Tips for writing college essays


Story by Riley Rogers, Co-Viewpoint Editor

Many people like myself, had no idea what they were getting themselves into with college essays. First things first, don’t panic. In the beginning, your college essay can be really overwhelming and many people are prone to breakdowns. But before it gets that far just step back and take a deep breath. In and out. There are a few saving graces to writing a college essay.

Rule 1: Keep it short and sweet.
Most colleges ask you to stay within 500 words when you are writing essays. And 500 words only equals about a page. (This article is well over 500 words.) Colleges read essays all day every day. When they come to one that’s long and drawn out, it automatically sets a negative connotation with that essay.

Rule 2: Get a head start.
Speaking from personal experience, try and write some of your essays during the summer. I know that sounds like a crazy far-fetched idea–doing homework during the summer. Believe it or not, most other schools assign summer reading and those students are forced to do school work during the summer.

Now, we have the upper hand. No homework means more time to concentrate and work on college essays. In the long run, dedicating one weekend or just a couple of days to your essays will benefit you so much. You spend all week at school and when the weekends come around you need a break. No one wants to use a weekend hastily trying to throw together an essay. If you complete your essays during the summer it allows you to spend all the time you need perfecting your essay.

Rule 3: Pay attention to deadlines
Deadlines. Deadlines. Deadlines. I can’t tell you how important these are. It’s no longer high school, you can’t just walk up to the teacher with some worn out excuse and get the deadlines extended. It’s football season. They don’t care. I was sick. Still don’t care. And my dog ate it. Don’t even try. Colleges don’t care about your “excuses.” They can find someone who did just as much as you in high school that met their deadlines.

Rule 4: Be unique.
This rule is also really important because you have to realize how many students your age are applying to the same school with the same credentials. Standing out is super important. Just think about how many colleges you are applying to: six. And how many essays you are writing: 15 (not including scholarships). Now, remember how many students are applying to those same schools with the same essays.

The college essay readers have an exhausting job. They read countless essays. This makes it imperative for you to stand out. Your grades can take you far, but stand-out essays and scholarship essays will push you over the edge. There is some good news; a lot of college essay topics overlap. So, you can use one essay for several different colleges. Just tweak it a little bit every time. This way you don’t have to worry about running out of creativity.

Rule 5: Don’t give them a sob story.
You may have had some tragic circumstance that made you into the person you are today. Which is awesome. However don’t make your essay a pity party. The college board has most likely heard it all before. You can and should still use your great accomplishment in your college essay. Just give it a positive spin. You don’t want them to feel sorry for you. You want them to want you for you and the accomplishment that made you, you.

Yes, college essays can be very stressful and time consuming; but with good time management, and your personal uniqueness, you should be able to write your essays with ease.