How to Become an Essay Writing Guru
Сollege essay is surely the most popular and widespread assignment any student faces during college years. That is why we decided to provide you with the most comprehensive and complete guide on all of the essay types, useful tips and winning examples.
Go on reading, and we will give you all the information you need on how to shape your ideas and create a winning text any tutor will notice.
Importance of essays and their types
Every student wants to be noticed and to get the highest possible grades. One of the best ways to achieve such a noble goal is to create a thoughtful personal essay. However, not every essay type is easy to complete, and you need to distinguish them in order to know how to write the assignment properly.
There are four major essay types, which include:
- This type of essay renders a story about a specific experience. The biggest challenge of such a task is to reveal your own thoughts and share your personality with the audience. Such essays are usually written in a first person;
- Descriptive, which can paint a picture, using words. In such an essay you can be asked to describe a subject, a place, an object or a memory of your own. The main goal is to show how well the student can use vocabulary, language tools and techniques;
- Good college essays always stir the imagination and grab the attention of the reader. A persuasive essay is a powerful piece of writing, which aims to convince the audience to accept a certain point of view by operating reliable data and facts;
- This type of essay harmoniously engages both analysis and ability to work with multiple sources. Here you should define a topic by using statistics, examples and trustworthy facts. Expository essays can be divided into cause and effect, comparison and contrast, and a few other types.
Apart from the general ones, there are multiple specific essays, which have a particular goal. One of them is a common application essay, which is very important for a student, who wants to apply to a college and get accepted to one of more than 700 colleges in 49 states.
Such an essay is a great way to introduce yourself to the committee and give more information apart from your past scores and achievements. It is a great tool to talk about your personality and why you can contribute to the chosen college.
Since you can send an application essay to a variety of colleges, you should work on a generalized text that will be acceptable by numerous officers. That is why the best way to create a unique and winning personal presentation is to write about the things that genuinely interest you and to get familiar with the best common app essay examples, presented below.
Tips on writing an application essay everyone will envy
An application essay should only consist of 650 words, so it may be quite challenging to put your thoughts into such limited size. However, we have highlighted three main steps, which will surely help you to succeed. They include:
- Writing process.
Before reading yearly prompts, you need to master brainstorming, because it is one of the most important tools to discover the topic and focus on the things that really matter. For example, learning principles of creative writing can enrich your paper and give you insight on how to write a college essay.
You can come up with unique or original ideas, find a fresh topic to discuss or simply to discover a completely new angle for your creativity. For example, you can discuss your personality and how it changed considering the surrounding or your own family.
Here are four main questions, which can help in generating outstanding ideas:
- Who you are?
- Why you are here?
- What makes you unique?
- What is important to you?
When answering the first question, you focus on personal features. The second one describes you through the prism of school. The third one is quite challenging because you need to think of what makes you stand out from the rest. This may include personal features, interests, ways of thinking and other outstanding skills. The last question is quite simple and should include all the things, which matter to you.
Remember, there are no right or wrong topics. Everything depends on the idea you want to render and how well it meets the four mentioned questions.
If you look at college application essay examples, you will notice that they don’t consist of five regular paragraphs. This means that you are free to choose a structure on your own, inserting descriptions, dialogues and other vivid elements.
However, you should always remain logical in your work. Stay clear from one paragraph to another, following a common style and storyline. Stick to several general aspects or chronological order, and you will never lose track of the story.
Good writing skills
It is important not only to deliver a strong and powerful message but also to show that you have solid writing skills. Of course, it doesn’t mean that your essay should be one of Shakespeare’s works, but at least it should have no grammar and lexical mistakes, and follow a clear structure.
If you have doubts, check your work online or get familiar with sample college essays. Here are some additional tips that may help:
- Show the story, don’t tell it! Use vivid language, bright colors, add emotions and be a part of the scene;
- Always remain specific. Add details to your story, which will surely attract more attention to your app;
- Use the active voice. It makes the text more live and personalized;
- Try not to use clichés. For this type of essays sayings, quotes and common phrases are not the best friends. Try to avoid them, as they have no value for an essay and only distract the attention of the reader.
