college essay

writing an essay in college is very different from writing an essay in high school. personally, i write more research/history papers than literary essays (the liberal arts life and curse), so this is going to be a post on how a general research-y essay that has a thesis and arguments. 


  • don’t open with a quote and don’t be overly broad. 
  • avoid generalizations 
  • your intro should address the topic of your essay (ex. the significance of gardens in renaissance society), and then narrow down to what you want to talk about in regards to your topic (ex. the political influence of the Medici gardens during the renaissance)
  • thesis! it should include the argument you want to make about the narrowed down topic, and three (or however many your class requires) reasons to support it. I like to think of it as W = X + Y + Z. 
  • your thesis explains who, what and why in a concise manner. 


  • topic sentences should not be a word for word copy of your thesis.
  • the order of arguments in your thesis is the order of your paragraphs 
  • depending on the length of your essay, there should be at least two justifications to your argument. 
  • so, just as the intro has a formula, X = A + B, and so forth. 
  • A and B should be backed up with some sources/quotes. don’t forget that if you are quoting from class notes to put either the prof’s last name, or (class notes)
  • be sure to have clear and concise arguments, don’t be flowery
  • USE WORDS THAT ARE ACCURATE. thesaurus is great but if you use a word that sounds cool but doesn’t capture the meaning you want to convey then don’t use it, because it may just change the meaning of your argument
  • quote whatever isn’t yours. it is completely fine if 90% of your sentences are quotes. its weird to get used to, but don’t worry about it. 


  • the worst part in my opinion. 
  • synthesize don’t summarize. show how your arguments relate back to the thesis.
  • try not to copy paste your thesis into the conclusion, word it so that the readers understands that through XYZ, you were able to conclude and support argument W (referring back to the thesis formula)
  • do not add any new information, do not add quotes. 
  • your final sentence should tie up the essay in a pretty bow, but try to avoid clichés 


  • when writing the body paragraphs, your ‘weakest’ paragraph should be in the middle, strongest as your last, and the second best as your first.
  • if you’re stumped on the intro, skip it. write out the body first, then the intro and you’ll be able to concisely word your thesis
  • think of your essay as an infomercial. your intro is the loud and clear HERES MY PRODUCT, the body is blasting information on why the product is so cool, and the conclusion is the final push for the viewer to buy that product. make your teacher want to agree with your thesis! 
  • use a mix of paraphrase and quotes!
  • don’t forget your works cited lmao (the MLA Handbook is a gr8 tool, also OWL Purdue)
  • prime time for essay writing is in the morning or at night, but make sure you edit it meticulously 

stay humble, study hard 


Yo peeps, so as you can probably tell, I’m about to blow your mind. You might want to sit down, grab some water, you know, keep yourself hydrated. Maybe do a few stretches.

Now that you’re all ready, let’s begin! A girl who wrote about hotdogs and Costco got into Stanford and most Ivy League Schools, a student who wrote about his love for food got into Stanford, while Cornell’s admissions officer’s favorite essays were about lint and failing the driver’s test four times. Observing a pattern here? All these people chose kind of silly topics to write about. You might be wondering, “Yo,why would I want to sound stupid in front of the admissions officer, this doesn’t make sense!” . Well, that’s a valid argument. Now read this excerpt from one of the essays I mentioned above.

“While enjoying an obligatory hot dog, I did not find myself thinking about the ‘all beef’ goodness that Costco boasted. I instead considered finitudes and infinitudes, unimagined uses for tubs of sour cream, the projectile motion of said tub when launched from an eighty foot shelf or maybe when pushed from a speedy cart by a scrawny seventeen year old. I contemplated the philosophical: If there exists a thirty-­three ounce jar of Nutella, do we really have free will? I experienced a harsh physics lesson while observing a shopper who had no evident familiarity of inertia’s workings. With a cart filled to overflowing, she made her way towards the sloped exit, continuing to push and push while steadily losing control until the cart escaped her and went crashing into a concrete column, 52” plasma screen TV and all. Purchasing the yuletide hickory smoked ham inevitably led to a conversation between my father and me about Andrew Jackson’s controversiality"

Yes, yes, she’s literally talking about hot dogs and Costco. Now don’t underestimate her, this girl got accepted to 5 Ivy League Schools and Stanford. Jeez, that’s impressive. So now, you might be thinking , “Okay, enough of this, just get to the juicy part, give us the magic potion!” . Luckily enough for you, I’m getting to the point.

