How to Write a Compelling College Essay

Hi everyone! This summer turned out to be busier than I thought. As I was preparing my students for the next steps in their academic careers, this blog fell by the wayside.  So, to my loyal readers, I send my deepest apologies. The good news is that I plan on incorporating this blog into many more of my future endeavors as I look to introduce various products and services to help serve you and/or your children in pursuit of higher education. Stay tuned for that!

For now, college deadlines are approaching and something I get asked a lot about is how to write a ‘great’ college essay. I put great in quotation marks because it’s a word that doesn’t have much meaning without proper context. Having said that, there are several characteristics of a college essay that undeniably meet the criteria of ‘great’, no matter what effect you are aiming to achieve. Too often I see students write essays that are laundry lists of achievement with no really compelling narrative, or I see the budding creative writer who writes a well crafted essay that is devoid of any substance about what it is that makes him/her special. Anyone ever think to merge the two systems of writing? Well here’s how:

  • Think about something you really love doing. It could be anything (playing an instrument, singing, writing, dancing, etc.)
  • Now think about all of your academic/extracurricular achievements. How have you woven your love into these activities?
  • If you don’t have something you love to do, think bigger. What’s the theme running through all of the extracurricular activities you’ve done? Did you take a leadership role in all of them? Affect change in a positive way? Use that instead.
  • Take all of the above and channel it into one specific situation. Take all of the emotions and feelings that you have about that situation and write about it. Every sensory memory that you have, every cheer in the crowd, every last feeling that you can remember. Put that on paper. Be as descriptive as possible so that when someone like me reads your essay, I’ll know exactly what you are feeling.

An essay doesn’t have to be boring or dry. It’s supposed to showcase the true nature of the candidate, so unless you actually are boring and dry, don’t be afraid to be specific enough with your words to really convey what makes you interesting and different from everyone else fighting for your seat. Happy writing!

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