College Application Essay Writing Tips and Prompts

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Writing a college application essay can become an easy process when you know the secrets of a perfect admission paper. For this purpose, we prepared a complete guide with all you need to know to write a perfect application essay. 

What is a College Application Essay?

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The college application essay is a personal statement aimed to describe the applicant’s personality and show his/her motivation to apply for the chosen educational institution. Also, it shows the person’s interests, hobbies, background, and goals that are often beyond academic performance and grades.

College Application Essays Main Features

There are several features that make a college application essay stand out from the rest essay types:

  • The application essay reflects the personality of the applicant, highlights his/her background, interests, goals, and achievements;
  • It is specific and provides a clear answer to the essay prompt;
  • The application essay has a comprehensive argument or narrative;
  • It highlights the strong sides of the applicant and shows that he/she is a perfect candidate to apply for a specific education program;
  • The vocabulary used in this essay should be formal;
  • It follows the basic formatting and structure requirements.
Questions to the Expert
Julia Z.
Professional Essay Editor. Education: PhD, University of Oxford, Experience: 8 years. Member of EssayEdge team.
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How Long Should It Be College Application Essay?
Julia Z.
In most cases, each institution provides a word count and formatting requirements for the college application essays. But if you have not found specific instructions, the length of the essay depends on the variety of your experiences and achievements. It often ranges from 400 to 600 words.
How to End an Essay?
Julia Z.
An effective conclusion is the best way to end the application essay. In this case, you summarize the key topics and add the restatement of the personal statement to underline that you are a perfect candidate. After everything is finished, do not forget to proofread the essay and correct the mistakes (if you have found them).
How to Sign an Application Essay?
Julia Z.
The applicants usually sign the college essay in the header. Thus, you need to include personal information, such as full name and contact details. Also, if you know the head of the admission committee’s name, add this information in the header.

College Application Essay Formatting Tips

To make your application essay neat, well-ordered, and professional, you need to follow several formatting requirements:

  • Make a header with personal information;
  • Choose the standard fonts and font size to make the text readable;
  • Make 1-inch margins on all sides;
  • Adhere to the basic essay structure;
  • Make the paragraphs for every idea discussed in the text;
  • Ensure you made logical connections between the sentences and paragraphs;
  • Do not use informal vocabulary (colloquial or slang words).

Click here to find out more useful recommendations on college application essay formatting.

8 Tips to Write a Perfect Application Essay

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EssayEdge experts prepared a list of tips useful for writing college application essays easily and professionally. Look through them to know what the applicants should consider before submitting the essay for admission.

Tips 1. Do Not Leave Your Essay Late

We recommend starting your essay early, right after the moment you know the final deadline. Even if you have a lot of time, it’s not a great idea to put away your application essay.

Writing several drafts is the best working strategy to succeed during the admission process. While proofreading each draft, ask yourself several questions, like:

  • Is it interesting to read the essay?
  • Are all the ideas put logically in the text?
  • Does the essay characterize me as the perfect candidate for application?
  • Have I mentioned my goals, interests, and achievements?
  • Is there a relation between my background and the chosen educational program?

Tip 2. Make Your Application Essay Personal

One of the working tips is to make an essay personal. Students often tend to impress the admission committee by choosing the topic they want to read. Instead, it’s better to write about your passion or about something that makes you unique.

Do not be afraid of writing about the problems you faced on your life path or some negative character traits. Of course, nobody is perfect. So, write about your failures if they played a crucial role in your personality growth.

Tip 3. Make an Outline Before Writing

After you brainstorm the ideas you want to put in your essay for application, it’s time to make an outline. Thus, list all the things you want to mention and then structure your essay.

A plan is really helpful to make a text well-structured and logical. Furthermore, the outline is necessary to write down all the points and put them in the appropriate order. Finally, it will be easier to adhere to the word count.

Tip 4. Pay Attention to the Structure

The next step is to follow the basic structure, which requires three main sections: introduction, main body, and conclusion.

% of the Whole Text DESCRIPTION / WHAT TO PUT
INTRODUCTION 10% An opening paragraph with a strong personal statement defying the main thesis.
MAIN BODY 80% Each paragraph=one point, describing your hobbies and interests, achievements, challenges, and career goals.
CONCLUSION 10% Re-stating the personal statement and highlighting the linkage between your future goals and the chosen college.