If you want to write an essay that slays everyone else’s like Beyoncé, first you gotta be true to yourself. You’re 17 or 18, you don’t want to end poverty or save the world. Maybe you enjoy pepperoni pizza, maybe you love watching horror films, maybe you love shopping at Macy’s, whatever it is, write about it.

The key is to choose a seemingly silly topic and present it in an intellectual light. Your ability to turn something silly into something genius will impress them and make you more memorable. In order to do that, you need to have a lot of knowledge about the topic you chose, which is why you need to be true to yourself. But then again, don’t write a pointless essay, don’t tell the officers that you can stuff 20 cheese balls in your mouth. Although I think it’s impressive, the admissions officer will beg to differ.

So there’s the secret formula to write a winning essay. Best of luck and I hope you get into your dream school!

Diyanshu Emandi

The Essays that got me into Berkeley: Part 1

PROMPT: Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.
Sitting on my desk in front of me are seven battered Moleskine softcover sketchbooks, each one representing six months of my life in collage, graphs, personal anecdotes, ticket stubs, and thousands of sketches representing thousands of reality-tv obsessions, seasonal decorations, and countless profiles of strangers that I’ve seen in cafes and on trains in the last three years. Not only can I trace my artistic development since my freshmen year, these notebooks also serve as a personal roadmap, tracing the backstory of one [my full name]. Take, for example, sketchbook #7. There is a sticker for a coffee shop in Spokane, Washington affixed to the front and a map of Tahiti’s main island taped to the back. This journal starts in the June before Senior year, continuing on until this very moment. That particular summer was especially tumultuous, with a then undiagnosed mental illness coloring my artwork in chaotic shades of panic, my writing dripping with despair that stumbled into unbridled rage that freefell into hopelessness, leaving me shattered at the bottom of a dismal pit. Really, cheery stuff. But as green watercolor blobs accompanied by white charcoal capsules cut with element number three waltz out of their clear orange bottles and across this depiction of my subconscious, hope emerges. On a slightly less bleak note, #2 contains some portrayal of Jared Padalecki, my favorite actor when I was fifteen, for every day of the year. I was utterly obsessed, given over losing myself in a pop culture oblivion. #4 has more than its fair share of raunchy fanfiction involving Oscar Wilde and Robert Baldwin Ross. My favorite part of #6 is a massive two-page spread that traces the entirety of geological time from the Early Cambrian to the Holocene. Each one is a quantifiable reflection of the hundreds of different people that I have been in the last four years.

anonymous asked:

Hello, do you have any tips on how to write a personal essay for college/scholarships? Im so stumped on it :-\

Hello sweets :)

I do have some resources and tips for you!

Personal essay tips-

Tips for scholarship essays-

Templates and examples-

Helpful Ideas-

Hope this helps! :) Please let me know if you ever need some more help, advice, support or would just like to talk. I’m always here and only an ask away. Take care and don’t forget to smile!! :)

writing the "why x university?" prompt

for their supplemental writings, a lot of schools have a similar question that always boils down to “why do you want to attend our university?” all the tips i’m going to spell out here are things i’ve heard from various college counselors.

colleges ask this for a simple reason: they receive a SHITLOAD of applications. when they’re trying to decide who to admit, they want to pick people who are actually likely to attend the university if accepted. this question allows colleges to try and figure out if they are your first choice school or not.

what you want to do here, ideally, is game the system and convince EVERY school you’re applying to that they are your first choice. it requires a bit of extra work and a lot of extra googling and research, but if you weren’t willing to do that, i’m sure you wouldn’t have read this far in my post lol

a lot of people write the same essay for every school that asks this question. then, they just change the name of the school and send it off. they usually mention something vague about liking the “location”, “atmosphere”, “people”, “spirit”, etc. an essay like this communicates to an admissions officer that you don’t particularly care about their school. it’s not your first pick. you haven’t thought particularly hard about the decision to apply here.

