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Writing Your College Admissions Essay


The college essay is a rare opportunity to “talk” directly to the college admission committee. It may be your only chance to share your thoughts, insights, and opinions to highlight your accomplishments, and to convey your maturity and outlook on life. The college essay is extremely important for two major reasons:

  1. It enables the college admissions office to evaluate your communication skills, assess the clarity of your thinking and your ability to convey your thoughts in written form.
  2. It enables the admissions office to learn more about you as a person, beyond what grades and SAT scores can convey.

 General Tips

  • Narrow your topic.
  • Be as specific and illustrative as possible.
  • Write about yourself.
  • Little incidents and facts are often the most revealing of character and outlook.
  • Don’t be modest.
  • Present a unique topic or approach.

Preparing to Write

  • Make a first draft.
  • Organize your thoughts.
  • Develop a framework.
  • Make a smooth progression from one idea or incident to the next.
  • Consider your purpose.
  • Decide on a style that is comfortable for you.

Writing the Essay

  • Reread after several days.
  • Make any necessary changes.
  • Consider matters of organization, style, grammar, spelling and tone.
  • Try it out on your family, friends, English teacher, or school counselor.


  • Think small and write about something that you know about.
  • Reveal yourself in your writing.
  • Show rather than tell. By giving examples, you help bring it to life.
  • Write in your own voice and style.
  • Write in active voice.
  • Limit the essay to 400 words.


  • Write what you think others want to read.
  • Exaggerate or write to impress.
  • Use flowy, inflated or pretentious language and style.
  • Neglect the technical part of your essay.
  • Ramble – say what you have to say concisely.

2023-2024 Common Application Essay Prompts

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.