How to write a college essay about yourself that stands out
Last Updated on March 30, 2021 by iSchoolConnect
Worried your college application might get lost in the sea of admission requests your university receives? Learn how to write a college essay about yourself that stands out and impress the admissions committee.
Most of your college application is filled with hard facts about you, like your academic scores, test scores, and the projects you’ve done. A college essay is the only part of your application where you get to talk about your personality. And even though your scores matter, who you are as a person tells a lot more about what you can accomplish. This is why college admissions committees consider your essay to be very important. And this is why you need to know how to write a college essay about yourself that’s well-worded, honest, and unforgettable.
Use this step-by-step guide to search for essay topics, structure your college essay, and get started!
How to write a college essay
1) Find unique college essay topics
Before you even begin writing your essay, you need to decide what you want to talk about.
- Do you want to focus on your academic and co-curricular interests, or would you rather highlight how your personal life shaped your career choices?
- What’s going to be the theme of your essay? Which values do you want to bring out? What have you learned from your past mistakes?
- Are you going to talk about your life in chronological order or do you want to create a different writing structure?
To find your answers to all these questions, pick up a pen and a paper, and start writing down the answers to a few questions-
- What are the top 12 things you want your college to know about you?
- Do you see anything recurring in your answer to the previous question? (if yes, you have a theme! If not, move on to the next!)
- What has each of these things taught you, professionally?
- What have they taught you, personally?
- Which 4 qualities do you value the most and why?
- Do you see these values still guiding you a few years down the road? Why?
At this point, you should be able to see a theme and a structure emerging.
This is enough to give you a rough idea of what you’re going to talk about and in which order.
I’m even sure you have a personal story you’re going to use in the beginning!
2) Follow the story curve
Universities get a multitude of applications every year.
Some students try to sound smarter than they are, some lie about their interests, while others get overly emotional on paper. And colleges see right through it.
What they’re looking for, though, is genuine, honest students, who stay true to their own. And if you want to bring out that side of yourself, you need to tell a story.
Start with a compelling introduction. Say who you are and hint at what you’re trying to achieve.
- Break the routine
Talk about a personal moment in your life – an incident that changed everything.
Talk about your challenges, mini victories, and then more challenges.
Let your conflict show – talk about what has always stopped you from achieving your goals and how you finally overcame (or want to overcome) that hurdle.
- New routine
Talk about the future you imagine for yourself and share the new routine you’ve always dreamed of having. Bring out how much contrast there is between your old and your new routines.
Now that you know what parts your college essay will have, and you also have an idea of the content you’ll be writing, it’s time to get started.
Sit down in front of your computer and let your fingers dance!
3) What to write in an essay, exactly
While I want to help you make your essay stand out, you will have a few standard points to cover, including-
- Have a grand opening
- Talk about your future plans
- Stress on your experience
- Share your academic interests
- Mention a few co-curricular activities
- Talk about the university
Not all of these points are necessary to mention in your essay. And you certainly don’t need to mention them in this order.
But when you’re done writing your college essay according to the story curve, you check if there are any gaps in your essay.
If you do find a disconnect, use one of the points stated in this section to fill that gap.
And voila! You have the first draft of your college essay ready!
How long should my college essay be
A quick Google search tells us that the best college essays are between 500 and 650 words.
It’s the ideal length for an essay because it gives you a lot of freedom to highlight your achievements. At the same time, the limit of 650 words will restrict you from talking too much about one topic and compel you to move on.
In short, the admission committee wants you to-
- Share only the important bits of your life
- Highlight what’s necessary, and
- Use your words economically
Personally, I’d suggest you use the first 580-600 words to talk about yourself. Use the rest of the chunk to highlight how you will contribute to the campus’s community.
I hope this answers the question “How long should my college essay be?” well. Now, moving on to a few college essay writing tips!
College essay writing tips
Your essay is what sets you apart from all the other candidates that apply for the same spot as you do. So, making sure that you know how to write a college essay about yourself that stands out is of utmost importance.
Here are a few tips to help you along:
- Test your writing skills
Along with your IELTS or TOEFL, your essay is also a direct reflection of your English language skills.
So be careful not to make any grammatical mistakes, use proper vocabulary, and have someone proofread the essay for you.
- Research, don’t copy
One of the worst things you could do while writing your essay is to copy a template or sample essay from the internet and use it as it is.
Your content is what makes the essay unique and convinces the university to let you in.
So yes, do your research, but always make sure that you put your own original words inside your college essay.
- Show, don’t tell
Instead of just talking about what you’ve done or how you feel, share examples to support your point. If you’re a state-level rugby champion, I would rather hear about one of the most difficult moments in your game rather than a line that simply says “I won the intercollege rugby championship in 2018.
- The three words
It is said that a writer’s 3 favorite words are “What happens next?”
If her words leave the reader asking this question at every turn, she knows how to keep the reader engaged – hook, line, and sinker.
If you can pull this off, you have nailed your college essay…but how will you know that your essay is captivating? Well…
- Have someone review your essay
It’s easy to feel exhausted by writing and rewriting your essay while checking for loopholes and grammatical errors.
Asking a mentor or a friend to read it will not only help you fix the problems in your college essay but also provide you with a fresh perspective.
What if there was an AI tool that could help you write the perfect essay in no time!?
Knowing all the things you are supposed to write in your essay and actually including all aspects in it are entirely different matters.
To help you write a well-rounded and impressive college essay, iSchoolConnect has an AI-based SOP-writing tool. It will guide you and help you cover all aspects such as:
- Sentence structure
- Grammar check
- Plagiarism check
- Readability scoring, and
- Content suggestions and tips
If you want to try it out for FREE, you can sign up for a 7-day trial on our website and go check it out.
By now, you should have a rough idea about how to write a good college essay. Start by finding unique college essay topics, then ideate your essay content, structure your essay, and get started!
Once your first draft is ready, share it with your counselor or your friends. Or copy-paste it to the Essay Writing Mentor.
Take all the feedback you get and start re-writing your essay after letting it sit for a week. I say this because allowing yourself to be away from your essay for some time will help you look at it much more objectively when you look at it the next time.
Now, you can not only edit it with your own changes but also consider the suggestions of your friends and mentors. Do this process over again at least 2-3 more times, or until you feel you have gotten it right.
Voila! Your college essay is ready.
And if you get stuck or feel like you have any doubts we can help with, drop a comment or reach out to us. We’d be very happy to help!