you want your essay to make you stand out, so even if this school isn’t your first choice, pretend that it is. you can use the same basic framework for every one of these essays, but write them so that they couldn’t possibly apply to another school.

it’s time to namedrop. mention specific professors and classes that interest you within your major. explain that their program is the best program for you, and give reasons. cite facts and statistics. reference specific things about the school’s location (not just “it’s pretty”) and specific school traditions you want to take part in. things like this really convince a school that you care about attending their institution in particular, and you’re not just throwing their name in at the end of filling out your common app or whatever.

i hope you find this post helpful! if you did, consider following me, because i’ll be posting more appblr content in the coming months as i apply myself. feel free to message me if you have any questions.

anonymous asked:

do you have any quick tips for making your essay really stand out?

Write using some combination of:

  • powerful imagery
  • a new take on an old idea
  • an uncommon perspective
  • a non-standard format
  • well-metered writing
  • a persistent narrative timeline
  • subtle motifs
  • brutal honesty and vulnerability
  • a magnificent depiction of a common entity
  • a denial of expectation
  • a clear authorial voice (MUST HAVE)
  • well-placed sarcasm

You can write a powerful essay about pretty much anything using ^^^^^^^this shit right here^^^^^^^

Here’s another one! Threw this together with some tips that my dad gave me when I was writing my Common App essay. I know it’s a bit repetitive about “tell your story” but according to dad (who was on the admissions board for graduate school) it’s crucial that you convey your message in a way that’s both not-boring and informative. Anyway, if you want clarification, feel free to message me! As always, please don’t take credit for this or steal it because I literally spent forever on this.

PS if you want to see how exactly I made this, keep an eye out for a surprise (it’s a video)! I’m going to start editing the video now so hopefully I’ll have it up within the next hour :)

My college essay writing process

If anyone’s interested here’s what I do.
1. Look at the prompt
1a. Check if there’s any overlap with previous prompts I’ve written to before: this could mean reusing parts of or whole essays
2. If it’s a fresh prompt you gotta be a big girl. Free write. Don’t be afraid of rambling just let out all of your emotions and ideas in sentence form. Don’t pay attention to the word limit or cohesiveness just go for it.
3. At this point, you’ve probably hit writers block since all your frustration is out. Good. Now go to or whatever to see how much bs you’ve written and how much over or under you are of the limit. If you’re under, okay you have space to write more if you want. If over, time to cut it down a bit.
4. Look for any patterns or possible cohesiveness in your essay. See what ideas you can link together and which ones you can take out that are too weak, or offensive, or you just don’t like them or don’t relate to the prompt.
5. Move stuff around. Put like ideas together. Try to have some sort of order to the ideas like a flow.
6. Fix your grammar.
7. Look for an intro body and conclusion to your essay. If there isn’t throw it in.
8. Read it out loud. Does it sound strong and powerful? Does your author’s voice shine through? How do you know? Paste it to Hemingway. Do most of what Hemingway tells you; lose adverbs, more active verbs, less passive voice.
9. Send it to your guidance counselor and ask them to read it and give feedback.
10. Take feedback and fix it.
Try to get the released essays done over the summer. I hope yall get into wherever you’re applying! Let me know if this was helpful.

Six Techniques for Writing Your 150-Word Extracurricular Essay

If you’re applying early action, you’re probably working on one (or several) short extracurricular statements. First, a quick FAQ:

Q: Why do so many schools ask for these?
A: The Common App used to require students that students write a 1,000 character (approx. 150-word) extracurricular statement. When in 2013 the Common App dropped the requirement, many colleges kept it as a supplement.

Q: Do I really have to write it?
A: When students ask me this my usual response is: “Really? You’d rather not talk about that thing you’ve devoted hundreds of hours of your life to? Okay, good idea.” (I’m not actually that sarcastic, but that’s what I’m thinking.)

