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How to Write an Essay for College Application: A Step-by-step Guideline

College years are very important for your future career and success. That is why your application essay scores matter. It reveals your writing and grammar skills, personality and ability to analyze and structure information. Your essay is your personal and genuine story to college. It’s your seventeen years background summarized in 600 words. Here are some college application essay tips to show that you are a thoughtful and motivated person.

General Recommendations and Structure

Most applicants doubt which profession to choose. Remember, that an effective essay takes time, and procrastination is its worst enemy. Start to look for ideas and put them on paper now. Think carefully about your interests and passions. Concentrate on what is important to you. Maybe this essay will be the first step towards your degree thesis.

First of all, let’s talk about plan and structure. A well-structured text should be clear and easy to understand.

  • Research and brainstorming. How to start a college application essay? Gather as many information on your college application essay topic as you can. Collect interesting facts and figures, study contemporary scientific researches and modern literature, and focus on graphics and diagrams. You may write a few drafts and use some ideas from essay templates online. But do not copy them! Eventually, it’s your own original voice and experience. Have a look at the college application essay prompts (Common App’s Prompts) which can help you with brainstorming, examples and concepts. Some colleges have a “Writing Supplement” or “My college” sections where you can have a look at particular requirements. They can also state a word limit, formatting style, and deadlines. Mostly, colleges ask applicants to demonstrate their character, describe cultural differences, resolve problems and share their dreams and goals.
  • Make a plan. As soon as the basic information is gathered, make a plan which consists of a title, introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion.
  • Title. Create a catchy title which brings interest to your essay. Think of a logical structure and headings.
  • Introduction. Refer to your question and give some basic information to your reader. Why did you choose your topic and why is it important? What issues are you going to discuss? Do they impact your life and how? Present your thesis, introduce the principal idea, describe the problem you want to solve and lead your reader to the main body.
  • Body paragraphs. Develop your ideas and support them with current theories or research. Use specific details, figures, and statistics. Try to sound confident and persuasive. Tell about your life experience with live examples and recall some events if they are connected to your topic. Look for a creative angle and do not write the standard points you think an admission officer expect to hear from you.
  • Conclusion. Summarize all your ideas and make conclusions. Answer the questions you mentioned in introduction. Make sure you developed your themes properly. Explain in a few words what you've learned and how this experience influenced you.

Style and Formatting

A college application essay format is an important part, too, as an applicant should meet college’s requirements and instructions to get a high score. Formatting may depend on a form of application: it may be an online form in a text box or formatted document. Most colleges require online applications because paper ones can get lost. No matter how you submit your work, draft it in Microsoft Word. It will help you to count the words and check misprints. When you copy and paste your text, make sure everything transferred all right and no word or paragraph is cut off. You can make changes in a text box, but double check them! Sometimes italics or bold font is not seen in a text box. Use a standard font for your work, like Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial, 12 pt (sometimes 14pt is required).

If you send a document via mail, use one-inch margins, 1.5 or double space, 12pt font and correct headings style. Find out more about APA, MLA and other citation styles. If you send a file, save it in doc, docx or rtf. Make sure your file format and formatting correspond to the college requirements. Never use all caps lock style, odd symbols, hashtags or smiles. Your essay should look like a mature professional work.

Sure, the proper format does not guarantee a success, but it shows that you are a disciplined applicant who pays special attention to a college’s rules.  

Concentrate on your style. Unlike mathematics and science with their precise formulas and theory, an essay about literature presumes more creative style, new concepts, and ideas. If you write a law essay, try to make references to the effective law and precedents. The comparison is also a good idea. If your topic is related to history, compare different forms of government or traditions. If you write about music, describe various genres and analyze them.

Try not to use complicated language full of professional slang. All essays should be written in formal clear style without emotional or rude expressions. Be careful with humor. Being funny is nice, but make sure your joke makes an admission officer laugh and won’t confuse him or her.

500-700 words may seem a lot, but be precise and don’t dive into other topics or problems. It’s better to explore a single idea then write some boring general statements. Focus on your most meaningful and unique experience.

Final Steps

  • Plagiarism. All students are expected to demonstrate genuine content, and plagiarism is not admitted. Analyze the arguments and make conclusions by yourself. Focus on your own story and your own opinion. This skill is indispensable for the most spheres of activities. When your work is finished, don’t forget to check it with plagiarism programs to avoid any coincidences and borrowed thoughts. The only exception is when you quote experts, writes or scientists. In this case, cite direct or indirect speech properly.
  • Proofreading and editing. Put your work aside for some time. Then read it carefully and correct any grammatical errors and misprints. Make sure that all paragraphs are well-structured and do not contradict or repeat each other. No one writes a first draft perfectly. Rewriting is a vital part of learning.
  • References. Make a reference list with all the sources you used. In addition to exercise books, take interesting facts and thoughts from presentations, journals, reviews and articles.
  • Share your essay. Do you have parents, friends or a college counselor who wouldn’t mind reading your work? Encourage them for their feedbacks. Consider their points of view and make amendments if necessary. However, keep in mind that your helpers may not know about your college’s requirements, and some points may seem unnecessary to them.
  • Double check again. Look through your work again, line by line, each letter, and comma. Make sure you are under the word limit.

Admission officers spend just three to five minutes on each essay, so do your best to impress them! They want to see your own personality, values, passions, and thoughts.

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