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:
Peer Essay Review

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

Essay Livestreams

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

Unit Guide

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.

  1. Why do essays matter in the college application process?
  2. What is a college application theme and how do you come up with one?
  3. How to format and structure your college essay
Checklist

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.

Personal Statement The Extracurricular Essay The Diversity Essay The Community Service Essay The “Why This Major” Essay The “Why This College” Essay The “Overcoming Challenges” Essay
Checklist

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

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.

  1. How to Write the Common App Essay For 2020-2021
  2. Successful Common App Essay Examples
  3. 5 Awesome College Essay Topics + Sample Essays
  4. 11 Cliché College Essay Topics + How to Fix Them
Checklist

Before you move to the next section, make sure you 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. Follow the link below to find your school and read last year’s essay guides to give you a sense of the essay prompts. We’ll update these in August when schools release their prompts.

See last year’s supplemental essay guides to get a sense of the prompts for your schools.

To get notified when the new ones are up, just enter your email below:


Checklist

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

How a college essay fits into your application

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.

  1. 11 Tips for Proofreading and Editing Your College Essay
  2. Getting Help with Your College Essay
  3. 5 DIY Tips for Editing Your College Essay
  4. How Long Should Your College Essay Be?
  5. Essential Grammar Rules for Your College Apps
  6. College Essay Checklist: Are You Ready to Submit?
Checklist

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

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.

  1. 10 Guidelines for Highly Readable College Essays
  2. How to Use Literary Devices to Enhance Your Essay
  3. How to Develop a Personalized Metaphor for Your College Applications
  4. How to Use Literary Devices to Enhance Your Essay

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