mikekostigen 11 min read 12th Grade, Essay Tips

How to Write Your College Essay: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

How to Write Your College Essay: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Getting ready to start your college essay? Your essay is very important to your application — especially if you’re applying to selective colleges. You should also take advantage of the following free resources:

Become a stronger writer by reviewing your peers’ essays and get your essay reviewed as well for free

We have regular livestreams during which we walk you through how to write your college essay and review essays live.

We recommend going through each of these modules, but we’ve outlined the entire guide so you can jump to the sections that make the most sense for you.

Unit 1

College Essay Basics

Just getting started on college essays? This section will guide you through how you should think about your college essays before you start.

Before you move to the next section, make sure you understand:

√ How a college essay fits into your application
√ What a strong essay does for your chances
√ How to create an application theme

Unit 2

Learn the Types of College Essays

Next, let’s make sure you understand the different types of college essays. You’ll most likely be writing a Common App or Coalition App essay, and you can also be asked to write supplemental essays for each school. Each essay has a prompt asking a specific question. Each of these prompts falls into one of a few different types. Understanding the types will help you better answer the prompt and structure your essay.

You’ll want to make sure you can :

√ Identify how each prompt fits into an essay type

√ What each type of essay is really asking of you

√ How to write each essay effectively

Unit 3

The Common App essay

Almost every student will write a Common App essay, which is why it’s important you get this right. When you finish this section you’ll understand:

√ How to choose which Common App prompts to answer

√ How to write a successful Common App essay

√ What to avoid to stand out to admissions officers

Unit 4

Supplemental Essay Guides

Many schools, especially competitive ones, will ask you to write one or more supplemental essays. This allows a school to learn more about you and how you might fit into their culture.

These essays are extremely important in standing out. We’ve written guides for all the top schools. Find your school at the link below. If you can’t find your school yet, sign up to get notified when your school’s guide is up.


Find Your School’s 2020-21 Supplemental Essay Guide


Unit 5

Essay brainstorming and composition

Now that you’re starting to write your essay, let’s dive into the writing process. Below you’ll find our top articles on the craft of writing an amazing college essay.

Before moving on, make sure you’ve done the following:

√ Brainstorm a few topics for your essays

√ Understand how to write a great hook for your essay

√ Complete the first drafts of your essay

Unit 6

Editing and polishing your essay

Have a first draft ready? See our top editing tips below. Also, you may want to submit your essay to our free Essay Peer Review to get quick feedback and join a community of other students working on their essays.


Before moving on to the final section make sure you’ve:

Proofread and edited your essay.

Had someone else look through your essay — we recommend submitting it for a peer review.

Make sure your essay meets all requirements — consider signing up for a free account to view our per-prompt checklists to help you understand when you’re really ready to submit.

Unit 7

Advanced College Essay Techniques

Let’s take it one step further and see how we can make your college essay really stand out! We recommend reading through these posts when you have a draft to work with.