How to Write a College Essay?

November 19, 2022
By AdmissionSight

How to Write a College Essay?

Experts in college admissions give advice on choosing a topic, writing, and editing the essay. The college essay is one of the few areas of a college application where a student’s voice can come through, in addition to being a chance to demonstrate writing abilities. The college admissions essay gives applicants the chance to demonstrate their personalities, in contrast, to test results and transcripts.

man writing on his notebook while sitting at a table in a library

The essays are crucial according to Adam Sapp, associate vice president and director of admissions at Pomona College in California. “This is a student’s time to really speak directly to the admissions office,” he says.

Prospective college students have only a few hundred words to create a good impression and increase their chances of acceptance in their college essay, which is also known as a personal statement.

This may seem to put a lot of strain on you.

According to Niki Barron, associate dean of admission at Hamilton College in New York, “I think this is the part of the application process that students are sometimes most confused by because they’re looking at a blank piece of paper and they don’t know where to start.”

This pressure might be increased by the fact that several universities have adopted a test-optional policy in the last year, which means that ACT and SAT scores will be taken into account but are not necessary. Other colleges no longer take such scores into account since they have become test-blind. Some admissions experts have argued that in the absence of test results, other components of an application, such as the essay, will receive more consideration.

However, just as each applicant is unique, so too are the criteria and priorities for admission to colleges. Being test optional hasn’t affected the way we use college essays in our selection process, and I wouldn’t claim that the essay replaces standardized test results, according to Barron, who wrote in an email. “Our application assessment process always puts a student’s academic readiness for our classroom experience front and center.”

Expert essay writing advice emphasizes the value of being succinct, coherent, amiable, honest, and correct. Additionally, a candidate should demonstrate their intellectual prowess and provide vivid examples or tales.

Here is everything students need to know about writing a solid college essay, from coming up with essay topics to editing the final text.

How to Begin Your College Essay?

According to experts, the summer before senior year is an excellent time for students to start working on their essays because there will be less distraction from coursework and extracurricular activities.

Unidentified person writing on a paper

Students that start early will have plenty of time to complete several revisions of an essay before the deadline for college applications, which may be as early as November for those applying for early decision or early action.

How Long Should a College Essay Be?

One of the most challenging aspects of applying to college is coming up with a topic for your college essay. Even after you’ve read the prompt and chosen a topic, you could still be concerned about whether writing too much or too little will hurt your chances of getting accepted. What is the ideal essay length for college?

We can help you determine the appropriate length for your college essay, whether you’re a concise or a verbose writer. In this tutorial, we’ll discuss the typical length of a college essay, the significance of word counts, and what to do if you’re unsure about the length of a particular essay.

How long should a college essay be? Check the Word Limit First

You may be accustomed to submitting your writing projects with a page limit. (For instance, a 10-page essay.) Although some universities have page limits for undergraduate essays, the majority set word constraints. This ensures that all of the essays a college receives, regardless of formatting or font, are the same length.

Simply said, your college essay should be roughly close to the word limit but not go over it. Consider the word limit as the upper restriction and the first 50 words as the lower bound. So aim for a word count of 450–500 for an essay with a 500-word limit. Stay within the parameters they provide you with if any.

The word count is typically stated in the guidelines or right there in the college essay prompt.

As an illustration, the University of Illinois claims: “As part of your application, you must also respond to one essay question. Depending on the application you use to apply, you’ll have different alternatives. Essays may range in length from 250 to 650 words.”

College essay word counts are typically limited to no more than 150 words (less than half a single-spaced page). Rarely will a word limit of 650 words be set (over one single-spaced page). The average length of a college essay is between 150 and 650 words. After all, admissions officers must read a lot of them!

One of the most challenging aspects of applying to college is coming up with a topic for your college essay. Even after you’ve read the prompt and chosen a topic, you could still be concerned about whether writing too much or too little will hurt your chances of getting accepted. What is the ideal essay length for college?

We can help you determine the appropriate length for your college essay, whether you’re a concise or a verbose writer. In this tutorial, we’ll discuss the typical length of a college essay, the significance of word counts, and what to do if you’re unsure about the length of a particular essay.

How Modular is the Word Count?

However, how lenient is the word count? What if your moving story is just ten words too long—or one hundred words too short?

Is there a word count Limit?

You can usually get away with exceeding the word limit by one or two words if you are uploading a document and you need those extra one or two words. In fact, some universities will advise you that going over the word count by one or two words is OK. However, I suggest staying below the word limit unless it is specifically permitted for the following reasons:

  • To start, you might be unable to. Your essay might be chopped short if you have to copy-paste it into a text box, forcing you to reduce it anyhow.
  • If you noticeably go over the word count, the admissions officer may simply stop reading your essay after that point. This is harmful to you.
  • Following instruction is a crucial component of the college application process. To provide your test scores, send your extra materials, upload your essays, send your letters of recommendation, and so on and so forth, you must follow the instructions. So, as a general rule, you should abide by any directives issued by the institution. It’s safer to be safe than sorry!

