How to Write a College Application Essay

September 16, 2022

Choosing a Topic

One of the most critical steps in writing a college application essay is selecting the right topic. Your essay should provide a glimpse into your personality, experiences, and aspirations. To choose a compelling topic, start by reflecting on your life experiences, passions, and challenges you have overcome. Consider the aspects of your identity that make you unique and think about how they connect to your future goals and aspirations. Brainstorm a list of potential topics and explore the emotions and memories attached to each one. It’s important to choose a topic that genuinely interests you and allows you to showcase your values and strengths. Remember, the goal is to stand out from other applicants and leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

Example College Application Essay Topics

  1. Overcoming a personal challenge that has shaped your character.
  2. Exploring the impact of volunteer work on your perspective.
  3. Reflecting on a meaningful cultural experience that broadened your horizons.
  4. Discussing a passion or hobby that has driven personal growth.
  5. Describing a mentor or role model who has greatly influenced you.
  6. Discussing a failure or setback and what you learned from it.
  7. Reflecting on the importance of diversity and inclusivity in your life.
  8. Exploring the significance of a book, poem, or piece of art in your development.
  9. Discussing your career goals and how the college you are applying to can help you achieve them.
  10. Reflecting on a significant life event and how it has shaped your aspirations.

Developing an Outline for Your College Application Essay

Writing a college application essay can be a daunting task. However, by breaking it down into smaller, manageable sections, you can ease the process and ensure a well-structured and compelling essay. Here is a step-by-step guide to developing an outline for your college application essay:


  • Capture the reader’s attention with a compelling opening statement or anecdote.
  • Clearly state your purpose for writing the essay.

Background and Personal Story

  • Provide relevant background information about yourself, such as your interests, experiences, or values.
  • Share a personal story that showcases your character and highlights your uniqueness.

Academic and Career Goals

  • Discuss your academic aspirations and how they align with the college’s program.
  • Explain how your chosen field of study connects with your future career goals.

Challenges and Overcoming Adversity

  • Share any challenges or obstacles you have faced and how you overcame them.
  • Emphasize personal growth and resilience gained from these experiences.

Extracurricular Activities and Leadership Roles

  • Highlight your involvement in extracurricular activities and leadership positions.
  • Showcase how these experiences have shaped your character and skills.


  • Summarize your main points and reinforce your commitment and enthusiasm for the college.
  • End on a positive and optimistic note.

By following this outline, you can organize your thoughts and ideas effectively, making the essay writing process smoother and ensuring that your college application essay stands out from the rest.

Crafting a Strong Introduction for Your College Application Essay

The introduction is your chance to make a strong first impression on the admissions committee. It’s important to grab their attention and set the tone for your entire essay. Here are some tips on how to craft a compelling introduction:

Start with a Hook:

  • Begin with a captivating opening line that immediately grabs the reader’s attention.
  • Use a powerful quote, interesting statistic, or a thought-provoking question to engage the reader.

Set the Context:

  • Provide some background information about yourself or the topic you will be discussing.
  • Briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to this particular college or university.

Share Your Purpose:

  • Clearly state the purpose of your essay, whether it is to showcase your unique personality, demonstrate your academic abilities, or express your passion for a specific field of study.

Preview Your Main Points:

  • Give a brief overview of the main points or themes you will be discussing in the essay.
  • This helps the reader understand what to expect and creates a sense of structure.

Show Your Enthusiasm:

  • Convey your genuine excitement and enthusiasm for the college and the opportunity to study there.
  • Demonstrate your willingness to contribute to the campus community and make a difference.

Remember, your introduction sets the stage for the rest of your essay. By following these tips, you can hook the reader from the start and ensure they are eager to read the rest of your college application essay.

Background and Personal Story

When it comes to college applications, one of the most crucial aspects is the personal essay. This is an opportunity for applicants to showcase their unique background and personal story to the admissions committee. The essay serves as a platform for students to delve deeper into their experiences, goals, and aspirations that make them stand out from the rest of the pool.

For many students, writing a college application essay can be intimidating, but it’s important to remember that this is an opportunity to share who you are beyond your academic achievements. Your background and personal story can include experiences that have shaped you, challenges you have overcome, or moments that have had a significant impact on your life.

