Category Archives: College Essays

College Factors: What to Let Go and What to Embrace

round silver colored wall clock




It is that time of year when seniors feel that the college process is getting real!

In just two short months, the early application deadline of November 1st will be here, so now is the time to focus on what you have control over and to let go of what you do not.



Factors outside of your control (recognize these, but then let them go):

-competitiveness of the applicant pool

-a college’s preference for in-state vs. out-of-state applicants

-# and competitiveness of students applying to your major

-needs of the university

-how admissions staff measure the desirability of applicants

-the essay questions you are asked to answer

-competitiveness of your high school

-biological and background factors (race, income, etc.)

-the mood and perspective of your reviewer

Factors within your control (prioritize these, and give them your best effort):

-your course selection

-the quality of your essays and application

-what is on your resume (how you’ve chosen to spend your free time)

-who writes your recommendation letters

-your desired major

-where you apply

-how you engage with colleges

-seeking out resources in your school and community

I could write about all of these in-depth, but today I will focus on quick tips for the things you do have control over. Continue reading

Top 10 College Essay Tips


  1. The college essay is not an English paper assignment. There are no requirements for a thesis statement with three supporting paragraphs and a nice, neat conclusion. The best essays often start in the middle of the story, grabbing the readers attention and focus on bringing your personality to life.
  2. Write well. Even though it is not an English paper, colleges want to know that you can write well. In college, you will be expected to write. A lot. Make sure your essay is organized and coherent, as well as engaging and expressive. Check and re-check for grammar and spelling errors.
  3. Be prepared to write many drafts. Great essays take many drafts. Don’t get too invested in your first draft. Every word should be important and add something to your story.
  4. Write like you are a teenager. Do not let whoever edits your paper rewrite it so much that your personality is lost. It should be your voice coming through the pages. Use words that you would normally use but beware of slang. Have a trusted friend read it. Does it sound like you?
  5. Write about you, not someone else. Your grandfather might have an amazing story of hardship and hard-earned success, but colleges want to know your story. Let the reader know how you think, how you talk, how the situation or relationship you share changed something about you.
  6. Answer the question. This point may seem obvious, but many applicants end up writing essays that do not answer the essay prompt. Colleges ask specific questions for a reason and will be frustrated if you squeeze in a story that does not address their questions.
  7. Share deep, personal reflections and insights into who you are and why. To help colleges get to know you, you need to include personal reflections in your essays. Otherwise, the essay may sound trite and generic. The most important thing to share is “why” you are sharing the story, not necessarily what topic you choose.

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