Choosing a prompt
Best college essays always rely on previous examples, carefully follow the topic and show the author’s personality in the best light. In this section you will find samples of prompts, which you can use for your own essay.
Each of them is dedicated to a particular topic, so choose the one, which reflects your own ideas and interests in the best way.
Prompts of this year include:
- Many students have a meaningful interest, talent or identity and think that their app essay won’t be complete without it. If you share the same opinion, tell your story;
- Lessons we learn from various obstacles may later influence our success. Write about the situations, when you have faced failures or challenges. How did they influence you and what lessons you have learned?
- Think of the times when you challenged a widely accepted idea or belief. What made you think so? What was the result?
- Tell about a problem you have solved or would like to solve. It can be research, a dilemma or a mental challenge. Any matter, which is important to you. Explain why it is significant and what you have done to find a solution;
- Describe an event, situation or achievement, which motivated or inspired you to grow and improve yourself;
- Is there a topic or a concept, which is so interesting that you forget about time? What makes it so engaging? What sources you choose or what do you do, when you want to explore this subject further?
- Write an essay on a free topic of your own choice.
‘Many students have a meaningful interest, talent or identity and think that their app essay won’t be complete without it. If you share the same opinion, tell your story.
This topic offers students a great chance to tell about their favorite subject, skill or achievement and show it through the prism of their own personality. Such an essay may grab the attention of the committee, especially if you have a unique hobby and your background is thrilling. College essay examples on such a topic may include your participation in an international violin contest, your personal blog about trimming rare breeds, etc.
However, you shouldn’t worry if you don’t have an interest, which you may call unique. Even the most original hobby is doomed to fail if it is not described in the context of your personality. Instead of trying to invent an impressive skill or hobby, think how you spend your regular day and understand why you do that. You can also express yourself through your identity, upbringing and personal experience.
Your background includes all of the experiences you have gained, your education, training and culture. Choosing this topic, you can tell about your childhood and relationships with family. You can also tell how these interactions influence your future life.
In this section you can discuss your attitude to music, sports, arts, writing and other useful skills. Background section includes the influence of the surrounding on the person you have become. Common app essays are about you as a person, so sharing your past is a great way to grab the committee’s attention.
For example, you can tell how being poor in the childhood motivated you to study hard and get a scholarship of the dream college.
In simple words interests are the activities you like. However, interests are a broader sphere and include everything you enjoy from hiking to cooking.
Writing about personal interests is always a way to show what makes you passionate and engaged. Try to think of hobbies, which may help you to stand out from the rest of applicants.
If you choose this prompt, you can explain why the preferred interest is so important and how it influences your personality. However, be attentive, because some colleges may ask you to write a supplemental essay and additionally describe a certain hobby.
If you look at recent personal essay examples, you will notice that many of them use identity as a topic for discussion. It is a controversial topic, which includes gender, sexual orientation or racial identity. In a broader sentence it can also discuss a person’s place inside a certain community.
If you choose a controversial subject, you must think of the reader and realize that your app essay is not the best place to make loud statements. However, describing your own personality based on your culture and community can make up a good essay.
You can also focus on a certain character feature and explain how it helped you to make friends in closed communities, unite your family, etc. However, identity essays often lack uniqueness if you decide to write about how you felt lost between two different cultures.
If such a topic is important to you, you should write about it but give a side glance and an alternative outlook on the matter. One of the ideas for such an essay is to write about your experience of growing abroad and moving to the USA.
‘Lessons we learn from various obstacles may later influence our success. Write about the situations, when you have faced failures or challenges. How did they influence you and what lessons you have learned?’
This topic aims to show what treats of your character helped you to overcome difficult life situations. It is quite okay to choose a simple ‘failure’, like not getting a school contest award. However, it is better to write about a solid failure and tell how it changed your whole life.
From time to time we all experience failures and may not see how to solve the situation. We feel desperate and broken but it is important to remember that those moments shape us and give a chance to improve.
Such sort of an essay is all about your reaction on the situations, when you are not able to find an immediate solution. Writing prompts is never ease, because you have to reveal your personality to unknown people. However, it is a great chance to show who you are.