Tip 5. Be Specific and Add Only Relevant Information

Do not forget to stick to one topic through the text. While answering the essay question, add only relevant information to the educational program you are applying for. Also, describe the life stages, challenges, learned life lessons, and relevant interests to the desired college. The same is with the career goals—you need to make them clear and linked to the application.

Tip 6. Highlight Your Experience

In the college application essays, the experience plays a central role. That’s why it’s suggested to start your body paragraphs with a summary of your background.

Remember that you need not just add the overall description but also make a linkage between your experience or some facts from your life and the experience you’ve got. Make sure that you mentioned how certain events affected you as a personality.

Tip 7. Add Several Examples

Do not forget to add a lot of real-life examples to your essay. Only in this case, the admission committee will see the value of your experience.

For instance, while writing about some problems in your life, highlight why it was a challenge and what strategy you applied to overcome it. Then, move to the lessons you learned and how this situation affected your personal growth.

Tip 8. Proofread Your Essay for Several Times

The final useful recommendation is to proofread your essay several times. Furthermore, you can ask your friend to read it and leave feedback. This way, you will know how others perceive your text.

Proofreading can also help to reveal the drawbacks in structure or content. It is vital to find out possible mistakes and correct them. All in all, proofreading is key for making your college essay look professional.

How to Write an Application Essay With No Experience?

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If you have no experience, you still have a chance to impress the admission committee with your essay for college application. First of all, you need to brainstorm topics and choose the one that will underline your strong sides. For instance, you can describe the moment when you realize your true passion in life.

Also, the applicant can write about the person who inspired or changed her/him for the better. There are a variety of topics that are not related to the experience. The only important thing is to find out the most suitable prompt to describe you as the perfect candidate.

How to Grab the Attention of the Admission Committee?

There are several things that can make your college essay stand out from the rest of the candidates. Let’s look through the most effective ones:

  1. Strong hook that grabs the reader’s attention right from the first moment;
  2. Unique experience and the description of its influential effect on your personality;
  3. Description of the strategy you applied to overcome the challenges;
  4. Highlighting the things or people who changed you for the better;
  5. The life lessons you’ve learned;
  6. Appropriate formatting and vocabulary;
  7. Logical structure.

As is mentioned at the beginning of the article, the best application essay is the one, which is focused on your personality. Also, your aim is to underline that you’re a unique personality with interesting hobbies and valuable experiences.

What Are The Things to Avoid?

The first thing to avoid is using clichés. In order to impress the committee, the applicants often add sentences or even paragraphs from the provided examples. Nevertheless, it is not an effective tool.

In most cases, admission committee members are tired of reading the same cliché essays from year to year. Of course, they are searching for admission writings that stand out from the rest. So, the most working strategy is to avoid banal statements in your essay.

One more thing to avoid is an absence of an inner voice. The application essay is a chance to share your drive or passion for achieving certain goals. Tell about your biggest dream, and explain why it is so important to you. This way, your college application essay will be personal and specific.

Common 2021-2022 Essay Prompts Examples

The essay prompts are quite typical from year to year. But, of course, there is a list of topics that were the most popular for the 2021-2022 application cycle:

  • Everyone faces challenges during their life. Reflect on this time and highlight the most meaningful event that can change your perspective on a certain problem.
  • Do you have a person who inspires you the most? If yes, how did this person affect/change you?
  • Almost every applicant has different interests and hobbies. Share your talents or interests that are an integral part of your personality.
  • Have you ever challenged a belief in something or someone? Reflect on this time and define the reason. What were the outcomes?

Final Words

Getting into Your Dream University

To conclude, writing essays for college applications is not a tedious procedure. This essay is your chance to show your personality, share your dreams and goals.

Being honest is an important requirement to succeed during the admission process. And together with several tips discussed in this article, you will definitely write the perfect college essay for application. Do not forget that your experts are always in touch and ready to help you.

Anyway, we wish you the best of luck!

What makes a good college application essay?
Should I make an outline for this type of essay?
Is there a specific word count for the college application essay?
What is the best topic for an application essay?
Robin W.
Professional essay editor and proofreader with 10+ years of experience. Education: Cornell University. PhD in English Studies and M.F.A in Creative Writing.
Update: April 28, 2022

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