How to Prepare for Your College Application Essay

Marilyn Gardner, Lawyer
3 min readNov 14, 2023

Embarking on the journey to higher education requires careful consideration and meticulous preparation, especially when it comes to the pivotal element of your college application: the essay. Crafting a compelling and authentic college application essay is crucial in presenting yourself to admissions committees. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to prepare for this significant undertaking.

1. Understand the Prompt

Before diving into the writing process, thoroughly understand the essay prompt provided by the college. Analyze the prompt’s key components, identify the question, and consider how your experiences and perspectives align. This foundational understanding will guide your essay’s focus and ensure relevance.

2. Brainstorm Ideas

Begin by brainstorming potential topics and themes that resonate with your personal experiences, values, and aspirations. Reflect on meaningful moments, challenges overcome, or instances that have shaped your identity. Choose a topic that allows you to showcase your uniqueness and connect with the college’s values.

3. Develop a Strong Thesis Statement

Craft a concise and compelling thesis statement that encapsulates the central message of your essay. This statement should convey a clear purpose, capturing what the admissions committee wants to know about you. The thesis will serve as the guiding thread throughout your essay.

4. Create a Structured Outline

Organize your thoughts and ideas into a well-structured outline. Ensure that your essay follows a logical progression, with a captivating introduction, body paragraphs that support your thesis, and a conclusion that leaves a lasting impression. This structure enhances the readability and impact of your essay.

5. Infuse Authenticity and Vulnerability

Admissions committees value authenticity . Be genuine and allow your unique voice to shine through your writing. Share personal stories that reveal your character, values, and growth. Don’t shy away from vulnerability; admissions officers appreciate students who honestly reflect on their experiences.

6. Show, Don’t Just Tell

Instead of listing achievements, demonstrate how your experiences have shaped you. Use vivid and descriptive language to create a narrative that engages the reader. Provide specific examples that illustrate your qualities and emphasize these experiences’ impact on your life.

7. Seek Feedback

After drafting your essay, seek teacher, peer, or mentor feedback. Constructive feedback can offer valuable insights, helping you refine your writing and address any areas needing improvement. Be open to constructive criticism to enhance the overall quality of your essay.

8. Revise and Edit

Revision is a crucial step in the writing process. Review your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammar. Ensure that each sentence serves a purpose and contributes to the overall narrative. Pay attention to word choice, eliminating unnecessary jargon or clichés.

9. Pay Attention to Word Limits

Adhere to any word limits specified by the college. Concisely convey your message within the prescribed parameters. Admissions officers appreciate students who can express themselves effectively within given constraints.

10. Final Proofread

Before submitting your essay, conduct a final proofread to catch any lingering typos or grammatical errors. Consider seeking the input of someone with a fresh perspective to ensure your essay is polished and ready for submission.

By following these steps, you can confidently approach your college application essay, presenting a compelling narrative that sets you apart and resonates with admissions committees. Remember, the essay is an opportunity to showcase your authentic self and demonstrate how you will contribute to the vibrant college community.

Originally published at