Q: Which extracurricular activity should I write about?
A: I write about that here.

Q: What should I say? How should I structure it?
A: Keep it simple.

    a. What did you literally do? What were your actual tasks?
    b. What did you learn?

With 150 words, there’s not a lot of room for much more. And while your main statement is more “show” than “tell,” this one will probably be more “tell.” Value content and information over style.

Here’s a great example:

Example 1: Journalism

VIOLENCE IN EGYPT ESCALATES. FINANCIAL CRISIS LEAVES EUROPE IN TURMOIL. My quest to become a journalist began by writing for the international column of my school newspaper, The Log. My specialty is international affairs; I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community. Late-night editing, researching and re-writing is customary, but seeing my articles in print makes it all worthwhile. I’m the editor for this section, responsible for brainstorming ideas and catching mistakes. Each spell-check I make, each sentence I type out, and each article I polish will remain within the pages of The Log. Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand—I write for this joyous process of creation. One day I’ll look back, knowing this is where I began developing the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.

Three techniques you should steal:

1. Use active verbs to give a clear sense of what you’ve done:
Check out his active verbs: writing, delivering, editing, researching, re-writing, brainstorming, catching, polishing, leading, holding, knowing.

2. Tell us in one good clear sentence what the activity meant to you.

“I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community.”


“One day I’ll look back, knowing that this is where I began to develop the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.”

Okay, that’s three sentences. But notice how all three are different. (And if you’re gonna do three, they have to be different.)

3. You can “show” a little, but not too much.

In the first line:


And later:

“Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand…”

The first one grabs our attention; the second paints a clear and dynamic picture. Keep ‘em short!

Example 2: Hospital Internship

When I applied to West Kendall Baptist Hospital, I was told they weren’t accepting applications from high schoolers. However, with a couple teacher recommendations, the administration gave me a shot at aiding the secretaries: I delivered papers, answered phone calls, and took in patients’ packages. Sadly, inadequate funding shut down large sections of the hospital and caused hundreds of employees–myself included–to lose their jobs. But then Miami Children’s Hospital announced openings for inpatient medical volunteers. Again, I faced denial, but then I got a chance to speak to the lead inpatient medical physician and cited my previous experience. While working at MCH, I delivered samples, took down visitor information, administered questionnaires, and organized records. I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.

Three more techniques you can steal:

4. Start with a “problem to be solved.”

Did you initially face an obstacle? In the first sentence say what it was, then in another sentence say how you worked through it. That’ll show grit. Note that this essay has not one, but two obstacles. And each time the writer worked through it in just one sentence. Brevity ftw.

5. Focus on specific impact. (Say whom you helped and how.)

Read the ending again:

“I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.”

This applies to fundraisers too (say how much you raised and for whom) and sports (who’d you impact and how?).

6. Write it long first, then cut it.

Both these students started with 250-300 word statements (get all the content on the page first). Then trim ruthlessly, cutting any repetitive or unnecessary words.

Personal Statement

Your personal statement is a crucial part of your application process. It allows the admissions committee to get to know the “real you” rather than the “paper you”. It is during this part of the application that you need to show what you have not shown in the rest of your application. 

A lot of people make some awful mistakes when writing a personal statement. Things you should keep in mind: 

  • Don’t Sound Arrogant: Yes, this is a personal statement. You are talking about yourself and being confident is a great thing to do. However there is a very thin line between sounding confident and cocky. A lot of the times, that line is defined by the choice of words or syntax you use. There is a difference between “I honestly believe I can be a great addition to your Class of 2017” and “Your college will be lucky to have me”. Same idea, one sounds like a nice person, the there one sounds like a douche. 
  • Show, Don’t Tell: A lot of the times people want to elaborate on some skills that they have not explained throughly in the rest of their application. Maybe, you just mentioned that you took art classes, but the structure of the application did not allow you to explain how has that helped you develop as a person. The personal statement is the perfect place to do that. However, if you do this, please show, don’t tell. I do not mean paste a picture in the middle of your essay (the CA will not allow you to anyway), but what I mean is that you should make the reader be able to picture it on its head. “The softness of clay on my hands made feel free to escape reality and empowered me to create with my own hands my own definition of perfection.” - is very different from - “I am a very amazing artist. I do awesome things with clay that makes me feel free.”  One is more attractive and relatable. The other… eh… not so much. 

