What Makes a GOOD College Essay

In one of our previous articles we discussed four common mistakes that you should avoid when putting together your college application essay. So, to make things fair, this time around we have decided to take on a more positive angle and share with all of you four key tips for crafting the best possible essay, one that can truly set you apart from the competition.

So, without further ado, here are four tips that you must absolutely bear in mind if you want your college essay to truly shine:

  • The Essay Should Be About YOU

This may seem obvious to some of you, but trust me when I say that it can be easy for your essay to lose its focus if you don’t pay enough attention. It happens to the best of us. One minute you are writing about that time you sprained your wrist while rock climbing and the next you are writing about Alex Honnold and his impressive free solo climb of El Capitan. The content of your essay should revolve around you, and only you. The college essay represents a very unique opportunity for any student to highlight qualities about themselves that are not apparent when looking into other parts of their application. In some instances, this opportunity can put you over the top and help you secure that college offer you’ve been craving for years. In other instances, however, it can damage your application beyond repair.

  • The Essay Should Have a Point

This is perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of the entire essay writing process. More often than not, students will start working on their first college essay draft even before they have made a decision on the kind of story they wish to tell. This approach is far too common, but you must steer clear of it. Developing an essay “on the go” will only result in messy, uninteresting, and often contradictory story plots that will turn off even the most casual of readers. 

So, how do we avoid this? Well, for starters make sure that you know not only what the central theme of your story is, but more importantly the message that you wish to convey before you start typing away at your computer. In other words, what do you want your readers to take away from your essay? There is no right or wrong answer to this question by the way, but there needs to be an answer. 

If you are unsure as to whether your essay has a point or not, I suggest that you do the following: When you have finished your first draft, read it over and ask yourself why you wrote it. If you cannot answer this question, well, you might not have dived deep enough into the story or painted a vivid enough picture of who you are and the things that are important to you.

  • The Essay Should Paint an Authentic Picture of Yourself

Stop putting too much thought into what you believe colleges want you to write about. You have to be authentic and you have to be yourself. Also, don’t feel like you have no choice but to recycle the same old stories we have all heard about time and time again: the life-changing service trip to Laos, the challenging class, the sports injury, etc. And even if you choose to base your essay on one of these topics, make sure there is something genuine and authentic about yourself that can emerge from the story. Remember, we all have stories that people tell about ourselves. College admissions officers need to hear those stories, and somewhere in there lies the heart of a really great essay. 

As a side note to our third tip, understand that you want the college to take you, not your imaginary friend.

  • Your Essay Should Be Supported With Examples

I know that for some of you it may be tempting to take this essay and to turn it into a long list of positive attributes and accomplishments, but please don’t. The Common Application and the Coalition Application will give you ample opportunities to share your accomplishments elsewhere. This is an essay, and as such the story needs to be developed at a much deeper level. Therefore, be sure to use compelling examples that can illustrate the points you are trying to make. For instance, don’t just tell your readers that you are an empathetic person. Instead, tell them about a time you spent down at the soup kitchen feeding the homeless and the hours you spent talking with a particular homeless person. Tell them how you felt and the impact the conversation had on the both of you. Naturally, such stories will always stand a better chance at sticking out to your audience, so don’t let the opportunity pass.

Well, there you have it. While the perfect college essay can take many forms, these four tips represent some of the most fundamental pillars of the essay writing process, and you would be wise to apply them as you get ready to begin work on your very own college essay.


NTK Education Consulting

Schedule a FREE initial consultation now