If there's a really big structural problem, or the topic is just not working, you may have to chuck this draft out and start from scratch. Don't panic! I know starting over is frustrating, but it's often the best way to fix major issues. Unfortunately, some problems can't be fixed with whiteout.
Once you've fixed the problems you found on the first pass and have a second or third draft you're basically happy with, ask some other people to read it. Check with people whose judgment you trust : parents, teachers, and friends can all be great resources, but how helpful someone will be depends on the individual and how willing you are to take criticism from her.
Also, keep in mind that many people, even teachers, may not be familiar with what colleges look for in an essay. Your mom, for example, may have never written a personal statement, and even if she did, it was most likely decades ago. Give your readers a sense of what you'd like them to read for , or print out the questions I listed above and include them at the end of your essay.
After incorporating any helpful feedback you got from others, you should now have a nearly complete draft with a clear arc. At this point you want to look for issues with word choice and sentence structure:. A good way to check for weirdness in language is to read the essay out loud.
If something sounds weird when you say it, it will almost certainly seem off when someone else reads it.
In general, Eva feels like her first paragraph isn't as engaging as it could be and doesn't introduce the main point of the essay that well: although it sets up the narrative, it doesn't show off her personality that well. She decides to break it down sentence by sentence:. Problem: For a hook, this sentence is a little too expository. It doesn't add any real excitement or important information other than that this call isn't the first, which can be incorporate elsewhere.
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Solution: Cut this sentence and start with the line of dialogue. I was hoping to ask you some questions about—".
Did you know your essay makes up 25% of your college application?
Problem: No major issues with this sentence. It's engaging and sets the scene effectively.
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- 1. Get to know your prompt!
Solution: None needed, but Eva does tweak it slightly to include the fact that this call wasn't her first. I heard the distinctive click of the person on the other end of the line hanging up, followed by dial tone. Problem: This is a long-winded way of making a point that's not that important. Solution: Replace it with a shorter, more evocative description: " Click.
Whoever was on the other end of the line had hung up. Problem: This sentence is kind of long. Some of the phrases "about ready to give up," "get the skinny" are cliche. Solution: Eva decides to try to stick more closely to her own perspective: "I'd heard rumors that Atlas Theater was going to be replaced with an AMC multiplex, and I was worried. There's a real Atlas Theater. Apparently it's haunted! Once you have a final draft, give yourself another week and then go through your essay again.
Read it carefully to make sure nothing seems off and there are no obvious typos or errors. Confirm that you are at or under the word limit. Then, go over the essay again, line by line , checking every word to make sure that it's correct. Double check common errors that spell check may not catch, like mixing up affect and effect or misplacing commas.
How to Write a Great College Application Essay | CollegeXpress
Finally, have two other readers check it as well. Oftentimes a fresh set of eyes will catch an issue you've glossed over simply because you've been looking at the essay for so long. Give your readers instructions to only look for typos and errors, since you don't want to be making any major content changes at this point in the process. This level of thoroughness may seem like overkill, but it's worth taking the time to ensure that you don't have any errors.
The last thing you want is for an admissions officer to be put off by a typo or error. This is Eva Smith again. I'd grown up with the Atlas: my dad taking me to see every Pixar movie on opening night and buying me Red Vines to keep me distracted during the sad parts. Unfortunately my personal history with the place didn't seem to carry much weight with anyone official, and my calls to both the theater and city hall had thus far gone unanswered.
Once you've finished the final check, you're done, and ready to submit! There's one last step, however. Remember back in step one, when we talked about making a chart to keep track of all the different essays you need to write? Well, now you need to go back to that list and determine which essays you still need to write. Keep in mind your deadlines and don't forget that some schools may require more than one essay or ask for short paragraphs in addition to the main personal statement.
In some cases, you may be able to reuse the essay you've already written for other prompts. You can use the same essay for two prompts if:. Both of them are asking the same basic question e. One prompt is relatively specific and the other is very general e. If you choose to reuse an essay you wrote for a different prompt, make sure that it addresses every part of question and that it fits the word limit. If you have to tweak a few things or cut out odd words, it will probably still work.
But if the essay would require major changes to fit the criteria, you're probably better off starting from scratch even if you use the same basic topic. The key to keep in mind in when brainstorming for supplemental essays is that you want them to add something new to your application. You shouldn't write about the same topic you used for your personal statement, although it's okay to talk about something similar, as long as you adopt a clearly different angle.
For example, if you're planning to be pre-med in college and your main essay is about how volunteering at the hospital taught you not to judge people on their appearance, you might write your secondary essay on your intellectual interest in biology which could touch on your volunteering.
There's some overlap, but the two topics are clearly distinct.
Now that you know how to write a college essay, we have a lot more specific resources for you to excel. Are you working on the Common App essay? Read our breakdown of the Common App prompts and our guide to picking the best prompt for you. Or maybe you're interested in the University of California? Check out our complete guide to the UC personal statements.
Sample College Admission Essays
In case you haven't finished the rest of the application process , take a look at our guides to asking for recommendations , writing about extracurriculars , and researching colleges. We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:. Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications.
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