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Most institutes have set specific criteria to get students admitted into their college programs, such as high school grades, college essays, and ACT and SAT scores. So, a well written college essay is required to stand out in the crowd. It may sound like a chore, but it is also a unique opportunity that can make a difference at decision time. The admission committee analyzes your position on the basis of your test scores, high school grades, and college essays. They receive essays from hundreds or thousands of students daily.

However, many students find themselves struggling to craft compelling essays that will impress admission committees. But don't worry! We will discuss some tips and strategies on how to write a college essay in this article. And if you're not feeling confident in your writing skills or you're super busy, you can always check out Nerdpapers' professional college essay writing service. Our expert writers craft strong and unique college essays that can increase your chances of getting admission to the top colleges.

Do you know exactly what is a college essay?

The college essay is the document where you can showcase your abilities and impress the admission committee. It's a good chance to show who you are and why you stand out from the crowd. Admission counselors will read your essay and analyze whether or not they give you admission to their college. While reading your essay, they will be asking themselves, "Will this person be suitable or make our community a more valuable place?"

How to write a college essay in 8 steps?

A college essay may make or break your admissions application. A superb college essay must have the following essential components:

  • It should be original and unique to make you distinct from others
  • It should be well-structured
  • It gives a person's clear picture
  • It includes the evidence of self-reflection & insight

To achieve this, plan ahead of time. Give yourself enough time for college essay brainstorming, writing, proofreading, editing, and feedback. Here are a few steps on how to write a good college essay that you should remember. 

Basic Steps to Write a College Essay

Start Writing Early

t's a rare skill to write well under pressure, whether you're drafting a college essay or learning how to write a cover letter. Complete your first draft a few weeks prior to submission. It's a good idea to start structuring your college essay during the summer before your senior year. This makes your writing process easier and gives you enough time to brainstorm and write. Don't leave it until the last moment. Remember to give breaks between the writing and editing phases. The sooner you start, the better it will be. 

✔️Tip: If you're applying for multiple colleges, you will write a college essay for each one, and then it becomes difficult for you to maintain them. We suggest using a tracker sheet that will help you organize your essay according to deadlines and college essay topics.

Pick a Unique and Interesting Topic

The most daunting part of writing a college essay is to pick the best topic and define the suitable titles for a college essay. There are several topics available to choose from. Do brainstorming and choose a unique and compelling topic. Moreover, if you're planning to write about sports volunteer work, carefully think about how you can make it unique. You have to show deep insight and portray your story in a unique way to distinguish it from similar essays.  

Consider College Essay Length

Consult with your admission application instructions for essay length. Make sure to stay within the specified limit. There are chances that word count will be mentioned, but if not, the college admission experts recommend staying between the range of 500 to 650 words. You won't be able to explain your whole story in 650 words, so only add the most impactful examples to your essay.

Make an outline for a college essay

After selecting the topic, the next step is to create your college application essay outline. Note down each point that you're going to discuss in your college essay. The outline will help you to remain focused. There is no specific college essay structure. 

Make an effort to develop a stunning plot line or unique insights, especially if you're writing about a popular subject.
Never make up or exaggerate information about yourself just to seem interesting. But make an effort to establish connections in your life that avoid cliched narratives and lessons.

Start writing with a strong introduction

The admission committee has a lot of applications to read and analyze. They only spend a few minutes on each application. So, to get yourself noticed, start with a surprising or good college essay hook. A great hook will grab the reader's attention from the start of your essay. Do not start your college essay introduction with a famous quote or reference to the essay itself. 

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Write like an expert

Try to write your college essay like a pro essay writer, as it allows you to use your authentic voice and true personality. Use interesting language to tell your story. Think about the challenges you've faced in your life and how you've tackled them. You can also take suggestions about yourself from people who know you better. Their responses can help you to paint a clear picture of yourself.  
You don't need to share a long story, but you have to dig deep to express your honest feelings, experiences, and opinions. Don't exaggerate to get sympathy, but be honest. Use narratives to express your original sight. Write concisely and maintain a respectful tone. Moreover, follow grammar rules and prioritize the 'I' statement to highlight your perspective.

