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How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples
The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.
A standout essay has a few key ingredients:
- A unique, personal topic
- A compelling, well-structured narrative
- A clear, creative writing style
- Evidence of self-reflection and insight
To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.
Table of contents
Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.
While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.
Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.
What do colleges look for in an essay?
Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :
- Demonstrated values and qualities
- Vulnerability and authenticity
- Self-reflection and insight
- Creative, clear, and concise writing skills
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It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.
While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.
Create an essay tracker sheet
If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:
- Deadlines and number of essays needed
- Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts
You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.
College essay tracker template
Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.
If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.
What makes a good topic?
- Meaningful and personal to you
- Uncommon or has an unusual angle
- Reveals something different from the rest of your application
You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:
- What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
- What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
- What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
- What makes you different from your classmates?
- What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
- Whom do you admire most? Why?
- What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?
How to identify your topic
Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:
- Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
- Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.
After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.
Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.
The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.
This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.
Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences
- Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
- Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
- Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
- Story: Broadway musical interests
- Lesson: Finding my voice
- Story: Smells from family dinner table
- Lesson: Appreciating home and family
- Story: Washing dishes
- Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
- Story: Biking with Ava
- Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
- Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.
Single story structure
The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.
Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.
Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person
- Situation: Football injury
- Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
- Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
- My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
- Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game
Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs
Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.
Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.
Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..
Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).
While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.
Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.
Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook
Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.
Option 2: Start with vivid imagery
Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.
A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .
Show, don’t tell
“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”
First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.
- What are the most prominent images?
- Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
- What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?
Be vulnerable to create an emotional response
You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.
Use appropriate style and tone
Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:
- Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
- Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
- Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
- Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
- Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).
You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:
- Summarizing what you already wrote
- Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
- Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”
Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.
Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure
The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.
In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.
Option 2: Revealing your insight
You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.
Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.
It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.
Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.
Respect the word count
Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.
Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.
Check your content, style, and grammar
- First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
- Then, check for style and tone issues.
- Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.
Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.
- Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
- Friends and family can check for authenticity.
- An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.
The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.
College admissions essay checklist
I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.
I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.
I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.
I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.
I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.
I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.
I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.
I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.
I’ve used appropriate style and tone .
I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.
I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.
I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.
It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.
Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.
Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.
A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
- A unique, personally meaningful topic
- A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
- Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
- Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
- Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
- A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending
While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.
You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.
Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.
You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.
If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.
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College Admissions , College Essays
Writing your personal statement for your college application is an undeniably overwhelming project. Your essay is your big shot to show colleges who you are—it's totally reasonable to get stressed out. But don't let that stress paralyze you.
This guide will walk you through each step of the essay writing process to help you understand exactly what you need to do to write the best possible personal statement . I'm also going to follow an imaginary student named Eva as she plans and writes her college essay, from her initial organization and brainstorming to her final edits. By the end of this article, you'll have all the tools you need to create a fantastic, effective college essay.
So how do you write a good college essay? The process starts with finding the best possible topic , which means understanding what the prompt is asking for and taking the time to brainstorm a variety of options. Next, you'll determine how to create an interesting essay that shows off your unique perspective and write multiple drafts in order to hone your structure and language. Once your writing is as effective and engaging as possible, you'll do a final sweep to make sure everything is correct .
This guide covers the following steps:
#1: Organizing #2: Brainstorming #3: Picking a topic #4: Making a plan #5: Writing a draft #6: Editing your draft #7: Finalizing your draft #8: Repeating the process
feature Image: John O'Nolan /Flickr
Step 1: Get Organized
The first step in how to write a college essay is figuring out what you actually need to do. Although many schools are now on the Common App, some very popular colleges, including Rutgers and University of California, still have their own applications and writing requirements. Even for Common App schools, you may need to write a supplemental essay or provide short answers to questions.
Before you get started, you should know exactly what essays you need to write. Having this information allows you to plan the best approach to each essay and helps you cut down on work by determining whether you can use an essay for more than one prompt.
Writing good college essays involves a lot of work: you need dozens of hours to get just one personal statement properly polished , and that's before you even start to consider any supplemental essays.
In order to make sure you have plenty of time to brainstorm, write, and edit your essay (or essays), I recommend starting at least two months before your first deadline . The last thing you want is to end up with a low-quality essay you aren't proud of because you ran out of time and had to submit something unfinished.
Determine What You Need to Do
As I touched on above, each college has its own essay requirements, so you'll need to go through and determine what exactly you need to submit for each school . This process is simple if you're only using the Common App, since you can easily view the requirements for each school under the "My Colleges" tab. Watch out, though, because some schools have a dedicated "Writing Supplement" section, while others (even those that want a full essay) will put their prompts in the "Questions" section.
It gets trickier if you're applying to any schools that aren't on the Common App. You'll need to look up the essay requirements for each college—what's required should be clear on the application itself, or you can look under the "how to apply" section of the school's website.
Once you've determined the requirements for each school, I recommend making yourself a chart with the school name, word limit, and application deadline on one side and the prompt or prompts you need to respond to on the other . That way you'll be able to see exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it by.
Decide Where to Start
If you have one essay that's due earlier than the others, start there. Otherwise, start with the essay for your top choice school.
I would also recommend starting with a longer personal statement before moving on to shorter supplementary essays , since the 500-700 word essays tend to take quite a bit longer than 100-250 word short responses. The brainstorming you do for the long essay may help you come up with ideas you like for the shorter ones as well.
Also consider whether some of the prompts are similar enough that you could submit the same essay to multiple schools . Doing so can save you some time and let you focus on a few really great essays rather than a lot of mediocre ones.
However, don't reuse essays for dissimilar or very school-specific prompts, especially "why us" essays . If a college asks you to write about why you're excited to go there, admissions officers want to see evidence that you're genuinely interested. Reusing an essay about another school and swapping out the names is the fastest way to prove you aren't.
Example: Eva's College List
Eva is applying early to Emory University and regular decision to University of Washington, UCLA, and Reed College. Emory, the University of Washington, and Reed both use the Common App, while University of Washington, Emory, and Reed all use the Coalition App.
Even though she's only applying to four schools, Eva has a lot to do: two essays for UW, four for the UC application, one for the Common App (or the Coalition App), two essays for Emory, plus the supplements. Many students will have fewer requirements to complete, but those who are applying to very selective schools or a number of schools on different applications will have as many or even more responses to write.
Since Eva's first deadline is early decision for Emory, she'll start by writing the Common App essay, and then work on the Emory supplements. (For the purposes of this post, we'll focus on the Common App essay.)
Step 2: Brainstorm
Next up in how to write a college essay: brainstorming essay ideas. There are tons of ways to come up with ideas for your essay topic: I've outlined three below. I recommend trying all of them and compiling a list of possible topics, then narrowing it down to the very best one or, if you're writing multiple essays, the best few.
Keep in mind as you brainstorm that there's no best college essay topic, just the best topic for you . Don't feel obligated to write about something because you think you should—those types of essays tend to be boring and uninspired. Similarly, don't simply write about the first idea that crosses your mind because you don't want to bother trying to think of something more interesting. Take the time to come up with a topic you're really excited about and that you can write about in detail.