  • Stick to the prompt: That should not even be said, but it is fairly easy to be drifted away from the original prompt. You do not want to talk about how awesome your vacation in Lake Titicaca was, if the prompt is asking you for your best quality. Personally I would suggest, looking over the prompts in advance. For the Common App, the prompts are already available. After that, brainstorm some ideas of how you can back each prompt up. The one prompt that you can back up with the most meaningful experiences should be your best bet. 
  • Use your own experiences: That should be obvious. Remember, YOU are applying to college, not your friend’s neighbor’s cousin who knows an albino, vegan, south-east Asian doctor. STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF. Exaggerating your stories is just as bad as making them up or using someone else’s. 
  • Write, Write, Write!!!: The Common App’s guidelines for college essays say that your personal statement should be between 250-650 words. DO NOT just write 250 words. This essay is your chance to shine! It is your time to show what the paper version of you lacks of. PLEASE write as much as possible, and make every word count. People may be tempted to write fluff in between their essays. Guys, this is not your English class. You are not allowed to do that with this essay.
  • Have people read it: I know you all are fantastic people and great writers. But please do not wing an essay. Have your English teacher read it. Have your best friend read it. Have your parents read it. Have a stranger read it. Have people read your essay. I am not talking about only looking for grammar and spelling errors. As much as those are important, you also want your personal essay to sound like you. Who else could help you with that, than the people who are close to you? 

This are a few advices I can give. If you have any question, please feel free to send me a message. I will respond as soon as possible. 

Special thanks to my friend Kiana who helped me out coming up with some of these advices. 

Keep working hard, and don’t give up. That is the only way you can get where you want to be. 

anonymous asked:

hey Julia! i was wondering if you had any advice. i dont want my essay to convey a predictable theme. like, of course going through a hardship makes you resilient. how do you dig deeper to find unconventional ways an event shaped you? and do you have any examples

Some of my first thoughts are:

  • Talk about an incidental way in which a significant hardship shaped you. Learned or perfected something small and otherwise insignificant as a result of a shitty situation? Focus on that instead of the ~big resilience narrative~. For example, say some really serious family shit went down that resulted in you being effectively homeless and bouncing between friends’ houses for a while in high school. You learned some big lessons, probably, and got to know yourself better, but you also learned how to cook bacon perfectly. Maybe one of those friends showed you how; maybe you sat in a diner every Saturday morning and watched someone cook through the tiny window in the door to the kitchen; it could be anything. Write about the bacon. Don’t try to make a lesson out of it.
  • Twist the narrative. Maybe you thought you were more resilient than you ended up being. Maybe you were thrown headfirst into the world of vulnerability and had no idea how to navigate it.
  • Write about the process of writing about a hardship. Meta shit, man. But it could work if you do it right.
  • Write a satirical essay about how an event or hardship made you a terrible person. Satire, when done well, can go pretty far. Just make sure you’re a strong writer before taking this on.
  • Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of a hardship you faced. For example:

“The other day I received a letter, covered in ash and smelling a bit like burnt toast. Dear Anon, it read, It’s been a while. But I’ve not been able to push our brief embrace from my mind, and I find myself aflame with jealousy as I watch you court these others, spending your nights with them despite what we had. Frankly, Anon, it’s not what I expected from you. Surely you’ve not forgotten me this easily? I took you by storm, you quenched my searing thirst, and now all I’ve got to remember you by is that bit of skin by your right elbow. I’ve held onto it. Is that strange?”

