College Application Essay Ideas & Writing Tips

Writing a college application essayis often the most stressful part of applying to college, as it requires applicants to develop a new way of thinking and writing. The good news is that there is no shortage of resources on how to prepare for and write these types of essays.

This article will highlight some of the ways you can successfully write your college application essay.

How long is a college application essay?

Typically, a college application essay lengthis often around five hundred words. These 500 words will determine whether you get into your chosen institution or not.

The most popularly used Common App personal statement has a college application word limitof 650 words.

Writing your college application

Before writing your college application essay, you should have a college application checklistThis checklist provides details you must include in your application, some of which include:

  • Information about yourself and family
  • Your GPA
  • Standardized test scores
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Awards and certifications earned in high school

To begin your application essay, start by:

1. Brainstorming

Brainstorming is the first step to writing an essay. You need a good idea of what you want to write about before starting, and brainstorming is the best way to do this.

You can either brainstorm by yourself or with friends, but for most people, it is easier and more fun when they have someone else involved in the process. If you have time on your hands before applying for college, brainstorming various college application essay ideasover coffee with friends might be a great way of getting started.

2. Organizing your ideas

The main purpose of your essay is to convince the admissions committee that you are a good fit for their school. To do this, you must organize your ideas in such a way that they can be easily understood by readers. The most common form of organization is called “the 5-paragraph essay” or inverted pyramid style. This means that each paragraph follows one idea from which it draws its topic sentence and conclusion.

3. Considering your audience

The next step to writing a college application essay is considering your audience. Who will read it? What do they want to know? What do they expect? What do they not want to see?

The answer to these questions should help shape the rest of your essay and guide your ideas for strong content and presentation. For example, if a student is applying for admission into an engineering program at MIT and wants an opportunity for hands-on mentoring in his area of interest (computer science), then he needs something specific that shows how he would benefit from being part of such an institution. 

4. Outlining your essay

A college application essay outline summarizes your essay and provides an overview of what you will be writing about. 

It is important to ensure that your introductory paragraph conveys who you are as a writer and why you are applying to said college; this will help convince admission officers. Your thesis statement should also be included in your outline. When done correctly, your thesis statement grabs the reader’s attention.

5. Focusing on the topic

When writing an essay topic for college application, it is important to focus on the topic. You should not try to cover too much ground in one essay. It is better to have a few good ideas that you can develop further, rather than having an overwhelming number of poorly thought-out ideas that do not make sense together.

It is also good practice for students who are unsure about what they want to write about because this allows them time for reflection. Focusing on the topic will help keep things focused and organized. You should also avoid writing anything too generic or clichéd.

6. Edit your essay for errors and inconsistencies

It is important to edit your essay for errors and inconsistencies. Use a spell checker, and make sure you have a consistent voice throughout the essay. Avoid grammatical errors and make sure that there are no punctuation mistakes in your draft.


Now that you know the basics of how to write a college application essay, take some time to think about what makes you unique and why you would be a great fit for this particular school. Remember that admissions officers are looking for more than just a great story; they want to see evidence of how you think, act and feel. 

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