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Analyze the Prompts
One way to find possible topics is to think deeply about the college's essay prompt. What are they asking you for? Break them down and analyze every angle.
Does the question include more than one part ? Are there multiple tasks you need to complete?
What do you think the admissions officers are hoping to learn about you ?
In cases where you have more than one choice of prompt, does one especially appeal to you ? Why?
Let's dissect one of the University of Washington prompts as an example:
"Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. "
This question is basically asking how your personal history, such as your childhood, family, groups you identify with etc. helped you become the person you are now. It offers a number of possible angles.
You can talk about the effects of either your family life (like your relationship with your parents or what your household was like growing up) or your cultural history (like your Jewish faith or your Venezuelan heritage). You can also choose between focusing on positive or negative effects of your family or culture. No matter what however, the readers definitely want to hear about your educational goals (i.e. what you hope to get out of college) and how they're related to your personal experience.
As you try to think of answers for a prompt, imagine about what you would say if you were asked the question by a friend or during a get-to-know-you icebreaker. After all, admissions officers are basically just people who you want to get to know you.
The essay questions can make a great jumping off point, but don't feel married to them. Most prompts are general enough that you can come up with an idea and then fit it to the question.
Consider Important Experiences, Events, and Ideas in Your Life
What experience, talent, interest or other quirk do you have that you might want to share with colleges? In other words, what makes you you? Possible topics include hobbies, extracurriculars, intellectual interests, jobs, significant one-time events, pieces of family history, or anything else that has shaped your perspective on life.
Unexpected or slightly unusual topics are often the best : your passionate love of Korean dramas or your yearly family road trip to an important historical site. You want your essay to add something to your application, so if you're an All-American soccer player and want to write about the role soccer has played in your life, you'll have a higher bar to clear.
Of course if you have a more serious part of your personal history—the death of a parent, serious illness, or challenging upbringing—you can write about that. But make sure you feel comfortable sharing details of the experience with the admissions committee and that you can separate yourself from it enough to take constructive criticism on your essay.
Think About How You See Yourself
The last brainstorming method is to consider whether there are particular personality traits you want to highlight . This approach can feel rather silly, but it can also be very effective.
If you were trying to sell yourself to an employer, or maybe even a potential date, how would you do it? Try to think about specific qualities that make you stand out. What are some situations in which you exhibited this trait?
Example: Eva's Ideas
Looking at the Common App prompts, Eva wasn't immediately drawn to any of them, but after a bit of consideration she thought it might be nice to write about her love of literature for the first one, which asks about something "so meaningful your application would be incomplete without it." Alternatively, she liked the specificity of the failure prompt and thought she might write about a bad job interview she had had.
In terms of important events, Eva's parents got divorced when she was three and she's been going back and forth between their houses for as long as she can remember, so that's a big part of her personal story. She's also played piano for all four years of high school, although she's not particularly good.
As for personal traits, Eva is really proud of her curiosity—if she doesn't know something, she immediately looks it up, and often ends up discovering new topics she's interested in. It's a trait that's definitely come in handy as a reporter for her school paper.
Step 3: Narrow Down Your List
Now you have a list of potential topics, but probably no idea where to start. The next step is to go through your ideas and determine which one will make for the strongest essay . You'll then begin thinking about how best to approach it.
What to Look for in a College Essay Topic
There's no single answer to the question of what makes a great college essay topic, but there are some key factors you should keep in mind. The best essays are focused, detailed, revealing and insightful, and finding the right topic is vital to writing a killer essay with all of those qualities.
As you go through your ideas, be discriminating—really think about how each topic could work as an essay. But don't be too hard on yourself ; even if an idea may not work exactly the way you first thought, there may be another way to approach it. Pay attention to what you're really excited about and look for ways to make those ideas work.
Consideration 1: Does It Matter to You?
If you don't care about your topic, it will be hard to convince your readers to care about it either. You can't write a revealing essay about yourself unless you write about a topic that is truly important to you.
But don't confuse important to you with important to the world: a college essay is not a persuasive argument. The point is to give the reader a sense of who you are , not to make a political or intellectual point. The essay needs to be personal.
Similarly, a lot of students feel like they have to write about a major life event or their most impressive achievement. But the purpose of a personal statement isn't to serve as a resume or a brag sheet—there are plenty of other places in the application for you to list that information. Many of the best essays are about something small because your approach to a common experience generally reveals a lot about your perspective on the world.
Mostly, your topic needs to have had a genuine effect on your outlook , whether it taught you something about yourself or significantly shifted your view on something else.
Consideration 2: Does It Tell the Reader Something Different About You?
Your essay should add something to your application that isn't obvious elsewhere. Again, there are sections for all of your extracurriculars and awards; the point of the essay is to reveal something more personal that isn't clear just from numbers and lists.
You also want to make sure that if you're sending more than one essay to a school—like a Common App personal statement and a school-specific supplement—the two essays take on different topics.
Consideration 3: Is It Specific?
Your essay should ultimately have a very narrow focus. 650 words may seem like a lot, but you can fill it up very quickly. This means you either need to have a very specific topic from the beginning or find a specific aspect of a broader topic to focus on.
If you try to take on a very broad topic, you'll end up with a bunch of general statements and boring lists of your accomplishments. Instead, you want to find a short anecdote or single idea to explore in depth .
Consideration 4: Can You Discuss It in Detail?
A vague essay is a boring essay— specific details are what imbue your essay with your personality . For example, if I tell my friend that I had a great dessert yesterday, she probably won't be that interested. But if I explain that I ate an amazing piece of peach raspberry pie with flaky, buttery crust and filling that was both sweet and tart, she will probably demand to know where I obtained it (at least she will if she appreciates the joys of pie). She'll also learn more about me: I love pie and I analyze deserts with great seriousness.
Given the importance of details, writing about something that happened a long time ago or that you don't remember well isn't usually a wise choice . If you can't describe something in depth, it will be challenging to write a compelling essay about it.
You also shouldn't pick a topic you aren't actually comfortable talking about . Some students are excited to write essays about very personal topics, like their mother's bipolar disorder or their family's financial struggles, but others dislike sharing details about these kinds of experiences. If you're a member of the latter group, that's totally okay, just don't write about one of these sensitive topics.
Still, don't worry that every single detail has to be perfectly correct. Definitely don't make anything up, but if you remember a wall as green and it was really blue, your readers won't notice or care.
Consideration 5: Can It Be Related to the Prompt?
As long as you're talking about yourself, there are very few ideas that you can't tie back to one of the Common App or Coalition App prompts. But if you're applying to a school with its own more specific prompt, or working on supplemental essays, making sure to address the question will be a greater concern.
Deciding on a Topic
Once you've gone through the questions above, you should have good sense of what you want to write about. Hopefully, it's also gotten you started thinking about how you can best approach that topic, but we'll cover how to plan your essay more fully in the next step.
If after going through the narrowing process, you've eliminated all your topics, first look back over them: are you being too hard on yourself? Are there any that you really like, but just aren't totally sure what angle to take on? If so, try looking at the next section and seeing if you can't find a different way to approach it.
