How to Ace the College Essays


This time of the year, some seniors are struggling with what seems to be the most difficult part of the college application: the essay. This is their opportunity to impress universities and convince them of their qualifications. But are they successful?

“In their first attempts or drafts, students tend to just list their accomplishments, tell about something they did, or use vague generalities or clichés like ‘I’m a hard worker,’” AP Literature teacher Leah Howard said.

The first priority should be focusing on what seniors want to say to colleges and what sets them apart from others. Both teachers agree that students start out with vague accounts which don’t represent a students’ individuality.

The main issue is that students approach the essay in a way which lacks originality and fails to set them apart from other applicants.

“Although I am not on a college admissions committee, I would look for students whose essay stands out not only in the way it was written, but on the topic of the essay.” AP Language teacher Michelle Frye said.

“You don’t have to be “Mother Theresa” to write a good essay, meaning you don’t have to save the world. Just be you. What makes you a unique person? A good student? You want to portray yourself honestly, but also as someone who is open to new environments, people and learning experiences,” Howard said. 

Worrying about meeting college expectations can interfere with the quality of the essays. The best approach is to be sincere and honest in a way which best represents students for who they are. Students shouldn’t give colleges what they want, they should give them an accurate representation of themselves.

“You want your essay to be uniquely YOU. Write it such that no one else could have written it or told the same story,” Howard said.