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College Application Essay

Make your college essay stand out from the crowd

College admissions counselors rely on your grades and test scores when considering your acceptance. But they also want to know the person behind the numbers. That's where the college essay comes in.

Admission counselors read thousands of essays each year. Here's how to make your essay stand out from the crowd:

  • Time: Take the time to read the directions thoroughly. And leave yourself enough time to write several drafts before the deadline hits.
  • Thought: Really think about the topic—and how you'll approach it—before you sit down to write. Admissions counselors look for:
    • A sense of you. Look for ways to show who you are as a person—and what’s important to you as an individual. It's not about what you do, but how you think and approach life.
    • Genuineness. Be sure your essay sounds like you. Don't try to impress with big words. Just be yourself and talk to your reader.
    • Thoughtfulness. Take the time to think deeply about your experiences and what you've learned from them. Show that you’re a person who reflects on life—and who wants to keep learning.
    • Surprise. Be creative. Don't just describe situations—tell your reader a story. And don't be afraid to take a unique angle on an essay topic. Admissions counselors appreciate a fresh approach!
  • Thoroughness: Be diligent about spelling and grammar. Write, rewrite, and proofread—and then have an English teacher or another skilled person review the essay. Download our 5 questions (PDF) and these grammar reminders (PDF) from the College Board to use as a guide when evaluating your essay.

Once your essay is complete, it’s time to focus on getting letters of recommendation to support your application.

NEXT: College Recommendation Letters >