If you just don't have an idea you're happy with, that's okay! Give yourself a week to think about it. Sometimes you'll end up having a genius idea in the car on the way to school or while studying for your U.S. history test. Otherwise, try the brainstorming process again when you've had a break.
If, on the other hand, you have more than one idea you really like, consider whether any of them can be used for other essays you need to write.
Example: Picking Eva's Topic
- Love of books
- Failed job interview
- Parents' divorce
Eva immediately rules out writing about playing piano, because it sounds super boring to her, and it's not something she is particularly passionate about. She also decides not to write about splitting time between her parents because she just isn't comfortable sharing her feelings about it with an admissions committee.
She feels more positive about the other three, so she decides to think about them for a couple of days. She ends up ruling out the job interview because she just can't come up with that many details she could include.
She's excited about both of her last two ideas, but sees issues with both of them: the books idea is very broad and the reporting idea doesn't seem to apply to any of the prompts. Then she realizes that she can address the solving a problem prompt by talking about a time she was trying to research a story about the closing of a local movie theater, so she decides to go with that topic.
Step 4: Figure Out Your Approach
You've decided on a topic, but now you need to turn that topic into an essay. To do so, you need to determine what specifically you're focusing on and how you'll structure your essay.
If you're struggling or uncertain, try taking a look at some examples of successful college essays . It can be helpful to dissect how other personal statements are structured to get ideas for your own , but don't fall into the trap of trying to copy someone else's approach. Your essay is your story—never forget that.
Let's go through the key steps that will help you turn a great topic into a great essay.
Choose a Focal Point
As I touched on above, the narrower your focus, the easier it will be to write a unique, engaging personal statement. The simplest way to restrict the scope of your essay is to recount an anecdote , i.e. a short personal story that illustrates your larger point.
For example, say a student was planning to write about her Outward Bound trip in Yosemite. If she tries to tell the entire story of her trip, her essay will either be far too long or very vague. Instead, she decides to focus in on a specific incident that exemplifies what mattered to her about the experience: her failed attempt to climb Half Dome. She described the moment she decided to turn back without reaching the top in detail, while touching on other parts of the climb and trip where appropriate. This approach lets her create a dramatic arc in just 600 words, while fully answering the question posed in the prompt (Common App prompt 2).
Of course, concentrating on an anecdote isn't the only way to narrow your focus. Depending on your topic, it might make more sense to build your essay around an especially meaningful object, relationship, or idea.
Another approach our example student from above could take to the same general topic would be to write about the generosity of fellow hikers (in response to Common App prompt 4). Rather than discussing a single incident, she could tell the story of her trip through times she was supported by other hikers: them giving tips on the trails, sharing snacks, encouraging her when she was tired, etc. A structure like this one can be trickier than the more straightforward anecdote approach , but it can also make for an engaging and different essay.
When deciding what part of your topic to focus on, try to find whatever it is about the topic that is most meaningful and unique to you . Once you've figured that part out, it will guide how you structure the essay.
Decide What You Want to Show About Yourself
Remember that the point of the college essay isn't just to tell a story, it's to show something about yourself. It's vital that you have a specific point you want to make about what kind of person you are , what kind of college student you'd make, or what the experience you're describing taught you.
Since the papers you write for school are mostly analytical, you probably aren't used to writing about your own feelings. As such, it can be easy to neglect the reflection part of the personal statement in favor of just telling a story. Yet explaining what the event or idea you discuss meant to you is the most important essay —knowing how you want to tie your experiences back to your personal growth from the beginning will help you make sure to include it.
Develop a Structure
It's not enough to just know what you want to write about—you also need to have a sense of how you're going to write about it. You could have the most exciting topic of all time, but without a clear structure your essay will end up as incomprehensible gibberish that doesn't tell the reader anything meaningful about your personality.
There are a lot of different possible essay structures, but a simple and effective one is the compressed narrative, which builds on a specific anecdote (like the Half Dome example above):
Start in the middle of the action. Don't spend a lot of time at the beginning of your essay outlining background info—it doesn't tend to draw the reader in and you usually need less of it than you think you do. Instead start right where your story starts to get interesting. (I'll go into how to craft an intriguing opener in more depth below.)
Briefly explain what the situation is. Now that you've got the reader's attention, go back and explain anything they need to know about how you got into this situation. Don't feel compelled to fit everything in—only include the background details that are necessary to either understand what happened or illuminate your feelings about the situation in some way.
Finish the story. Once you've clarified exactly what's going on, explain how you resolved the conflict or concluded the experience.
Explain what you learned. The last step is to tie everything together and bring home the main point of your story: how this experience affected you.
The key to this type of structure is to create narrative tension—you want your reader to be wondering what happens next.
A second approach is the thematic structure, which is based on returning to a key idea or object again and again (like the boots example above):
Establish the focus. If you're going to structure your essay around a single theme or object, you need to begin the essay by introducing that key thing. You can do so with a relevant anecdote or a detailed description.
Touch on 3-5 times the focus was important. The body of your essay will consist of stringing together a few important moments related to the topic. Make sure to use sensory details to bring the reader into those points in time and keep her engaged in the essay. Also remember to elucidate why these moments were important to you.
Revisit the main idea. At the end, you want to tie everything together by revisiting the main idea or object and showing how your relationship to it has shaped or affected you. Ideally, you'll also hint at how this thing will be important to you going forward.
To make this structure work you need a very specific focus. Your love of travel, for example, is much too broad—you would need to hone in on a specific aspect of that interest, like how traveling has taught you to adapt to event the most unusual situations. Whatever you do, don't use this structure to create a glorified resume or brag sheet .
However you structure your essay, you want to make sure that it clearly lays out both the events or ideas you're describing and establishes the stakes (i.e. what it all means for you). Many students become so focused on telling a story or recounting details that they forget to explain what it all meant to them.
Example: Eva's Essay Plan
For her essay, Eva decides to use the compressed narrative structure to tell the story of how she tried and failed to report on the closing of a historic movie theater:
- Open with the part of her story where she finally gave up after calling the theater and city hall a dozen times.
- Explain that although she started researching the story out of journalistic curiosity, it was important to her because she'd grown up going to movies at that theater.
- Recount how defeated she felt when she couldn't get ahold of anyone, and then even more so when she saw a story about the theater's closing in the local paper.
- Describer her decision to write an op-ed instead and interview other students about what the theater meant to them.
- Finish by explaining that although she wasn't able to get the story (or stop the destruction of the theater), she learned that sometimes the emotional angle can be just as interesting as the investigative one.
Step 5: Write a First Draft
The key to writing your first draft is not to worry about whether it's any good—just get something on paper and go from there. You will have to rewrite, so trying to get everything perfect is both frustrating and futile.
Everyone has their own writing process. Maybe you feel more comfortable sitting down and writing the whole draft from beginning to end in one go. Maybe you jump around, writing a little bit here and a little there. It's okay to have sections you know won't work or to skip over things you think you'll need to include later.
Whatever your approach, there are a few tips everyone can benefit from.
Don't Aim for Perfection
I mentioned this idea above, but I can't emphasize it enough: no one writes a perfect first draft . Extensive editing and rewriting is vital to crafting an effective personal statement. Don't get too attached to any part of your draft, because you may need to change anything (or everything) about your essay later .
