11th Grade

How to Write a Stellar Essay

How to Write a Stellar Essay (Junior)

The college application essay fills many students an understandable trepidation. So much rides on this one written work! Though essays are optional on standardized tests (largely because colleges have their own admission essays they wish to consider), the college application essay is required. No two essays are the same, however. Each college chooses an essay topic unique to what they seek in their applicant pool.

If your student is nervous about the application essay, remember that practice makes perfect! Most homeschoolers write essays as part of their English curriculum (even more if they dual enroll at a local community college or online). The application essay is no different from any other essay, but unlike academic essays, admission essays should reflect the individuality of the writer while also answering the question asked. Here are some tips for writing a great college essay:

Personalize the Topic.

Admission committees aren’t looking for the best answer to the essay question. They want to see how you integrate your answer to the question with your personal values. Don’t take the essay topic at face value; consider how it relates to your life, what you may have learned about the issue, or how your understanding of the topic could contribute to the university to which you’ve applied. Allow your individuality as a writer to show through by using an authentic, honest voice.

Create an Outline.

Even after years of writing, I still make an outline before I begin! Start your essay with a loose structure: introduction, body (I usually suggest three main points) and a conclusion. Then “color in” the details. You can change things, scratch them out, and start over (if you’re not writing on the application itself!).

If the points you outlined aren’t flowing correctly, try coming at the topic from a different angle or perspective. Ask yourself how the topic affects you, what you believe about it, or what influence the issue has had in your own life. Write down your answers and see if they develop into cohesive points!

Don’t Overthink.

When in doubt, just write. Don’t overthink how to start the essay; if you need to, skip the introduction for now and come back to it. Just start writing whatever pops into your head on the subject. Once you get writing, the thoughts continue to flow. You can always go back and edit your work!

Edit, Edit, Edit.

Once you have a first draft, read through it a few times. Make sure each paragraph flows into the next one and that the points build on one another. Check grammar and spelling. Make some edits, then have someone else proofread the essay and offer advice. I always hated exposing my work to another person’s criticism! But in doing so, you save yourself from embarrassment had any mistakes made it to the admissions committee’s desk.

For more advice on writing a great essay, check out this article: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/essays/tips-for-writing-an-effective-application-essay-college-admissions

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