10 Tips for Getting Started on the College Essay

As we approach the end of the school year, this is a great time for juniors to start working on their personal statements for college admissions. By taking advantage of extra time now to work through multiple drafts of their essay, they can better ensure their essay is the best it can be. Strong essays can definitely boost a student’s chances of admission.
And if you get stuck on the essay, International College Counselors offers personalized guidance for students who only need help with essays. Contact us at ICC.


The “personal statement” is the main application essay; almost every college requires students to write a personal statement. On the Common Application, the maximum word count for this essay is 650. Many students start their essay writing by tackling the Common App personal statement, since this application platform is used by more colleges and universities than any other. With this in mind, we will start with how to write this essay.


1. Consider the Purpose of the Essay. The personal statement helps a college separate applicants. Done well, it tells the college why one student should be accepted over another who has similar grades and test scores. The goal, then, is to use the essay to position the student as someone who will contribute something of value to the school.


2. Review the Common App Prompts. There are seven Common App essay prompts to choose from. They’re broad, open-ended questions designed to encourage reflection and writing. There’s a question for everyone, as the last one is, “Share an essay on any topic of your choice.”


3. Pick a College Essay Topic. Students should read through the topics carefully, then choose the question which will allow them to reveal something personal and positive about themselves, such as their thinking, their values, their strengths, or their diverse background.


4. Narrow the Focus. Everything can’t fit into the essay, so students shouldn’t try. This is not an autobiography. Narrow the focus to a specific experience, interest, or activity. Then aim to tell college admissions officers something they won’t already know. The personal statement should add something about you to your application that isn’t obvious somewhere else.


5. Write and Keep Writing. Students should use whatever writing process works for them, disregarding word limits on the first draft.


6. Start with a Hook. The essay’s opening should grab the reader’s attention.


7. Show, Don’t Tell. Admissions representatives want to see that what is claimed in the essay really happened. Students should demonstrate, with examples and/or anecdotes, that what they say about themselves in the essay is authentic.


8. Revise and Edit. Get the essay down to the word limit and then show it to other people. These other people might include parents, teachers, and counselors. Families should also consider working with an experienced college consultant with proofreading experience and knowledge on the admissions process to provide feedback. Nothing should confuse the reader, and the information should have no gaps.


9. Proofread. Check and double-check.


10. Start Early So You Can Submit On Time. In addition to the personal statement, a number of colleges ask applicants to submit one or more supplemental writing samples. These essays often ask students to explain why they are interested in that particular school or to describe a community of which they are a part. The prompts for these essays are released over the summer months, so getting the personal statement done now will give students more time to work on the supplemental essays later. College application deadlines can be as early as October 15 for students applying for Early Decision or Early Action. By starting your essays early, students will be better prepared to submit on time with less stress.


International College Counselors strives to be a strong resource and partner for your family.  Even in these unprecedented times, we can enable your student to reach their fullest potential in the college admissions journey.  We’re here to help.


For help with any or all parts of the college admissions process or college application, visit www.internationalcollegecounselors.com or call 1-954-414-9986.  
About International College Counselors
International College Counselors works with students from all over the world to help them reach their college and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, the expert college advisors create an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, weaknesses, and passions. The holistic process helps families of middle school, high school, and college-aged students alleviate stress, avoid confusion, and get results.
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