The College Essay

When you sit down to write your application essays, there is very little left that you can control. You should have already taken, or retaken, the SAT and ACT, your grades from your first three years of high school are set on your transcript, and your recommenders all have their impressions of you that are unlikely to change before the recommendation deadline. The only thing that left in your control is your writing for the application essay.

As with all things related to your college application, you will need to start drafting your application essay far ahead of the due date. In fact, you should move each school’s deadline up two weeks so that no unexpected events prevent you from completing and submitting your application. The reason that you need so much time to work on your essay is primarily because many schools will ask you to write about similar topics, but to do so in different ways. You will need enough time to draft essays that address each of these questions or prompts for each school to which you are applying. (Citation PWL)

College Essay Tweet

To start, let’s work on keeping things short and simple.  We are going to utilize the popular app Twitter.  In the rare case you have never heard of Twitter or “Tweets” let me give you a quick explanation.  Twitter is a social media platform that allows users to send out thoughts in a condensed form.  It only allows 140 characters.  A character is any space used, so that means a letter, punctuation mark, emoji ☺, hashtag #, and even a space used between letters counts as a character.That being said, I want you to respond to the question in the form of a Tweet.  Use the chart above to help you count each character.  When you’re done, please write your tweet in the corresponding Padlet below so it is more easily readable.


Explain a significant event, an experience, achievement, risk, or dilemma you’ve had to face in your life that has made an impact on who you are.  Try to include what you learned or how you grew in your Tweet as well.

Made with Padlet

Made with Padlet

Made with Padlet

The Common App

We are going to work on setting up your Common App account. This is where you will be able to submit your college essay. The Common App is an undergraduate college admission application that applicants may use to apply to any of more than 800 member colleges and universities in 49 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in Canada, China, Japan, and many European countries.

Preparing For The Essay.

Now that you have your initial list, you can start to work through and narrow down you ideas. The following presentation will explain the college essays, what each one is asking you to look write about, and how to start to tackle them. Please watch the presentation to help you begin your essay.

College Essay Samples

Read over the packet of sample essays to get an idea of what a college essay may look like. Again, some things you should notice when reading:

  1. The essays are not long, rambling thoughts. They are short and focused.
  2. The authors do not spend a lot of time discussing grades, school work, etc. Colleges already have that information from your transcripts.
  3. The essays try to focus on a moment in the student’s life that expresses or illustrates their character, growth, or something about them that colleges would want in a prospective student.
  4. The authors include dialogue to bring themselves to life. Admissions are able to get a sense of who the student is.
  5. While not a typical 5 paragraph essay, the samples have a distinct beginning/middle/end. Your essay should also have this unity.
  6. Humor, while not a necessary element of your essay, the authors are able to lighten the tone of their essays at time. Careful you do not let your essay turn into a boring list of your achievements and grades. Again, this information is already given in your transcripts.
  7. Lastly, these samples show a picture of each student that goes beyond the information on their transcripts. You want to build a similar picture in your essay.

Possible Prompts To Consider

Beginning To Draft Your Essay

Before you begin, you want to think of your college essay not as a 5 paragraph essay. Instead, think of it as a story you are going to tell someone so they have a clear picture of what makes you special. While you can mention your school grades or achievements, your focus should be on painting a picture of yourself outside the classroom and illustrating positive qualities that attract colleges.

Again, look back at your brainstorming papers and see what things in your life stick out to you as being significant and how they have helped you grow. You life has a story, it just needs to be told.

Finally, there is one pitfall I want you to avoid when drafting your paper. There is a place for telling stories about you troubles and the tough things you have overcome. However, you want to be careful not to focus on problems that come across as trite (I didn’t get an A on a test or you failed to get front row tickets) or choose problems that show poor judgement (you crashed your car texting or started a food fight in school). Don’t focus on the problem as much as focusing on your ability to overcome it and learn.