When a student applies to college, in many cases an essay will be required as part of the admissions application. The essay gives the applicant an opportunity to show the admissions committee who they are and to provide additional information about themselves that did not fit into other areas of the application. The essay can also reveal your talent for writing, thus students should take the essay very seriously. The number one piece of advice from admission officers about your essay is “Be yourself.” The number two suggestion is “Start early.”

Students should share their personal story and thoughts, take a creative approach and highlight areas that are not already covered in other parts of the application. The essay gives the applicant an opportunity to share their own story, in their own voice, and explain to the admissions committee why they are a good fit for the college. Focus on one aspect of yourself so the readers can learn more about who you are. Remember that the readers must be able to find your main idea and follow it from beginning to end so take the time to write a well organized essay.

Be sure to use your own voice! What does that mean?  Don’t rely on phrases or ideas that people have used many times before and avoid overly formal or business-like language. Write in your own words. For example, you could write about a real experience that you had and how it made you feel and how you acted. Essays should be polished and grammatically correct so be sure to proof your essay carefully AND have at least two other people read and proof your essay as well.

Please see the SAMPLE ESSAY QUESTIONS which are taken from the 2016-17 Common Application and listed below as a reference:

The essay prompts from the 2016-17 Common Application are as follows:

  •  Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.


  • The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?


  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?


  • Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.


  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Practice – Practice – Practice! The more you right and the more you edit the more polished your college essay will become.

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