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The college application essay

If you are a high school student in the process of applying to colleges, this article is for you!

Carol Wood

Many colleges require that students submit an essay as part of their college application.  The essay can be one of the strongest parts of your application, presenting you as a thoughtful, sincere, and interesting applicant!  Often students are unsure how to begin this essay and about what to write, but it is important to get started now because the tension created by procrastinating can be worse than the work itself.  Following are a few suggestions which may make this process easier and also make an impression on the college admissions officer reading your essay.

Rather than saying why you are such a great candidate for the college, tell a story that focuses on yourself and portrays your positive aspects.  It is not possible to write your life story in about 800 words, which is a good length for a college application essay.  This could be a story about someone you once met who had a need and you were able to assist in fulfilling that need.  It could be a story about something that happened in your family, what you learned from the experience and how you helped resolve and/or reacted to this event.  Or, it could be a story about your interests, activities, travels, struggles, or a situation that had a significant impact on you.   

It is ideal to write a story about something that occurred in high school or as an older student, unless there is a significant life lesson you learned when younger.  Avoid writing about a topic that remains unresolved in your life; rather tell a story about something that has had closure.

It is certainly best to not write about your political or religious views or give strong opinions about a topic.  You never know the thought processes or values of the reader of your essay so you do not want to risk offending him or her.

If you find that developing and writing your essay is taking a long time, you have probably selected the wrong topic and need to find something else to write about.  Usually something we are passionate about or something that was truly exciting and/or meaningful in our lives, we can write about with ease.

At the end of your writing, it is important that you go back to the beginning of your essay and work on the first several sentences to make sure they make a strong opening.  Then, cut out all wordiness throughout, make it specific, and check your grammar. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful and you are accepted into the college of your choice!

Carol is the founder and CEO of Total Learning Concepts, which provides academic tutorial support, SAT & ACT test preparation, accredited course work, and college admissions counseling and coaching to students of all ages and grade levels. For more information about Total Learning Concepts, Inc., please call 770-381-5958 or visit their website at

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