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  • Writer's pictureNancy Adis

College Essay to Finish? You Got This!

About now there are some high school seniors stressing about finalizing their college applications for those early January deadlines.  Many students tell me that writing their personal essay is the most daunting task in this process. There are numerous books with suggestions and tips galore, but don’t worry if you don’t have time to read a whole book; I am going to share some key takeaways and helpful strategies to focus on.


Two goals for your main essay:


  1. Share insights about YOU - what are you passionate about, how have you learned from your past experiences, what are your goals? (Write about what you thought, more than what you did.)

  2. Demonstrate that you can write - pay attention to spelling and grammar, focus on concise writing with many details.


Topic ideas:


  • things that aren’t already covered in your activities list (bring in new information)

  • things that you can write a lot about, with details that show your thoughts and feelings about the subject

  • things that highlight your values, character, and priorities - topics you actually care about and why they matter

  • something that shows a challenge you faced, how you grew from it, and the new understanding you now have


Remember everyone has a meaningful story they can write about, there is no best topic list and your story can be a small simple truth you learned that is important to you. It doesn’t have to be something you did that affected your whole community.


Don’t:


  • focus on negative things, the overall vibe should be positive

  • send it off without reading it to yourself out loud and having at least one other person review it for mistakes

  • let anyone else write for you - it has to be authentic to you and in your voice

  • think you have to go up to the word limit (500 words out of the 650 limit is good if well-written and full of details)

  • use texting language or swear words


Each college admissions team wants to balance their incoming class with curious students who are open-minded and want to learn new things.  Use your essay to show them that you are a good fit. The story you write is your opportunity to show them more about you as a person, beyond the data about your grades, classes, and test scores.


For high school seniors finalizing applications, you can do this!  Start writing now and plan to have a few revisions before you add your essay to your Common Application.  If you are a junior, you can help yourself by starting now to journal with topic ideas and self-reflection so that next summer you can get an early start on writing your main essay for college applications.  


There are many steps in the college planning process and Confident College Planning helps students and families organize their activities in a planful way that helps to reduce stress and focuses on finding a good placement where students will be happy and successful.  We provide support throughout the entire college selection process, including exploring majors, making college lists and campus visits, reviewing and tracking applications, essay inspiration and editing, reviewing funding strategies and researching scholarships, and advising for successful college transitions. Contact nancy@confidentcollegeplanning.com to discuss how I can best support your family in this important journey.


Nancy Adis, Educational Consultant, shares essay strategies


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