College essay conclusion

Are you wondering how to write a conclusion for a college essay? Finish your college essays with a strong conclusion paragraph. Be sure to address these questions: What is the most crucial message you want to convey to the college through this essay? What will you contribute to the college community? At the end of your essay, compose a personal statement that you want to make about yourself.

College Essay Proofreading and Editing

When you finish your essay, run it on Grammarly to check for mistakes. Put it aside for a couple of days. Then read it again after a few days, this fresh perspective helps you to identify overlooked mistakes. You can also ask your friend or any family member to proofread it and provide feedback. Additionally, run your essay on plagiarism checker tools such as Turnitin, safeassign, and Copyscape. Don’t forget to double check your word count as well. 

Writing winning college essays can be tiresome if you don't have the required expertise. A well written essay plays a very important role in making the decision in your favor. Keep all the above mentioned steps in mind, then you'll have no problem in generating a unique masterpiece. And if you'd rather have a pro write your essay for college, just say 'Write my College Paper' and rest assured that your task is in expert hands!

Make Your College Essay Checklist

Here is a checklist for your college essay:

  • Have you clearly understood the topic?
  • Is there a clear and concise introduction, body, and conclusion?
  • Do you mention the thesis statement?
  • Does the essay structure well?
  • Have you clearly mentioned your main points?
  • Does your essay reflect your unique voice?

Helpful Tips for Writing College Essays

Keep these college essay tips in mind while writing your college application essay:

Useful College Essay Writing Tips

Be honest

The most crucial part of how to structure a college essay is to be authentic. The purpose of this essay is to judge your character personality, so be yourself. Additionally, they read various essays daily. The best way to make yourself unique or stand out is to be honest. Only share your true self. 

Show your writing abilities

The admission counselors also judge you on the basis of your writing skills. So, it's important to have knowledge of basic principles of writing. By properly managing and organizing your college essay, you can show that you have the knowledge of the structure of a college essay.

Stay on College Essay Topic

Suppose you're applying to multiple colleges, then it's easy to get confused between topics. A common mistake that students make is trying to integrate the new essay into the previously written one. This may be a time saving, but it often backfires. Moreover, write your college essay from scratch for each college application. Stick to the topic and only add relevant information that leads to your main essay topic.

Write in your voice

Be accurate and honest. Use simple language that you normally use. Do not use fancy words, but keep your tone professional and confident. Your college essay is like your personal statement, so it should sound natural to the reader and to you too.

Give the answer immediately

If your topic is a specific query, then answer the question in the opening paragraph. Then, explain your answer in the rest of your college essay.

Add real life examples

Include your real life experiences and events in the college essay. This will add colors and make your personal statement authentic. By adding personal examples, you can prove the characteristics and values you claim to, rather than just saying you do.

Save your college essay

Do not write your essay directly in the application. First, make a draft and save it in a Word document or Google Doc. This way, you can make edits easily until you're completely satisfied. And there is no risk of losing your essay when the application times out. Take care of formatting and line spacing when you copy paste your college essay into the application.

Follow the instructions

Read carefully and understand all the instructions provided by the college. You must review them again before submitting your college essay to ensure that you've fulfilled all the necessary requirements. 

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Things to avoid while writing your college essay

If your college essay contains irrelevant and repetitive information, it can leave a bad impression on the academic counselor. Here, we'll discuss some important things that you must avoid:

Things to avoid while writing your college essay

Academic Achievements, Test Scores, & Grades

The college essay normally includes information that is not added anywhere else in your admission application. The counselors can learn your scores, grades, and achievements through your provided documents. So, do not mention this kind of detail in college essay.

Overuse of quotations and clichés

The college essay gives students the opportunity to present their creativity as well as the originality of ideas. Overusing quotations and clichés makes writers appear lazy and uninspired. Additionally, some quotes may be relevant to specific cultures or confuse your college essay readers. 

