Tips for College Essay Writing

college essay tips

Your words hold power. Your words hold meaning.

Okay, sure… but why is it so hard to write about yourself? Surely you hold meaning and you hold power — so what’s the deal?

In order to be competitive for college essays as well as admissions, it helps to be a strong writer. A writer that draws you in to read every last word. A writer that recounts a great moment of personal joy (or tragic misery) in order to share a meaningful story. Or someone who weighs the pros and cons of recent legislation with unique insight to make a compelling argument.

No matter what the scholarship prompt or question, telling a story or writing a captivating essay can help you earn big bucks from scholarship providers. In addition, it is a useful skill for future cover letters, resumes and even college interviews.

The good news is that anyone can become a better writer. Whether you are super confident in your writing abilities or someone who is unsure, this article will provide new ideas and perspectives to refine your craft.

Managing the Creative Process

One of the most challenging aspects of writing is getting started. Here are some strategies to consider when managing the creative (and analytical) process of writing a high-quality essay.

Keep the Reader Engaged

No ones wants to read a boring essay. Grab the reader’s attention in the opening paragraph of your essay. Here is where you will set the stage and theme for the rest of what you write. It does not have to be the first sentence or a crazy story. In your writing, consider a “hook” or opener that will make the reader interested in your writing.

Use Your Own Voice

Have you ever read something that sounded like the person that wrote it? It is a wonderful example of someone expressing themselves in their own voice. One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is neglecting their own personality in their writing. In your essay you don’t need to impress the reader with lots of facts or quotes from other people — this is your chance to show who you are. Being authentic, honest and humorous will help your writing express your unique experiences and personality.

Seek Feedback

You can seek out feedback at any stage in your writing. In the beginning, you might brainstorm topics with others and workshop different ideas. Once you have a rough draft written, share it with family, friends, or even teachers. Getting feedback will give you outside perspective on your draft and clarify points that readers bring up. Plus, they might find typos or other grammar issues that you have missed. Feedback can help you refine your points and bring your writing to the next level.

Note: too much feedback is a real problem — from experience I would suggest 2 to 3 people. Remember to keep your writing style and voice.

The 80/20 Rule

Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? Also known as the Pareto Principal, the idea is that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your actions.

This rule can be applied to your scholarship writing and application process. Your other activities like research, ideation, and feedback will help bring value to your overall goal: a solid piece of written work.

The Spotlight Effect

Some writers suffer from the Spotlight Effect. In other words, they tend to downplay their wins, successes, and sometimes even perspectives. Part of this may be due to society’s standards and guilt some might feel about “bragging” on their accomplishments. It is important to overcome the spotlight effect, especially when you are writing your college essays. This is your chance to take the stage and tell your story without fear or worry.

Analysis Paralysis & Taking Breaks

Sometimes we as writers do not know where to start. This also known as analysis paralysis, or “writer’s block.” It is important to understand that most people do not simply write an amazing essay in one sitting. Maybe some people can, but my guess is that most take breaks between their writing. Perfection can be the enemy of success. In other words, just starting can be the best way to overcome a mental hurdle.

Additionally, if you manage your time well, write when you have the most energy and take breaks when needed. Writers often report fresh insights when they step away from their work to rest, grab some food, or workout.


In summary, these tips for college essays are a starting point for writers. If you feel stuck, remember that writing is a process. Consider looking online for examples of other essays to find inspiration. Do not copy or plagiarize the work, but reading other essays can help you get an idea for your structure.

Make sure to give yourself enough time before the essay is due to prepare your writing process. And remember that colleges want to hear from you, not someone else.

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