In case you have never experienced a major or serious failure, you can still discuss simpler but repeating problems, which can be united in a certain topic. For example, if you are not able to perform in front of the audience, write about the times when you had to overcome this fear. Telling about such situations may greatly help other students to fight their fears and show the admission committee that you never stop and are ready to fight your demons.
‘Think of the times when you challenged a widely accepted idea or belief. What made you think so? What was the result?’
This idea is quite difficult to capture, because due to a young age high school graduates usually don’t participate in all kinds of social movements and protests against a matter, which stirs up the attention of the society.
That is why the more acceptable way of covering this prompt is to tell about situations, when you have challenged social norms. This may include making friends with an outcast, participating in activities not typical for your gender, etc.
If you have experience participating in ‘adult’ events, like starting an organization or participating in campaigns, you can share your experience and tell how a youngster without a college degree influenced a professional sphere. However, try not to sound superior, because this may make a bad impression on the board.
If you still don’t know how to write an essay on such a topic, you may discuss situations, when you have noticed a necessity for a particular change.
This may be a situation based on your personal experience when you had to wait for a doctor appointment for too long, because they didn’t have an electronic database. A great idea for your essay would be to discuss your fundraising or other campaigns, which helped to change the society or your small community. Write what experience helped you to understand that the time for changes had come.
This essay is an example of reflective writing and introducing the audience to your thoughts and ideas. In the majority of situations, the process of your thinking is more important that the result of the changes you have introduced.
Try to write the discussed issue on a separate piece of paper and create different solutions for the same problem, backing them with arguments and reasons. The better you justify your ideas, the stronger your essay will be.
You can write about how your different physical condition, rare name or background influenced your early years and the moment when you realized that it is your benefit, not a curse.
‘Tell about a problem you have solved or would like to solve. It can be research, a dilemma or a mental challenge. Any matter, which is important to you. Explain why it is significant and what you have done to find a solution.
If you are looking for essays that worked you should definitely pay attention to those, which concentrate on overcoming life circumstances, various problems and dilemmas: both in personal and academic life.
This prompt offers three different directions: mental challenge, dilemma and a research problem. That is why you are free to discuss almost anything, which bothers you and which you can consider important.
We recommend you to stick to the topic, which has a deep meaning for you to show the reader what you are passionate about. You can either tell the background of the story or explain what the consequences may be.
This prompt gives a chance to discuss intellectual and academic topics, but you shouldn’t provide too many details. Avoid the temptation of discussing too complex topics. However, it is still recommended to show that you are intelligent and passionate about a certain field.
Things to remember
Don’t forget that even though this prompt encourages discussing academic issues, your topic should still render personal involvement, your identity and personality. You must show the committee why they should pick you among thousands of other successful and intelligent students.
Remember to include details on the core of your problem and the solutions you made to solve it. It can be raising money, speaking on various events, making phone calls, etc. You should explain to the reader why it is so important to solve the discussed problem. Don’t forget to mention all the positive changes the solution will bring to the lives of other people.
For example, if you have experienced home abuse and wanted to change that, you can tell about a project, which will help shelter those, who are suffering from violence. Another solution is to give out free psychology help in remote areas.
Such topics give a great opportunity to show what problem you would like to focus in the future. This will surely be beneficial for the college, and you will get higher chances of being accepted. These topics may include problems of drug abuse in the US, environmental issues of using paper, ethical problems of implementing artificial intelligence and much more.
Once you differentiate yourself from widely popular topics, like finding a cure for cancer, addressing complex problems, you can get a strong and interesting essay in return. However, don’t forget to remain clear, explain all the ideas of your essay and enumerate all the important features it contains.
‘Describe an event, situation or achievement, which motivated or inspired you to grow and improve yourself’.
Everyone loves essay examples, which contain stories of personal growth and improvements. The best part about this prompt is that you can choose literally any event or achievement, which made you want to move forward and to light your inner fire. You can choose one of two directions.
The first option is to talk about a formal achievement. It can be a religious event or an initiatory rite. If you choose such topics, you need to explain why the event was so important and how it influenced your personal improvement.