Also keep in mind that, at this point in the process, the goal is just to get your ideas down. Wonky phrasings and misplaced commas can easily be fixed when you edit, so don't worry about them as you write. Instead, focus on including lots of specific details and emphasizing how your topic has affected you, since these aspects are vital to a compelling essay.
Write an Engaging Introduction
One part of the essay you do want to pay special attention to is the introduction. Your intro is your essay's first impression: you only get one. It's much harder to regain your reader's attention once you've lost it, so you want to draw the reader in with an immediately engaging hook that sets up a compelling story .
There are two possible approaches I would recommend.
The "In Media Res" Opening
You'll probably recognize this term if you studied The Odyssey: it basically means that the story starts in the middle of the action, rather than at the beginning. A good intro of this type makes the reader wonder both how you got to the point you're starting at and where you'll go from there . These openers provide a solid, intriguing beginning for narrative essays (though they can certainly for thematic structures as well).
But how do you craft one? Try to determine the most interesting point in your story and start there. If you're not sure where that is, try writing out the entire story and then crossing out each sentence in order until you get to one that immediately grabs your attention.
Here's an example from a real student's college essay:
"I strode in front of 400 frenzied eighth graders with my arm slung over my Fender Stratocaster guitar—it actually belonged to my mother—and launched into the first few chords of Nirvana's 'Lithium.'"
Anonymous , University of Virginia
This intro throws the reader right into the middle of the action. The author jumps right into the action: the performance. You can imagine how much less exciting it would be if the essay opened with an explanation of what the event was and why the author was performing.
The Specific Generalization
Sounds like an oxymoron, right? This type of intro sets up what the essay is going to talk about in a slightly unexpected way . These are a bit trickier than the "in media res" variety, but they can work really well for the right essay—generally one with a thematic structure.
The key to this type of intro is detail . Contrary to what you may have learned in elementary school, sweeping statements don't make very strong hooks. If you want to start your essay with a more overall description of what you'll be discussing, you still need to make it specific and unique enough to stand out.
Once again, let's look at some examples from real students' essays:
Neha, Johns Hopkins University
Brontë, Johns Hopkins University
Both of these intros set up the general topic of the essay (the first writer's bookshelf and and the second's love of Jane Eyre ) in an intriguing way. The first intro works because it mixes specific descriptions ("pushed against the left wall in my room") with more general commentary ("a curious piece of furniture"). The second draws the reader in by adopting a conversational and irreverent tone with asides like "if you ask me" and "This may or may not be a coincidence."
Don't Worry Too Much About the Length
When you start writing, don't worry about your essay's length. Instead, focus on trying to include all of the details you can think of about your topic , which will make it easier to decide what you really need to include when you edit.
However, if your first draft is more than twice the word limit and you don't have a clear idea of what needs to be cut out, you may need to reconsider your focus—your topic is likely too broad. You may also need to reconsider your topic or approach if you find yourself struggling to fill space, since this usually indicates a topic that lacks a specific focus.
Eva's First Paragraph
I dialed the phone number for the fourth time that week. "Hello? This is Eva Smith, and I'm a reporter with Tiny Town High's newspaper The Falcon. I was hoping to ask you some questions about—" I heard the distinctive click of the person on the other end of the line hanging up, followed by dial tone. I was about ready to give up: I'd been trying to get the skinny on whether the Atlas Theater was actually closing to make way for a big AMC multiplex or if it was just a rumor for weeks, but no one would return my calls.
Step 6: Edit Aggressively
No one writes a perfect first draft. No matter how much you might want to be done after writing a first draft—you must take the time to edit. Thinking critically about your essay and rewriting as needed is a vital part of writing a great college essay.
Before you start editing, put your essay aside for a week or so . It will be easier to approach it objectively if you haven't seen it in a while. Then, take an initial pass to identify any big picture issues with your essay. Once you've fixed those, ask for feedback from other readers—they'll often notice gaps in logic that don't appear to you, because you're automatically filling in your intimate knowledge of the situation. Finally, take another, more detailed look at your essay to fine tune the language.
I've explained each of these steps in more depth below.
First Editing Pass
You should start the editing process by looking for any structural or thematic issues with your essay . If you see sentences that don't make sense or glaring typos of course fix them, but at this point, you're really focused on the major issues since those require the most extensive rewrites. You don't want to get your sentences beautifully structured only to realize you need to remove the entire paragraph.
This phase is really about honing your structure and your voice . As you read through your essay, think about whether it effectively draws the reader along, engages him with specific details, and shows why the topic matters to you. Try asking yourself the following questions:
- Does the intro make you want to read more?
- Is the progression of events and/or ideas clear?
- Does the essay show something specific about you? What is it and can you clearly identify it in the essay?
- Are there places where you could replace vague statements with more specific ones?
- Do you have too many irrelevant or uninteresting details clogging up the narrative?
- Is it too long? What can you cut out or condense without losing any important ideas or details?
Give yourself credit for what you've done well, but don't hesitate to change things that aren't working. It can be tempting to hang on to what you've already written —you took the time and thought to craft it in the first place, so it can be hard to let it go. Taking this approach is doing yourself a disservice, however. No matter how much work you put into a paragraph or much you like a phrase, if they aren't adding to your essay, they need to be cut or altered.
If there's a really big structural problem, or the topic is just not working, you may have to chuck this draft out and start from scratch . Don't panic! I know starting over is frustrating, but it's often the best way to fix major issues.
Consulting Other Readers
Once you've fixed the problems you found on the first pass and have a second (or third) draft you're basically happy with, ask some other people to read it. Check with people whose judgment you trust : parents, teachers, and friends can all be great resources, but how helpful someone will be depends on the individual and how willing you are to take criticism from her.
Also, keep in mind that many people, even teachers, may not be familiar with what colleges look for in an essay. Your mom, for example, may have never written a personal statement, and even if she did, it was most likely decades ago. Give your readers a sense of what you'd like them to read for , or print out the questions I listed above and include them at the end of your essay.
After incorporating any helpful feedback you got from others, you should now have a nearly complete draft with a clear arc.
At this point you want to look for issues with word choice and sentence structure:
- Are there parts that seem stilted or overly formal?
- Do you have any vague or boring descriptors that could be replaced with something more interesting and specific?
- Are there any obvious redundancies or repetitiveness?
- Have you misused any words?
- Are your sentences of varied length and structure?
A good way to check for weirdness in language is to read the essay out loud. If something sounds weird when you say it, it will almost certainly seem off when someone else reads it.
Example: Editing Eva's First Paragraph
In general, Eva feels like her first paragraph isn't as engaging as it could be and doesn't introduce the main point of the essay that well: although it sets up the narrative, it doesn't show off her personality that well. She decides to break it down sentence by sentence:
I dialed the phone number for the fourth time that week.
Problem: For a hook, this sentence is a little too expository. It doesn't add any real excitement or important information (other than that this call isn't the first, which can be incorporate elsewhere.
Solution: Cut this sentence and start with the line of dialogue.
