The college essay is your chance to rise to the top of the application pile, and admissions officials want you to do well. That's why so many colleges include essay writing advice or tips on their official Web sites. Some colleges read the essays only when applicants are borderline for admission or are in close contention with other applicants. Other institutions read every single one, even when they number in the tens of thousands [source: Cohen]. On their undergraduate admissions Web pages, the Notre Dame Admissions Committee claims that they "find your Essays to be the most enjoyable part of the application reading process" [source: University of Notre Dame].
To make the most of this opportunity, once you have your essay questions, practice writing your essay(s) using the tips provided by the college or from one of the links in this article. If you're lucky, your junior and senior high school language arts teachers incorporate essay writing into the curriculum. Even with essay writing experience, it can be hard to frame a well-organized, comprehensive, thoughtful answer in 500 words or less. You might need to approach the questions from a few different perspectives before you find the right formula.
When you construct an essay that satisfies you, ask a trusted teacher to proofread and critique it. Make any changes required, and type the essay into a word processor or text editor so that you can copy and paste it onto the electronic college application. This will help prevent errors and typos that might occur if you retype the essay into the essay window when you're filling out the application form.
Finally, submit your college essay, along with any other application materials, well before the submission deadline. This shows colleges that you're serious about developing your future potential with their institution.
For lots more information on applying to college, see the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Austin, Judy. Email interview. English Department Chair, North Forsyth High School, Cumming, GA. Jan. 21, 2010.
- Boise State University. Personal communication. Admissions Information office. Jan. 19, 2010.
- Cohen, Cafi. Homeschoolers' College Admissions Handbook. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000.
- College Board. "Sample College Essay Questions." Apply to College. Essay Skills. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://www.collegeboard.com/student/apply/essay-skills/108.html
- Columbia University. "Application for First Year Admission 2009-2010." Student Affairs/Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://www.studentaffairs.columbia.edu/admissions/sites/admissions/files/webfm/firstyearapp.pdf
- Gamerman, Ellen. "Holding College Chiefs to Their Words." The Wall Street Journal: May 6, 2009. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124155688466088871.html
- Graves, David. Senior Associate Director of Admissions at University of Georgia. "Suggestions for Writing Admissions Essays." University of Georgia Undergraduate Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://www.admissions.uga.edu/article/suggestions_for_writing_admission_essays.html
- Gutmann, Amy. "College Presidents Pen Admissions Essays." The Wall Street Journal: May 6, 2009. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124155327269488613.html
- North Carolina State University. "Admissions Essay." NC State Undergraduate Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://ncstateundergradadmissions.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/ncstateundergradadmissions.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=335&p_created=1061483657&p_sid=_kjwuoSj&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPSZwX3NvcnRfYnk9JnBfZ3JpZHNvcnQ9JnBfcm93X2NudD0zNTQsMzU0JnBfcHJvZHM9JnBfY2F0cz0mcF9wdj1_YW55fiZwX2N2PX5hbnl_JnBfc2VhcmNoX3R5cGU9YW5zd2Vycy5zZWFyY2hfbmwmcF9wYWdlPTE!&p_li=&p_topview=1
- The Common Application for Undergraduate College Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Default.aspx
- The Common Application for Undergraduate College Admissions. "All Members." Member Colleges and Universities. (Jan. 19, 2010) https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Members.aspx
- University of Georgia. "2010 Application Essay Questions." University of Georgia Undergraduate Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://www.admissions.uga.edu/article/2010_application_essay_questions.html
- University of Michigan. "2010 Application for Freshman Undergraduate Admission." Office of Undergraduate Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://www.admissions.umich.edu/applying/EssayQuestions2010.pdf
- Universal College Application. "Universal College App Colleges." College Info. (Jan. 19, 2010) https://www.universalcollegeapp.com/index.cfm?ACT=Display&APP=APPONLINE&DSP=COLLEGEINFO
- University of Michigan. "Freshman Application Written Responses 2010." Office of Undergraduate Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://www.admissions.umich.edu/essay/
- University of Notre Dame. "Notre Dame Online Application and Supplementary Forms." Office of Undergraduate Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://admissions.nd.edu/admission-and-application/prospective-first-year-students/online-application
- University of Notre Dame. "Supplement to the Common Application for First Year Admission 2010." Office of Undergraduate Admissions. (Jan. 19, 2010) http://admissions.nd.edu/assets/13024/ndsupplement_201010_web.pdf
- Woolley, Mary Tipton. Email interview. Associate Director of Admissions, Georgia Institute of Technology. Jan. 21, 2010.