A nice example of such a topic is explaining why it was so meaningful for you to become a scout, a member of a school movement or passing a Confirmation. However, if you choose a religious topic, try not to dive too deep into details and concentrate on your personal improvement and understanding your new self.
These topics may be a bit controversial, so you should always keep your audience in mind, avoiding loud and categorical statements.
Such topics are far more free and relaxed and give you a chance to talk more about your creativity and personal achievements. For example, you can discuss mending a bike with your father, which helped you to restore a lost family connection and to learn more about his past. However, try not to be too philosophical and provide practical, not theoretical details.
Another example is to write about how to become a member of a new organization or how you left one because it didn’t bring you any fulfillment. Explain how the mentioned organization helped you to leave the comfort zone and to explore yourself.
The most important feature, when choosing such a prompt, is to give a clear definition of what made you grow. Then you should describe this event in details and provide a vivid picture of how it influenced you and your surrounding.
This section is very important because you need to explain why the mentioned event or achievement made you grow instead of simply describing it. Such a description should be meaningful, deep and concrete. You can also make an open ending, telling that you continue learning from the event.
One of the best essays we have read on this prompt was about a girl, who changed her whole life because her father was terminally ill. She wanted to make sure she won’t follow his path, so she quit smoking and drinking alcohol, got interested in sports and eventually won national contests in swimming.
‘Is there a topic or a concept, which is so interesting that you forget about time? What makes it so engaging? What sources you choose or what do you do, when you want to explore this subject further?’
The common app is a great way to show what makes you different, unique and how you can be useful for the college. This prompt gives you a chance to show a deep understanding of a seemingly common idea or concept.
What can be simpler than ‘stars’? However, you can describe how you stargazed when you were a child, counting stars, reading about them, taking pictures and thinking on the concepts of the universe. It can be exactly the time when you realized that you would like to devote your life to astronomy.
Another popular and widely used concept is ‘language’. You can write about your love for foreign languages, how this hobby grew into something bigger and helped to communicate with people from all corners of the world. You can also write about exploring new countries and sharpening your skills during traveling abroad. You can always draw pictures of distant areas, unknown tribes or communities and tell about their language peculiarities or lifestyle.
Even if you think that the chosen concept is too boring (for example cooking), you can still benefit from it. Interest the board by explaining why it is important to improve the culture of nutrition, choosing healthy meals over fast food. You can tell about mixing different flavors, the chemistry of grilling, steaming or other processes.
Not depending on the topic you choose, such a prompt gives students a chance to show all of their skills by depicting simple matters using vivid details and images. Imagine how challenging but fun it is to write about the beauty of arts, the sounds of a foreign language or an outstanding taste of your favorite dish.
Remember, the most important thing about writing such an essay is to give an answer why something stirs up your attention and makes you passionate instead of just enumerating such things. In such paper try to use all of the five senses: tell about what you see, smell, feel, taste and hear.
For example, if you love scuba diving and lose track of time while enjoying your hobby, you can write about salty water, how you feel under water and so on. Don’t forget about rich vocabulary and precious pictures of the surrounding, nature and your own perception of the chosen concept.
If you choose a broader topic and need to render your passion for a certain event or topic, you can turn to multiple sources: your family or friends, teacher, YouTube, Facebook or Wikipedia. Showing how well you can manage sources and background information is always a plus.
When you work on this type of an essay, a nice idea will be to build a visual diagram. Place the discussed issue in the middle and write down all the themes, characteristics, features and concepts, which are related to the chosen matter. You can make lists or draw branches: anything, which may help you to build a structure of your future work.
Writing an app essay has never been easy, as it concentrates not on the processed sources and credible facts but on your own identity, character, aspirations and hopes. Your personal statement should also stir up the interest of the board, showing why your values and personal traits can be useful for the community and society as a whole.
If you face a mental block and don’t know what to write about, you can always return to the four main questions. They will help you to choose a direction and check if the ideas you provide reflect all of the features you want to share with the board.
Following all of the above tips, using samples of prompts and improving your own style will surely help you to work on your app essay. We wish you good luck in this complex but wonderful journey!