at testing you.

Consider the following elements to comprehend the college application essay ideas.

  • What does the prompt seek? Is it directed to inform? Expand? Support? Defend?
  • Relate the prompt to yourself and analyze how it can apply to you.

In case colleges do not assign an essay topic, try to find one you are passionate about. Also, think about memorable incidents, struggles, achievements, or failures that have affected your life.

Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas

Once you’re done with the prompt, brainstorm ideas to write a good college essay. The purpose is to collect all the information and align it with your college admissions essays. Make sure that you do this before starting the writing process.

Step 3: College Application Essay Outline

The next important step is to create an outline that divides the essay into different sections. A basic outline structure includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

The following is a detailed description of each section.

College Application Essay Introduction:

  • Start with a hook – use a controversial statement, a thought-provoking question, or a confession.
  • Reflect your personality in your writing style.
  • Challenge the reader by addressing them directly.
  • Relate the topic to your subject knowledge and its potential societal impact.
  • Mention your academic skills in connection with the chosen course, keeping it focused.

College Application Essay Body Paragraphs

  • Provide detailed explanations and examples in body paragraphs.
  • Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence.
  • Be concise and use vivid imagery.
  • Avoid excessive use of "I" and "me."
  • Inject a creative perspective into your writing.

College Application Essay Conclusion

  • Start and end the conclusion naturally.
  • Restate your thesis statement and link it to the opening statement.
  • Maintain the same tone and theme as the introduction.
  • Avoid summarizing; discuss your learnings instead.
  • Steer clear of clichéd phrases and quotations.
  • End positively, emphasizing how your admission can benefit the college and community.
  • Leave readers with an open-ended question or thought to ponder.

Have a look at the below-given outline template to get a detailed idea of writing one. 

Step 4: Writing the College Application Essay

Once you've outlined your essay, stick to it. Stay focused, meet the word count, and start with a central idea. Be original, avoid copying, and bring a unique perspective. Support your arguments with details and add humor when appropriate.

After drafting, edit and proofread meticulously to ensure a polished, error-free essay for your college application.

How to End a College Application Essay?

End your college application essay by identifying whether you have included all the elements in your essay. Here is a checklist for you to access your application by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Have you provided original content and personal experiences in your essay?
  • Does your essay meet all the instructions specified by the college you are applying to?
  • Does it address the college essay prompts effectively?
  • Does it mention your academic grades and accomplishments?
  • Does it meet the required word count?
  • Are there enough details to support the main ideas?
  • Does it follow the correct college essay format template?
  • Does it mention your goals and commitments to the college?
  • Does it include the reasons why you are the perfect choice among others to get admission?
  • Does it demonstrate your enthusiasm for attending your desired college?
  • Does it include any references or recommendation letters from your teachers?
  • Have you proofread your essay for punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes?
  • Have you checked it for consistency and logical flow between paragraphs?
  • Have you used the correct outline and sentence structure?

Keeping in mind these elements will help to end a successful college application essay.

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College Application Essay Examples

Check out the given college application process samples to write a perfect essay.

Expert Tip

Refer to our good college application essay examples in case you need more samples.

College Application Essay Topics

Here are some compelling ideas to consider:

  • Share a significant challenge you've faced and how it shaped you.
  • Explore your cultural heritage and its influence on your life.
  • Discuss a hobby or interest that defines you outside of academics.
  • Describe someone who has influenced your life profoundly.
  • Detail your leadership roles and the impact you've made.
  • Highlight your contributions to your community.
  • Explain your academic interests and goals.
  • Discuss a book or film that transformed your perspective.
  • Narrate a pivotal moment that altered your outlook.
  • Share your dreams and how your college choice aligns with them.

Expert Tip

Get help from our compiled list of college application essay prompts to get more interesting ideas.

How to Pick a College Essay Topic?

When it comes to crafting your college application essay, you might find yourself at a crossroads. Some selective colleges hand you a specific topic or prompt, while others grant you the freedom to choose what you want to write about.

Whichever situation you're in, the process of selecting the right essay topic can be both exciting and daunting. 

Now, let's explore the process of selecting the perfect college essay topic for your application.

  • Reflect on Your Experiences: Start by brainstorming your life experiences, both significant and every day. Consider moments that had a profound impact on you, challenged your beliefs, or shaped your identity.
  • Identify Your Values and Passions: Think about your core values, interests, and passions. What makes you tick? What do you care deeply about? A topic related to your values often makes for a compelling essay.
  • Consider Diversity: Reflect on aspects of your background, culture, or upbringing that are unique or have influenced your perspective. These can provide rich material for your essay.
  • Tell a Personal Story: Personal anecdotes often make for engaging essays. Share a specific experience, challenge, or achievement and explain how it impacted you.
  • Connect to Your Goals: Consider your academic and career goals. How does attending this college relate to your aspirations? Connecting your essay to your future plans can demonstrate your commitment.
  • Research the College: If the college requires a 'Why Us' essay, research the institution thoroughly. Identify specific programs, faculty, or opportunities that align with your interests and goals.
  • Test Your Ideas: Discuss potential topics with friends, family, or teachers. Their feedback can help you gauge which ideas resonate the most.
  • Stay Authentic: Choose a topic that genuinely reflects who you are. Avoid writing what you think admissions officers want to hear; be yourself.
  • Avoid Overused Topics: While personal growth and overcoming challenges are valid topics, they are also common. If you choose these themes, ensure your perspective is unique.
  • Draft and Reflect: Once you've selected a topic, write a draft of your essay. Afterward, reflect on whether it effectively conveys your message and personality.

College Application Essay Tips

Writing your college application essay is a significant step in the admissions process. Here are some essential tips to help you craft a compelling essay:

  • Start Early: Begin well in advance to allow time for brainstorming, drafting, editing, and proofreading.
  • Be Authentic: Write in your unique voice, and be honest about your experiences and aspirations.
  • Tell a Story: Use anecdotes and narratives to illustrate your points and engage the reader.
  • Show, Don't Tell: Use descriptive language and specific examples to demonstrate your qualities and experiences.
  • Connect with the College: Explain why you're a good fit for the college and how you'll contribute to the community.
  • Be Concise: Avoid unnecessary repetition or verbosity; make every word count.
  • Avoid Controversial Topics: Exercise caution when discussing sensitive issues, ensuring your tone remains respectful.
  • Stay Positive: Maintain a positive and optimistic tone throughout your essay.
  • Revise, Revise, Revise: Don't settle for the first draft; revisions lead to a stronger essay.

To sum it up, creating a standout college application essay can feel overwhelming, given its pivotal role in shaping your future. Many students opt for professional assistance, and if you're seeking a dependable option, is the perfect choice.

Our experienced writers can help you craft an exceptional, error-free essay efficiently. We specialize in delivering top-notch supplemental essays, scholarship essays, and personal statements providing you exceptional write my essay service.

Don't hesitate; place your order with our college admission essay writing service and let us help you secure your academic future!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use ‘I’ in a college application essay?

FAQ Icon

It is important to make ‘I’ statements in your college application essays. Colleges expect you to sound like yourself, so always be true to yourself when writing for the college boards.

Can you say ‘We’ in an essay?

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We all know that 1st person plural is not a good idea in essays. To keep the reader engaged, you should be impersonal and avoid using ‘we’ or ‘us.’

Is it OK to talk about depression in a college essay?

FAQ Icon

Don't do it! There is no need to make your main essay all about these topics. Other ways may work better than writing, specifically on depression.

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Cathy A.


Cathy A.

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

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