"Hello? This is Eva Smith, and I'm a reporter with Tiny Town High's newspaper The Falcon. I was hoping to ask you some questions about—"
Problem: No major issues with this sentence. It's engaging and sets the scene effectively.
Solution: None needed, but Eva does tweak it slightly to include the fact that this call wasn't her first.
I heard the distinctive click of the person on the other end of the line hanging up, followed by dial tone.
Problem: This is a long-winded way of making a point that's not that important.
Solution: Replace it with a shorter, more evocative description: " Click. Bzzzzzzz. Whoever was on the other end of the line had hung up."
I was about ready to give up: I'd been trying to get the skinny on whether the Atlas Theater was actually closing to make way for a big AMC multiplex or if it was just a rumor for weeks, but no one would return my calls.
Problem: This sentence is kind of long. Some of the phrases ("about ready to give up," "get the skinny") are cliche.
Solution: Eva decides to try to stick more closely to her own perspective: "I'd heard rumors that Atlas Theater was going to be replaced with an AMC multiplex, and I was worried." She also puts a paragraph break before this sentence to emphasize that she's now moving on to the background info rather than describing her call.
Step 7: Double Check Everything
Once you have a final draft, give yourself another week and then go through your essay again. Read it carefully to make sure nothing seems off and there are no obvious typos or errors. Confirm that you are at or under the word limit.
Then, go over the essay again, line by line , checking every word to make sure that it's correct. Double check common errors that spell check may not catch, like mixing up affect and effect or misplacing commas.
Finally, have two other readers check it as well . Oftentimes a fresh set of eyes will catch an issue you've glossed over simply because you've been looking at the essay for so long. Give your readers instructions to only look for typos and errors, since you don't want to be making any major content changes at this point in the process.
This level of thoroughness may seem like overkill, but it's worth taking the time to ensure that you don't have any errors. The last thing you want is for an admissions officer to be put off by a typo or error.
Example: Eva's Final Draft (Paragraphs 1 and 2)
"Hello? This is Eva Smith again. I'm a reporter with Tiny Town High's newspaper The Falcon , and I was hoping to ask you some questions about —" Click. Bzzzzzzz. Whoever was on the other end of the line had hung up.
I'd heard rumors that the historic Atlas Theater was going to be replaced with an AMC multiplex, and I was worried. I'd grown up with the Atlas: my dad taking me to see every Pixar movie on opening night and buying me Red Vines to keep me distracted during the sad parts. Unfortunately my personal history with the place didn't seem to carry much weight with anyone official, and my calls to both the theater and city hall had thus far gone unanswered.
Once you've finished the final check, you're done, and ready to submit! There's one last step, however.
Step 8: Do It All Again
Remember back in step one, when we talked about making a chart to keep track of all the different essays you need to write? Well, now you need to go back to that list and determine which essays you still need to write . Keep in mind your deadlines and don't forget that some schools may require more than one essay or ask for short paragraphs in addition to the main personal statement.
In some cases, you may be able to reuse the essay you've already written for other prompts. You can use the same essay for two prompts if:
Both of them are asking the same basic question (e.g. "how do you interact with people who are different from you?" or "what was an important experience and why?"), or
One prompt is relatively specific and the other is very general (e.g. "tell us about how your family shaped your education" and "tell us something about your background"), and
Neither asks about your interest in a specific school or program.
If you choose to reuse an essay you wrote for a different prompt, make sure that it addresses every part of question and that it fits the word limit. If you have to tweak a few things or cut out 50-odd words, it will probably still work. But if the essay would require major changes to fit the criteria, you're probably better off starting from scratch (even if you use the same basic topic).
Crafting Supplemental Essays
The key to keep in mind in when brainstorming for supplemental essays is that you want them to add something new to your application . You shouldn't write about the same topic you used for your personal statement, although it's okay to talk about something similar, as long as you adopt a clearly different angle.
For example, if you're planning to be pre-med in college and your main essay is about how volunteering at the hospital taught you not to judge people on their appearance, you might write your secondary essay on your intellectual interest in biology (which could touch on your volunteering). There's some overlap, but the two topics are clearly distinct.
And now, you're really, truly, finally done. Congrats!
Now that you know how to write a college essay, we have a lot more specific resources for you to excel.
Are you working on the Common App essay ? Read our breakdown of the Common App prompts and our guide to picking the best prompt for you.
Or maybe you're interested in the University of California ? Check out our complete guide to the UC personal statements .
In case you haven't finished the rest of the application process , take a look at our guides to asking for recommendations , writing about extracurriculars , and researching colleges .
Finally, if you're planning to take the SAT or ACT one last time , try out some of our famous test prep guides, like "How to Get a Perfect Score on the SAT" and "15 Key ACT Test Day Tips."
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Alex is an experienced tutor and writer. Over the past five years, she has worked with almost a hundred students and written about pop culture for a wide range of publications. She graduated with honors from University of Chicago, receiving a BA in English and Anthropology, and then went on to earn an MA at NYU in Cultural Reporting and Criticism. In high school, she was a National Merit Scholar, took 12 AP tests and scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and ACT.
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How To Write a College Essay, With Examples
Whether you’re prepared or not, there comes a time when every student is faced with writing their first college essay. Even if you’re a natural writer, writing a college essay is still a daunting task. Here’s a method for tackling the process and a few examples to inspire you.
Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.
Give your writing extra polish Grammarly helps you communicate confidently Write with Grammarly
Preparing to write your college essay
The old saying goes, “Those who fail to prepare prepare to fail.” Why spend time and energy cleaning up a mess when you can avoid making one in the first place?
- Make sure you understand the assignment. There’s no shame in asking your professor to clarify. Your success depends on understanding what she wants Here are some ways to ask for clarification .
- Research and create a basic outline as you go. Roll research and the initial outlining process into one simple step. As you research, create an info dump—a bullet-pointed list of the topics you want to cover. Add links to articles and citations as you go so you can refer to them easily.
- Figure out what you want to say. What’s the main argument or idea you’ll express? You need to know before you begin. In order to make a point, you have to have one.
- Create a classic, canonical outline. Once you have a clearer vision for your central idea or argument, it’s time to organize your info-dump. Prune out anything irrelevant and organize your outline into the classic structure .
Drafting your essay
By the end of the research and planning process, you’ll feel energized and ready to write about all this interesting stuff your research (or your brainstorming process , if your essay requirement is more personal) has uncovered. Use that energy to write a draft.
Here’s a tip: Don’t spend a lot of time drafting your intro up front. Often, the article itself informs the introduction, and you won’t know what your intro should say until your essay is finished.
The parts of a college essay
Your intro tells your reader what to expect from your essay. Think of it as a brief roadmap that begins with an intriguing opening line, includes a quick summary of the topic and ideas you’ll present, and concludes with a thesis statement.
It’s important to draw your reader in from the very first sentence. Take a look at some of these opening lines from college entrance essays submitted to Stanford University .
While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe?
Some fathers might disapprove of their children handling noxious chemicals in the garage.
I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks.
Summary of your topic, ideas, or argument
Your opening paragraph should introduce the subject matter and the points you intend to make. They should give some background to support the thesis statement you’ll make at the end of the introduction.