  • Write about your experience processing an event that didn’t feel like a big deal at the time but later came to impact you in some way. For example, I was struck by lightning as a kid and used the story as a fun party trick (two truths and a lie, was always a winner) but realized, years later, in an audition in which I was using the story as a monologue, that it had actually been haunting me in a big way.
  • If all else fails, avoid the event/hardship question. The resilience narrative is overdone to hell and back, so unless you’ve got some fresh take on it it’s probably best to steer clear.
For the Procrastinators: 12 College Essay Ideas To Get You Thinking

Nothing beats college essay writing season! Here’s a few topics to get your brains buzzing about what to potentially write about. If you’re really stuck, consider free-writing on one of these topics. (Think personally and deeply but maybe also even outside the box!)

Remember that it’s not always about the best experience you’ve ever had, but about writing an honest, personal essay that you can actually write about. (Some topics are really hard to put into words (which is totally fine and normal) and for some, this makes them too hard to write about well.)

  1. Think about the qualities that define you. At what point, did you notice or decide to become this person? Why/how?
  2. What do you believe in? About your friends/family? About school? About social justice? About life? What drives these beliefs? Where did they come from? Why do they still exist in you?
  3. Who has inspired you? Why them? How does this person’s experiences/beliefs/goals/qualities relate to yourself? 
  4. As you’re walking in the hallways, eating at lunch, spacing out in class and/or just before you fall asleep at night - what do you think about? Why do you think about it?
  5. Take a moment to think about your daily routine. How did it end up this way? What has it meant to you? Why do you continue in this way?
  6. Think about your daily routine again. What part(s) of it do you take for granted? What are the small things (physical or abstract) that have meaning to you? Why?
  7. Think about your hobbies - not necessarily your school extracurricular activities either. When it’s school break, the middle of summer, the weekend, what do you like doing? Why this? What’s your story behind how you got interested in this?
  8. What makes you imperfect? Why does it matter/not matter?
  9. Think of a time when chaos seemed to run through your mind. Following this time, when/where did you go to feel most safe? (This is not necessarily a specific place or even a physical, real one.) Where do you feel most like yourself? What does it say about you?
  10. When you are around new people - what do you fear of them? Don’t fear of them? How are you stereotyped? How has this affected you? 
  11. How do all the things in your life connect? Why does it make sense for you to be involved in this but also this? Why does it make sense that you chose to be a part of one community (school, extracurricular, friends, families, geographical community, social groups, programs, etc) but maybe not another?
  12. If you were to write a one-page letter to your past self, what would you say? What about your future self? In your letter, why do you choose to write about these things? What makes them so important? What does what you would say to your past/future self say about your current self? 

Stay awesome and good luck!

How to write a college essay

1.begin with “buckle your seat belts, mother fuckers, because in eight short pages i am going to learn u a thing that i only learned myself about two hours ago, so sit down, shut up, and enjoy the experience of my 4-am-red bull-induced-self-hatred-fueled-writing-extravaganza”

2.erase when finished with the paper

anonymous asked:

I have absolutely no idea what to write for my roommate essay or how to be creative on any essay as a matter of fact. I'm such a boring writer and I start and end essays the same because I don't know what to do...I feel like I'll never be able to write good essays

Make a really ridiculous choice. Like wayyyy out there absurd. Stuck on your roommate essay? Write from the perspective of laundry detergent. Stuck on your “what matters to you and why” essay? Write about a spiderweb stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Intellectual vitality? No problem. You know those colorful sugar packets they have in restaurants?

Nobody is doomed to be a boring writer. What makes a piece interesting or creative is the connections you make within it. Start writing about laundry detergent and figure out how to make it relevant to your future roommate. I’d probably do something like this:

“Dear Julia’s future roommate,

Keep this between us, okay? I’m a precious commodity in these parts, but I like you, so I’m letting you do this just this once. Just this once. Make sure to put me in before the rest of it so I don’t get stuck to your favorite underwear like the other guy did. I won’t tell her you stole that shirt (yes I know you stole that shirt), but you have to promise to give it back before next Thursday…”

Or give yourself a structural challenge. You could write a screenplay. You could write in all caps. You could write a sonnet or a limerick or a series of haikus or a single haiku. You could write an essay entirely without using the letter E. Constrain yourself in some out-there, uncomfortable, ridiculous way, and the rest will follow. Do this over and over and over until you have something that gets you excited. Then run with that.