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5 Tips to Improve Your College Essays

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Shane Niesen and Vinay Bhaskara in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info. 

 

What’s Covered:

 

Polish Your Work

 

As you work on your essays, constantly reread them, edit them down, and make sure they are polished. Your essays should be concise; you don’t want to spend too much time elaborating on a detail that could be said quickly. When working within rigid word counts—most essays are quite short—it is critical to make your point as succinctly as possible.

 

Include an Attention-Grabbing Introduction

 

Make sure your introductions for each essay are attention grabbing. This is often called the “hook”; basically, you want to use an interesting introduction to get admissions officers invested in your story as quickly as possible. 

 

For example, many CollegeVine YouTube videos have a “cold open,” which is a writer’s technique where you start in the middle of something rather than at the beginning. This can be an effective technique when writing college essays too. Ultimately, do what you need to do to get the admissions officer interested in what you are saying as quickly as possible. 

 

Use as Many Words as Possible

 

As you write, try to get as close to the word count as possible, which is around 200 or 250 words for most supplemental essays. Remember that your essays are the best way for admissions officers to get to know you and see who you are; any space that you leave could be a missed opportunity. 

 

If you leave 20 words where you could have said something interesting or funny or included a critical piece of your background and personality, you are missing the chance to share that side of yourself with the college that you are applying to. While writing a few words below the word count is fine, try not to leave out multiple sentences’ worth.

 

Don’t Sacrifice Writing Quality

 

These essays are being assessed for writing quality, so don’t sacrifice this aspect. Admissions officers are looking to test your ability as a writer and as a student, so your writing quality within these essays is crucial. A good example of a writing style to aspire to could be a magazine style, like The New Yorker. You want to write as cleanly as possible while also keeping your essay engaging to the reader.

 

Provide Both Fun and Serious Anecdotes

 

In your essays, try to provide a mix of fun and serious anecdotes. You want to be human in your writing rather than too rigid or formal. It is fine to use some informal language, like contractions, but ultimately, use your best judgment. Looking at magazine writing styles can be helpful for you to evaluate your essays and the tone of your writing.


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At CollegeVine, experts host weekly livestreams on college admissions topics, including application advice, essay writing tips, and college information sessions. To register or check out more livestreams, visit www.collegevine.com/livestreams.