The debate over athletes’ use of performance-enhancing substances is getting more complicated as biotechnologies such as gene therapy become a reality. The availability of these new methods of boosting performance will force us to decide what we value most in sports—displays of physical excellence developed through hard work or victory at all costs. For centuries, spectators and athletes have cherished the tradition of fairness in sports.
— Argumentative Essay Examples, Skyline College
Your thesis statement comes at the end of your introduction. Here’s the thesis statement from the Skyline College example above. It states the main point of the essay, which the author intends to make a case for.
While sports competition is, of course, largely about winning, it is also about the means by which a player or team wins. Athletes who use any type of biotechnology give themselves an unfair advantage and disrupt the sense of fair play, and they should be banned from competition.
The introduction states what’s at stake, and the body presents the evidence. In the case of an argumentative essay, the evidence might be research. In a more personal essay, it might be made up of the author’s own experiences.
Write the body in a logical order. Some essays work well chronologically, where the events are presented in the same sequence that they happened in time. Argumentative essays are often emphatic, where the least important points are presented first and build up to the most important.
If your essay includes research, don’t be shy about including substantial statements, just make sure they’re properly cited. Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker to help you find any citations you may have missed and properly attribute them. (Trust us—your professor will check for plagiarism and find it if you don’t!)
In your conclusion , you wrap everything up in a neat package. Restate your thesis in a clear way without repeating it word for word. Leave your reader with a takeaway or something to think about. Here’s the conclusion of the Skyline College essay sample.
Unless we are willing to organize separate sporting events and leagues—an Olympics, say, for athletes who have opted for a boost from the test tube and another for athletes who have chosen to keep their bodies natural—we should ask from our athletes that they dazzle us less with extraordinary performance and more with the fruits of their hard work.
How to Write an Epic College Admission Essay
Many factors come into play as college admissions teams evaluate each year’s pool of applicants. High school grades, extracurriculars and awards – they’re all major factors. But as more and more schools utilize a holistic admissions process, your admissions essay has more weight than ever.
Admissions committees have to comb through thousands of applications to choose an incoming class. Wondering how to accurately present yourself and make a lasting impression? Here are some savvy tips on creating a well-written, thoughtful and memorable essay that will make you stand out from the pack.
Answer the Question.
Read through the admissions guidelines for each college before putting pen to paper. What are the directions for the essay? Is there a prompt? Take some time to reflect on it and jot down your initial thoughts and responses. Then give yourself time to think about what you might be able to cover before you begin the essay.
Show, Don’t Tell.
While each applicant is different, everyone wants to touch on the same message: I’m a hard worker and I’m passionate about my pursuit of higher education. Take a tip from journalists and show the admissions team how you put your passion and industrious spirit into action – whether it’s in the classroom or during your club or sports activities. Tell them a story with plenty of memorable anecdotes that they’re not likely to forget.
Make Every Word Count.
After checking for a specific essay prompt, see if the application gives a word count – and stick to it. Tighten every sentence. Use active verbs and go easy on the lightweight adjectives and adverbs. You’re trying to convince the committee to admit you. Be sure to make a solid, persuasive argument.
Paint a Strong Picture of Yourself.
Be Honest and Address the Elephant in the Room.
Did you change high schools and have to play catch-up in math during the second semester of sophomore year? Did your beloved grandparent pass away shortly before senior exams? Sometimes your grades reflect a personal trauma or challenge that can be addressed succinctly, but honestly, in your essay. This is your chance to let the admissions committee know about extenuating circumstances not covered in other areas of your application.
Tell Them You’ve Got What It Takes.
Another tactic that works? Show the committee that you are prepared and ready to transition to college. Explain how you’ve become resilient through a school opportunity or personal experience that required true grit and perseverance. Highlight character traits that demonstrate you are self-motivated and possess the confidence and organizational skills for advanced study, communal living and critical thought and analysis.
Get a Second – and Third and Fourth – Set of Eyes.
We can’t say this enough: Your admissions essay is a formal piece of writing. Be sure to use proper tone and grammar. And spellcheck it each time you edit, making sure to read it through one last time to ensure changes have been saved and no editing marks remain on your clean, final copy.
Ready to Apply?
Talk to our team of undergraduate admissions counselors , each of whom is knowledgeable about Sacred Heart and the general college admissions process. Have a one-on-one conversation with one of our counselors to get all your questions answered either virtually or in person. Email [email protected] or call 203-371-7883.
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How to Write a Descriptive Essay
Last Updated: February 8, 2023 Fact Checked
This article was co-authored by Jake Adams . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 1,493,572 times.
A good descriptive essay creates a vivid picture of the topic in the reader’s mind. You may need to write a descriptive essay as a class assignment or you may decide to write one as a fun writing challenge. Start by brainstorming ideas for the essay. Then, outline and write the essay using vivid sensory details and strong descriptions. Always polish your essay and proofread it so it is at its best.
Brainstorming Ideas for the Essay
- You could also choose a fictional person to write about, such as a character in a book, a story, or a play. You could write about a character on your favorite TV show or video game.
- Another take on this option is to write about a made-up place or object, such as the fantastical school in your favorite book or the magic wand from your favorite TV show.
- You could also choose a more specific emotion, such as brotherly love or self-hatred. These emotions can make for powerful descriptive essays.
- For example, if you were writing about a person like your mother, you may write down under “sound” : “soft voice at night, clack of her shoes on the floor tiles, bang of the spoon when she cooks.”
Writing the Essay
- If you are writing the essay for a class, your instructor should specify if they want a five paragraph essay or if you have the freedom to use sections instead.
- For example, if you were writing a descriptive essay about your mother, you may have a thesis statement like: “In many ways, my mother is the reigning queen of our house, full of contradictions that we are too afraid to question.”
- For example, if you were writing the essay about your mom, you may start with: “My mother is not like other mothers. She is a fierce protector and a mysterious woman to my sisters and I.”
- If you were writing an essay about an object, you may start with: "Try as I might, I had a hard time keeping my pet rock alive."
- You can also use adjectives that connect to the senses, such “rotting,” “bright,” “hefty,” “rough,” and “pungent.”
- For example, you may describe your mother as "bright," "tough," and "scented with jasmine."
- You can also use similes, where you use “like” or “as” to compare one thing to another. For example, you may write, “My mother is like a fierce warrior in battle, if the battlefield were PTA meetings and the checkout line at the grocery store.”
- For example, you may write about your complicated feelings about your mother. You may note that you feel sadness about your mother’s sacrifices for the family and joy for the privileges you have in your life because of her.
- For example, you may end a descriptive essay about your mother by noting, “In all that she has sacrificed for us, I see her strength, courage, and fierce love for her family, traits I hope to emulate in my own life.”
Polishing the Essay
- You can also read the essay aloud to others to get their feedback. Ask them to let you know if there are any unclear or vague sentences in the essay.
- Be open to constructive criticism and feedback from others. This will only make your essay stronger.
- If you have a word count requirement for the essay, make sure you meet it. Add more detail to the paper or take unnecessary content out to reach the word count.
Outline for a Descriptive Essay
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- ↑ http://www.writeexpress.com/descriptive-essay.html
- ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 24 July 2020.