Can I use fewer words than allowed?

It’s probably okay if you can effectively communicate your ideas in many fewer words than the allotted space. As long as you are concise, cogent, and clear in what you write, it’s not necessarily a negative thing.

However, the word count for a college essay is typically somewhat limited. Therefore, if you’re writing a 500-word essay and you have 300 words to write, ask yourself if there is anything else you could add to clarify or support your views. Ask a parent, friend, or instructor for advice on where you could add additional detail or develop your views.

Additionally, you must definitely touch the low end of the word range if the college gives you a word range. Therefore, you must write at least 400 words if the institution gives you a word count range, such as 400-500. Less writing will give the impression that you have nothing to say, which is the opposite of what you want to convey.

How to Format a College Essay?

Admissions officers look beyond the facts of outstanding grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities when they use the college application essay to assist decide who gets asked to attend their institution of higher learning.

They are searching for the one quality that distinguishes you from other people: your personality.

You have the opportunity to discuss how your vision, ambitions, successes, and experiences have shaped who you are and why you would be a strong applicant for admissions. Use this comprehensive guidance to format your essay for the college application.

Formatting College Application Essays

Create an essay that reads like a feature story

A good tale has a start, middle, and end. Use the first paragraph of your college application essay as an introduction, and the final paragraph as a conclusion that brings everything together. Put the essay’s main body in between. Let the narrative develop and progress to a logical conclusion.

Utilize and adhere to a topic

You won’t be able to fit your entire life’s events into a 650-word college essay, so choose one incident that best illustrates how you evolved into the distinctive person you are today and use that as the focus of your essay.

Create a plan

Make an outline of your story’s overall structure, with each paragraph addressing a different theme. Your essay will be easier to write and more focused if you have a plan.

Unidentified person writing on a post it note on a table with a laptop.

Be original but sincere

It could be alluring to follow a typical college application essay sample since it seems simple. But that can make for a dry read. When writing your college application essay, remain authentic to who you are while letting your creative side shine through.

Use examples and analogies

Give particular examples or comparisons from your own experiences in your writing. Mention significant occasions in your life that helped shape the person you are today. A college application essay that stands out can be made with the help of success stories, tales of overcoming challenges, and leadership. To support your main point, use this information as evidence or supporting documentation.

Use your computer to write

On your personal computer, create your college essay using Google Docs or Microsoft Word. The urge to enter it directly into the online application box should be resisted. Make use of the word count and spellcheck functions. When your document is finished, you can upload it or copy it and paste it into the online box.

Leave the essay prompt out

The purpose of the essay question is to provide you with topic suggestions. In your essay, do not use the prompt as a header.

Utilize the online form

Although some institutions still accept college essays on paper, the prevailing consensus is that you should apply to colleges online. This will increase the likelihood that your essay will be received and will be received on time. Additionally, most colleges and universities prefer that applications be submitted online.

Use a common font

The majority of internet applications are formatted with fewer font choices. Avoid utilizing fancy typefaces when writing your college application essay. Use simple typefaces like Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman in 12-point type. The substance, not the typography, is what matters most. Formatting like bold or italics could also not be accepted by online applications. In your writing, stay away from employing emoticons, hashtags, underlines, and ALL CAPS.

Your document’s format

Consider margins, line spacing, font styles, and paragraph alignment when submitting your application on paper to ensure that it looks professional.

  • Margins: All sides should have a 1″ margin.
  • Use a 1.5 or double line spacing for the text. Single-line spacing may be allowed, but double-line spacing makes your article easier to read.
  • When writing paragraphs, use a tab to indent the first line of each one.
  • Fonts: Use a common, easy-to-read typeface in 12-point types, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.

You must adhere to the formatting guidelines that each college or university offers for college essay applications. Some may want that the application ID number appear on the cover page, while others could ask that the pages be numbered and have headings on each page. To check the word count, use the toolbar in Google Docs or Microsoft Word. If not asked, don’t add your name to the message.

Send files in the correct format

The guidelines for the essay application will specify the acceptable or supported file types. Make sure, for instance, that you are submitting the file with the correct file extension and that you are using the correct version of Microsoft Word. To be safe, you should save your essay in an uneditable PDF file.

Researching on a laptop.

Do you want to ace your college essay?

You’re in for a real treat as AdmissionSight is a trusted institution with 10 years of experience in helping incoming college student ace not only their college essays but the entire application process. If you need help with the entire college application process, AdmissionSight has helped hundreds of high school students get into the university of their dreams. Book an appointment for an initial consultation now.


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