Academic and Career Goals

In the college application essay, it is crucial to articulate your academic and career goals. This section allows you to demonstrate your clarity of purpose and your motivation for pursuing higher education. Admissions committees want to understand how attending their institution aligns with your aspirations and how you plan to leverage your education in the future. Here are some key points to consider while discussing your academic and career goals:

  • Clarity: Clearly state your intended major or field of study. Explain why you are drawn to this area and how it aligns with your skills, interests, and long-term objectives.
  • Specificity: Be specific about the knowledge and skills you hope to gain during your college years. Describe the courses, research opportunities, or internships that excite you and how they will contribute to your academic growth.
  • Career aspirations: Share your career goals and how a college education will help you in achieving them. Discuss the industry or profession you intend to pursue and explain how your chosen major prepares you for success in that field.
  • Connection to the college: Explain why the specific college or university is an ideal place for you to pursue your academic and career goals. Highlight any unique programs, resources, or faculty that align with your aspirations.

By clearly articulating your academic and career goals, you can demonstrate your focus, ambition, and potential to contribute to the college community and beyond.

Challenges and Overcoming Adversity

In your college application essay, discussing the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them can provide valuable insights into your character, resilience, and ability to grow. Admissions committees are interested in understanding how you handle adversity and setbacks, as these experiences often shape individuals and their perspectives. Here are some points to consider while describing challenges and overcoming adversity:

  • Identify the challenge: Clearly explain the specific challenge or adversity you encountered. This could be a personal struggle, an academic setback, a family hardship, or any other obstacle that has had a significant impact on your life.
  • Reflect on the impact: Discuss how the challenge affected you emotionally, mentally, or academically. Share any lessons learned, personal growth, or newfound perspectives that arose from the experience.
  • Highlight resilience and determination: Emphasize the steps you took to overcome the challenge. Did you seek support or assistance? Did you develop new strategies or skills? Describe the actions you took to move forward and overcome the adversity.
  • Showcase personal growth: Explain how overcoming the challenge has shaped you as an individual. Discuss how it has influenced your outlook, values, or goals. Highlight any positive changes or qualities that have emerged from the experience.

By discussing challenges and how you have overcome them, you can demonstrate your ability to persevere, adapt, and thrive in the face of adversity, painting a fuller picture of who you are as a candidate.

Extracurricular Activities and Leadership Roles

Extracurricular activities and leadership roles are an essential aspect of your college application essay. They not only demonstrate your interests and passions outside the classroom but also highlight your ability to take initiative, collaborate with others, and make a positive impact. Here are some key points to consider when discussing your extracurricular activities and leadership roles:

  1. Diversity of involvement: Highlight a range of activities that showcase your varied interests and talents. This could include participation in sports, arts, community service, clubs, or student government.
  2. Leadership experiences: Describe any leadership roles you have held within these extracurricular activities. Show how you provided guidance, motivated others, and achieved goals as a leader.
  3. Impact and accomplishments: Discuss the impact you made within your chosen activities. Highlight any notable projects, achievements, or initiatives that you spearheaded or contributed to.
  4. Connection to your academic goals: Explain how your extracurricular activities align with your academic interests and future aspirations. Discuss how these experiences have helped shape your character, skills, or career goals.
  5. Lessons learned: Reflect on the lessons, values, and skills you have acquired through your involvement. Discuss how these experiences have helped develop your character, resilience, teamwork, and communication abilities.

By showcasing your involvement in extracurricular activities and leadership roles, you demonstrate your commitment, passion, and ability to make a difference in both the college community and beyond.

Writing a Conclusion

The conclusion of your college application essay is your final opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee. This is your chance to reflect on your overall message and reinforce the key points you have made throughout your essay. Here are some helpful tips for writing a strong conclusion:

  1. Summarize your main points: Briefly recapitulate the main ideas you have discussed in your essay. Remind the reader of your background, personal story, academic and career goals, challenges overcome, and extracurricular activities.
  2. Tie it all together: Connect the different aspects of your essay to show the coherence and unity of your narrative. Demonstrate how your background and experiences have shaped your aspirations, and how your goals align with the college and its resources.
  3. Leave a lasting impression: End with a powerful and memorable statement. Consider using a thought-provoking quote, a call to action, or an optimistic outlook for the future. This will help leave a strong impression on the admissions committee.
  4. Show gratitude: Express gratitude for the opportunity to apply to the college or university. Thank the reader for their time and consideration, acknowledging the importance of the admission process.

Remember, the conclusion should leave the reader with a sense of understanding and a clear image of who you are as a person and a potential member of their academic community.

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