- ↑ https://www.iup.edu/writingcenter/writing-resources/organization-and-structure/descriptive-writing.html
- ↑ https://spcollege.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=10168248
- ↑ http://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/style_purpose_strategy/descriptive_essay.html
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/descriptive_essays.html
- ↑ https://vln.school.nz/groupcms/view/845349/descriptive-writing
About This Article
To write a descriptive essay, start by choosing a topic, like a person, place, or specific emotion. Next, write down a list of sensory details about the topic, like how it sounds, smells, and feels. After this brainstorming session, outline the essay, dividing it into an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Open with a vivid introduction that uses sensory details, then introduce your thesis statement, which the rest of your essay should support. Strengthen your essay further by using metaphors and similes to describe your topic, and the emotions it evokes. To learn how to put the finishing touches on your essay, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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How to start a college essay: 10 strategies that worked.
Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University
Looking for tips on starting a college essay? Read on to learn the best ways to start an essay with examples.
College application essays can be some of the most intimidating parts of the college admissions process. You may even find yourself wondering how to start an essay for college. But don’t panic. This is your chance to show your personality amid a sea of other applicants.
More than all of your other application materials, your essay should be unique and personal. It is about you and is your chance to show who you are to colleges beyond the numbers. You will have your grades and educational background, but the essay is your chance to give admissions officers a taste of the personality behind them.
No matter the topic , most successful essays tell a personal story about the applicant and why they would be a good candidate for admittance. Whether you’re writing a transfer essay , a personal statement, or an essay for a scholarship , you’ll need to learn the basics of successful essay writing.
Knowing how to start a college essay will make your whole experience much easier. Our guide will cover the purpose of your college essays, how to start an essay, and best practices for crafting winning essays.
10 Effective Ways to Start a College Essay
There are many different ways that you can begin your college essay. Choosing something unexpected may help you stand out from other applicants! Here are some interesting ways to start essays that will help you grab the reader’s attention right away.
1. The Striking Description
Starting with a vivid description can be an excellent opener to seize your reader’s attention:
Example: “ Brown, crumpled leaves were heaped in the corners of the small, cold room. As I walked in, the smell of woodsmoke filled the air .”
This example of a bold opening instantly creates an image in the mind . The reader can easily begin to see themselves in the setting as the writer engages their senses — both sight with “brown, crumpled, small” and smell with “woodsmoke.”
This creates an interesting sensory experience for your reader and helps grab their attention right from the beginning of your essay. If you’re just learning how to begin an essay, this is a great opener to try your hand at.
You can try to create very unusual or disturbing imagery to really grab your reader’s attention, but be careful. Remember that reading the college essay is a subjective experience. If you disgust or upset your admissions officer, they might be less likely to accept you.
2. The Mystery
Begin by setting up questions your essay will answer . This “mystery” method ignites the reader’s sense of curiosity, which will motivate them to keep reading.
Example: “ The knife was on the countertop. It shouldn’t have been there .”
This example leaves the reader full of questions. “Whose knife?”, “Why shouldn’t it be there?” These are questions the essay will answer later on. It can be confusing and intriguing – they don’t know what’s going on and want to read on to understand.
This method can be very effective for opening your college essay. It creates mystery and poses questions — just make sure you answer each of those questions throughout the essay. Your goal is to intrigue the reader, not leave them feeling puzzled!
Take this example from a real-life, successful college application essay:
“ I live alone — I always have since elementary school. ” ( Kevin Zevallos , Connecticut College)
This gives an unusual detail that immediately poses questions — why would a child be living alone? It compels the reader to keep reading to find out more.
3. Direct Address
You can start your essay with a direct question to your reader to stand out from other essays the admissions committee will read:
Example: “Does every life matter? Do you think so?”
This example poses a divisive philosophical question and then turns it directly on the reader, seemingly putting pressure on them to answer. This can be a risky maneuver but is also very effective. Breaking the fourth wall can be quite shocking!
Acknowledging your situation as a writer for your college essay — ”when I began this essay…” — is closely related to this method, but you should use it cautiously. If overdone, it can easily become banal. However, if you think you have a way to use it for a killer opener, it can have excellent results.
4. The Anecdote
Using an anecdote or a short personal story can be an endearing way to begin your college essay. With this method, the writer shares an experience or an anecdote that highlights their strengths or unique perspective.
Example: “When I was five, I had a toy cat I dragged everywhere. We were inseparable! I begged my mom until I was 10 to get our first real cat, Luna, and my obsession with animal care began.”
The purpose of using an anecdote is to introduce yourself and your core traits immediately. This example is excellent because the writer uses a personal story to lead into their interest in animal care, which in this case is relevant to their choice of degree.
5. The Funny One
If appropriate, you can start your essay with a humorous anecdote or a witty comment to set the tone for your essay. Only use this method if it’s true to your personality, as it’s easy for humor not to come across in an essay.
Example: “Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree.”
This example comes from Brittany Stinson’s famous Costco college essay that got her into five Ivy League schools. Using a funny story in your college essay is a risk and should only be undertaken by strong writers with a good sense of humor. When done right, adding humor to your essay can equal a home run.
6. The Thoughtful Quote
Famous quotes are out, but that doesn’t mean all quotes are off the table. One impactful way to start your paper is to begin with a quote that plays a significant role in your story.
This could be a quote from any “main character” in your essay, such as a friend, family member, or teacher, that was said at a pivotal moment in your journey.
Example: “‘You’re not that important, nobody’s thinking about you. In a good way - you know? You can wear whatever you want.’
My best friend Sadie looked at me with a smile as I threw on my fourth outfit option. Maybe she was joking, but those words follow me to this day. Getting caught up in the opinions of others is silly, everyone’s got their own things to worry about! This mindset would later allow me to pursue my passion, and start my business.
In this example, the quote chosen comes from a personal story and represents an important shift in the writer's state of mind. To really drive the message home, recalling the quote and the end of the essay would help to create a memorable piece of work.
While famous quotes are often repetitive and forgettable - using a unique one from a personal story is an excellent way to stand out.
7. The Multilingual One
If you’re speaking about your upbringing or culture, one way to immediately intrigue the reader and nod to the main themes of your essay is to write in your native tongue for the opening sentence. This could also work if the main theme of your essay involves you learning a language.
Example: “Je t'aime, mon petit chou!” My mom called to me as I got ready for my first day of English school.
In the above example, the reader uses their first language to immediately tell the reader about themselves. Make sure to only use this method if speaking multiple languages ties into the key theme of your story.
8. The Three Pillars
This method can be applied to any of the above strategies. The very first line is only a part of your essay opening. When crafting your intro, rely on three things:
- An initial hook
- A description of your essay’s content and what story are you going to tell
- A pivot, where you show how you allude to the challenge of your paper
Example: “When I was 9, I had an obsession. Every day I would run outside and collect as many leaves and plants as I could to press, dry, and organise them. It wasn’t until many years later that I realised this simple hobby would be indicative of a diagnosis: autism.”
