College Application Essay: Writing Tips And Tricks You Need!

As you write your college application essay, use these tips and tricks to submit an essay that is engaging, memorable, and unique!

1. Find Details to Bring the Story to Life

The first tip to consider when writing your college application essay is finding details to bring the story to life. Most application essays prompt some sort of narrative response, with an expectation that the writer dedicates significant space on the page to reflection. 

Suppose you choose to write about a person you admire. Do not write an entire essay about that person, without reflecting on the specific ways they have impacted your life. 

If you choose to write an essay about a time you failed, your work is not complete without reflecting on how you have grown and changed through your struggles. The best way to ensure your story is personal and engaging is through details. 

As you edit and revise your work, consider this trick: find any moments in the text where sensory details or strong imagery can bring your story to life. You will need to be explicit in stating how the story has impacted you, but you can further personalize the narrative by placing the reader directly in your shoes. 

This tactic leads us to the next tip: make your writing personal. 

2. Make it Personal

To write a memorable college application essay, you should do your best to be vulnerable, honest, and direct. In most cases, you will only have a few hundred words to convince the admissions counselor that you are worthy of an acceptance letter. Select a prompt that allows ample opportunity to showcase who you are. 

3. Write More than one Draft

Writing more than one draft is a strategy to flesh out ideas, find the prompt that works for you, and develop a strong authorial voice. It is also a great tactic for refining your storytelling skills and perfecting your reflective work. Take the time to consider multiple prompts or multiple structures for your writing. You may find that your final draft takes a path that is wildly different from your original vision for your college admissions essay. 

How Are College Application Essays Detrimental To Admissions?

Here is a breakdown of some college essay mistakes that can be detrimental to the admissions process. 

1. A Failed Chance to Standout

Writing an essay that is vague, detached, and boring can occur when students rush or shy away from talking about themselves. You need to dedicate the majority of your time talking about yourself, which can be intimidating, but avoiding this task results in a failed chance to stand out to an admissions counselor. 

2. Full Of Errors

Many students wonder, do colleges and universities really care about the college application essay? The answer is, yes! Failing to recognize the essay’s importance has resulted in impressions of laziness or carelessness in some applications. This will be detrimental to admissions. 

3. Does Not Answer The Prompt

Another major mistake occurs when students avoid portions of the prompt. Each question included in the writing prompt should be answered, and failure to do so leaves the impression that the writer is avoiding something. 

It can also leave the impression that the applicant does not recognize the question’s importance. Always read the essay prompt in its entirety and answer every question in your college application essay. 

4. Describes A Failure, Struggle, Mistake Without Reflecting On Growth

Writing an essay that focuses on your weaknesses, without reflecting on your growth, leaves the reader wondering how you can positively impact their campus. These kinds of essays leave room for doubt, which is the last thing you want your admissions counselor to feel when considering your college application. 

Give your reader confidence in your ability to work through your struggles. When writing an essay that follows this prompt, provide explicit insight into what you learned from your mistakes and how you have changed.

5. Too Short Or Too Long

Another error to avoid is ignoring word count limits. Writing an essay that is too short leaves an impression that you do not care. Writing an essay that is too long may mean that your reader does not read to completion. Ensure that your writing comes as close to the word count as possible. 

6. Writing A Resume

One last error that college admissions counselors despise is writing an essay that lists all of your accomplishments. A college admissions essay is not a resume. 

Overall, these errors leave a bad first impression. The best way to avoid them is by starting with a good topic. Write the best work you are capable of and seek support when needed. 

What Colleges Require A College Application Essay

It is standard for colleges to require applicants to write an essay that supplements their application. 

Here is an abbreviated list of colleges that require applicants to write a college application essay. Keep in mind that you must always research the admissions requirements for every school you apply to. This research is crucial to ensure that your admission application is complete.

  • American University
  • Amherst College
  • Arizona State University
  • Auburn University
  • Clemson University
  • Colorado State University
  • Duke University
  • Elon University
  • Florida State University
  • Fordham University
  • Georgia State University
  • Gonzaga University
  • Harvard University
  • Hawaii Pacific University
  • Illinois State University
  • Indiana State University
  • Iowa State University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Kansas State University
  • Lewis and Clark College
  • Massachusetts College of Art and Design 
  • Michigan State University
  • Mississippi State University
  • Missouri State University
  • University of Maine
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Montana
  • Baylor University
  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Brown University
  • New York University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio University
  • Ohio State University
  • Ole Miss, University of Mississippi
  • Oregon State University
  • Penn State
  • Sarah Lawrence College
  • Seattle University
  • Stanford University
  • Syracuse University
  • The College of Idaho 
  • The College of New Jersey
  • Tufts University
  • Tulane University 
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California, Berkeley 
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of Nebraska
  • University of Nevada
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Charleston Southern University
  • Chicago State University
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, Merced
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of California, San Diego 
  • University of California, San Francisco
  • University of California, Santa Cruz
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
  • University of Colorado, Denver
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Idaho
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Kansas 
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Rhode Island
  • University of Utah
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of Wyoming
  • Yale University

Again, this list is not a complete representation of every school that requires a college admissions essay. Admissions requirements change from year to year, and your personal research and a detailed understanding of the application process is mandatory. 

If you are applying to many schools, you may find that your application process consists of writing many personal statement essays. If this is the case, your writing schedule should be organised and efficient. 

5 Unique College Essay Topics

Are you looking for a unique college essay topic? Consider these prompts for a strong personal statement essay.

  • A Story About A Family Tradition 

Starting your college application essay with a narrative about a family tradition can be a great way to structure a discussion of your culture, background, identity, or values. Your reader should have a strong idea of who you are. If traditions in your life represent a piece of you that is crucial to understanding your identity or path in life, then this may be the prompt for you!

  • A Story About A Life-Changing Event

If you have experienced a life changing event (big or small)  that is unique to you, then this may be the prompt for you. Consider if you have a story to tell that the reader may not have read about before. 

Avoid sports injuries and successes or stories about break ups or romance. These topics are cliche and repetitive. They can also be quite generalised and lack personality. 

  • Discuss Your Goals For The Future

What inspires you? What motivates you? What steps do you plan to take to achieve your goals? If you choose to write an essay about your goals, be sure that you are specific. If you want to be a doctor someday, don’t just write an essay about your plans for medical school. 

Detail the moment you knew you wanted to help heal people. Write about the people you hope to help someday. What struggles can you expect to face? How do you plan to overcome them? Get specific!

  • Write About Your Favorite Book, Movie, Or Piece Of Art

The key to this prompt: details, details, details! If you choose to structure your personal statement around a piece of art, you need to include details about your experience involving that work. 

Always remember, the college admissions essay is about you. Significant space on the page needs to focus on who you are, so focus on a discussion of how the given artwork has shaped your view of the world. 

  • A Story About The Best Piece Of Advice You Have Ever Received 

One more unique essay topic is writing about the best piece of advice you have ever received. Who gave you this advice? When have you applied it to your life? Do you share this advice with others? If so, when? How has your choice to implement this advice into your life shaped you as a person? 

As you prepare to submit your college admissions essay, consider these strategies and tips. You can also use FLEX’s College Consultants as a resource throughout any stage in your college application process. As former admissions counselors, our consultants serve to provide you with insider knowledge and expertise. Whether you are setting a schedule to ensure your applications are submitted on time, brainstorming which essay prompts to use, or editing your final draft, FLEX’s consultants are here for you!