Avoid Fancy Formatting

Use simple font styles like Times New Roman and Arial, which are easy to read. Do not bold (other than main headings), italic, or capitalize the text. Let your words speak for themselves.

Spelling Mistakes

If you know how to write a college essay, then you must be able to identify spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Error free personal statement leaves a good impression on readers. Ask your teacher, mentor, or friend to read your college essay and catch mistakes. 

Criminal Record

Everyone admires an underdog who triumphs over adversity, but disclosing previous legal gaffes isn't the ideal approach to making a good first impression on college admissions staff. While you shouldn't sugarcoat the truth for your readers' sake, pick a college essay topic that mostly portrays you positively.

Privileged Life

Avoid topics that emphasize a wealthy lifestyle. For instance, it would not be as useful to show resilience by describing a relatively typical athletic injury as the most difficult challenge you've experienced. It also indicates a lack of knowledge about the most significant challenges people of your age group have faced.


You don't need to share everything about yourself. It's okay to be personal and share about your abilities and growth, but don't be too casual or overshare. 

Topics to Avoid in College Essays

Before brainstorming, you must know that there are many college essay topics to avoid altogether. Some topics are risky, inappropriate, and non creative. Here, we'll discuss some of the worst college essay topics.

Inappropriate Topic

Some students think that writing about an inappropriate topic will impress the admission committee, but it's not. Stay away from anything that is connected with illegal activities like alcohol, drugs, etc. Choosing this type of topic can damage your reputation and also become a great reason for your rejection.

Highly personal topics

Highly personal topics don't make a great college essay. These topics include past trauma, injuries, severe illness, etc. To completely explain these topics, the writers have to go into too much detail about these situations. If you choose highly personal topics, then you may have to handle them carefully.

Anything that involves lying

Students might think that their life stories are not good enough to tell someone, so they add fabricated elements. You should never lie about anything in your college essay. Admission counselors are very experienced, and they can easily sense insincerity. Moreover, you don't need to have a dramatic story filled with twists. Write your true self.

Confessional Subjects

If you want to share about the challenge you've faced in your high school years, do not 'be confessional.' 
You may feel guilty about something that you've done, and no one knows about it. You should not share it with the admission committee either. Instead, focus on the experience or challenge that has changed your perspective and how you tackled the challenging situation the best you could. This will show your growth and adapting abilities to change your perspective when new information is provided. 

Controversial Topics such as religion, politics, etc

Try to avoid controversial topics. The basic reason is that not everyone has the same point of view, and you may present yourself for judgment. Obviously, the admission committee will not decide on the basis of what political party you support or whether or not you attend the worship place regularly. These topics will work against you. If you target these controversial topics, it means that you're not showing why you are the right candidate but trying to convince the admission officers your views are correct. 
You should only consider writing a college essay on religious topics if you’re applying to a school where religion is a part of its culture and teaching.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why do colleges ask for college essays?

They use college essays to check the student's writing skills, personality, experiences, and self reflecting abilities. It is a great way to understand the applicant.

Q: How do you start an essay?

There is no specific trick to start a college essay. Try to grab your reader's attention by using a strong hook statement or quote relevant to your essay topic. Moreover, the first sentence of your college essay should be unique and intrigue the reader. 

Q: Why is it crucial to have an outstanding college essay?

College essay can be the deciding factor in whether you're accepted or rejected. It gives you a chance to stand out among students of similar profiles by telling a personal and unique story.

Q: How long should a college essay be?

The length of a college essay depends on the requirements of colleges. If the word count is not specified in the application instructions, we advise keeping your essay between 500 and 600 words.

Q: How can I review my college essay?

Review your essay thoroughly after completing your college essay. When you revise your essay, first check for the major issues, such as message or content. Then, check the essay flow, its tone, style, and clarity factor. Lastly, run it on Grammarly to check for grammar or punctuation errors.

Q: How should a college essay be structured?

The college essay follows a simple format, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and then a conclusion. Keep in mind that every college has a different format for their instructions. When you start writing your college essay, make sure you thoroughly read the guidelines.


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