Your pivot will usually take the form of a thesis statement, where you set out the point you will make with your essay. This doesn’t necessarily mean you spoil the whole thing; you are just setting up the thing you’re going to say later.
From your opening paragraph, your reader should be engaged, aware of the story or content you are going to describe, and aware of the broad point you will try to make with your essay in relation to the prompt question.
9. The Date, Time, and Place
Simple, yet effective. Sometimes, the best way to start an essay is to begin by setting the scene in the most bare-bones way possible: by listing the date, time, and place that your story begins. You can even throw in another fact so long as it lends itself to your story.
Example: “June 26th, 2010
Swan Creek, Michigan
Population feels like: 5”
In this example, the writer sets us up to understand that they are from a small town and that the essay will discuss something significant that happened on this date in that place. It immediately makes the reader curious about what you’ll say! Just make sure that if you use this intro, your event is shocking enough to warrant it.
10. Start Halfway Through
Before we look at some real-life examples of successful college application essays , a last piece of advice is to not start writing your essay at the beginning. Starting your essay halfway through your story can be confusing yet impactful if done correctly. Then, you can include the beginning of your story in paragraph 2.
Example: “Ow!” my principal yelped, the entire weight of my project collapsing over him. I was mortified, and in deep trouble.”
Clearly with this intro, something needs to be set up for the opening paragraph to make sense. What “project”? Why is it falling? These are the questions your reader will want to know and that you can answer in your essay.
10 College Essay Introduction Examples That Worked
Let’s take a look at some good opening sentences for college essays that worked! These examples of how you can begin your essay are from our essay database and actually got people into college using the methods above.
Example Intro #1
“ My father said I didn’t cry when I was born. Instead, I popped out of the womb with a furrowed brow, looking up at him almost accusatorially, as if to say “Who are you? What am I doing here? While I can’t speak to the biological accuracy of his story — How did I survive, then? How did I bring air into my lungs? — it’s certainly true that I feel like I came preprogrammed with the compulsion to ask questions .” - Marina, Harvard
Why this intro worked: First, its initial line gives us an unusual, personal factoid about this person that immediately poses questions about the person — why didn’t they cry? What does this suggest about them? — that draws in the reader.
Secondly, it’s pretty funny. The image of a frowning baby instantly puts your reader in a good mood, making it likely the reader will enjoy reading the essay and feel a connection to you.
Then, the essay ends with a little hint of its meaning with the “compulsion to ask questions.” This is a fantastic move, going straight from the hilarity of an image as a baby to how it relates to the aspects of the applicant that are relevant to their college admission.
Example Intro #2
In this next example of a Princeton University application , the applicant creates a provoking twist to draw in the reader:
“ People love to ask why. Why do you wear a turban? Why do you have long hair? Why are you playing a guitar with only 3 strings and watching TV at 3 A.M.—where did you get that cat? Why won’t you go back to your country, you terrorist? My answer is…uncomfortable. Many truths of the world are uncomfortable. ”
Why this intro worked: This is an extremely effective opening. Its vague opening line immediately creates mystery and poses questions, drawing in the reader. Then, the benign questions are a setup for the vitriolic “you terrorist,” making it yet more shocking and upsetting.
We mentioned before how you might want to avoid this, but here is an example of where it works. The applicant sets up their argument on uncomfortable truths using clever writing techniques and their real-world experiences.
Example Intro #3
In this successful Harvard essay example intro, the writer recalls a challenging time dealing with heavy subject matter.
“On my parents’ 22nd wedding anniversary, we received the dreaded call. My grandfather, my father’s father, had succumbed to Covid-19. He died alone due to Covid restrictions. He and my grandmother had flown from [STATE] to [CITY] so that my grandmother could have a hip replacement at [HOSPITAL NAME]. He contracted Covid while in [CITY] and, in a tragic twist of events, he ended up dying in that very same hospital. When a loved one passes away, they are torn away from us, leaving a tear in our lives where they once were. In Judaism, we tear our clothes in mourning to symbolize our pain and sorrow. Sadly, the tears in our family fabric happened long before my grandfather died from Covid.”
Why this intro worked: This opening is straight to the point and effective due to its honesty. In admissions essays, don’t be scared to talk about difficult subjects. We’ve all experienced grief, loss, and trauma in our own ways, so choosing a story about this can help the reader learn a lot about you and how you manage to cope.
Example Intro #4
Here’s another intro example from a Harvard student’s essay.
“The grand piano beckons me as I climb the stage to perform. Trained fingers avidly seek the first keys. My heart beats staccato, my breath syncopates with excitement. No time to stall, I attack the first note…”
Why this intro worked: In this essay, the writer chooses to open with descriptive language. The way they paint the scene is captivating and leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, waiting to find out what comes next. Sometimes, a short intro can be the most effective; don’t worry about including all the details right off the bat.
Example Intro #5
Here’s an intro example from a successful “Why Us?” essay for Columbia.
“Watching Spider-Man fighting bad guys in New York made me want to do the same. I can be a superhero through my work as an architect, by designing spaces that improve communities and the well-being of others. Opportunities to research the connection between systemic issues and architecture compels me to Columbia.”
Why this intro worked: This intro is memorable because of the simple childhood movie reference and the unique way the student views his passion for architecture. Referencing a favorite film, can help the reader easily connect to your application. Just be careful that whatever you reference makes sense within your essay.
Example Intro #6
Take a look at this sample intro to an extracurricular essay for Stanford:
“Music is my life as much as my life is music. I can see what both are in their simplest manner during that moment of a symphony orchestra when all the instruments are listening to how the trumpet plays a note, and the piano answers each time. Someone plays, someone else answers, all throughout the song. It’s a conversation, in which they acknowledge each other's presence, thus giving each other life.”
Why this intro worked : The student’s passion for music is bursting through their words in this intro! It’s clear that they care deeply about music throughtheir use a unique metaphor: a conversation. This is a creative choice and serves to set this essay apart.
Example Intro #7
Here’s an example from a Dartmouth essay:
“POP! POP! POP! I’m reminded of a childhood vacation in Aruba with kids around me tossing firecrackers, but the hand pushing me firmly from behind told me these weren’t firecrackers. The authoritative voice of one of our [CONFERENCE NAME] members telling us to “Run!” confirmed that these were gunshots and that we were in imminent danger in the heart of [CITY].”
Why this intro worked : This essay opens with an action-packed scene, drawing the reader in immediately. The fast pace encourages you to keep reading and promises a compelling story to come. This is a writing technique known as in medias res (Latin for “in the midst”), and is an effective opening strategy for your college essay!
Example Intro #8
Here’s another intro example from an essay written for MIT:
“Right foot back, along with your weight, then put your weight back on your left leg, throwing yourself slowly forward and bringing back your right foot. Repeat with the left foot. That’s the first basic salsa movement I learned from some lessons taken with my mother when we accompanied my sister to her therapy in [CITY].”
Why this intro worked : This is a great example of a mystery opening. The reader is intrigued by the movement descriptions but doesn’t fully understand what it means until the writer mentions salsa dancing. It’s creative and attention-grabbing!
Example Intro #9
This intro example was written when applying to the UPenn Wharton School:
“The book I’d swept off my father’s desk in middle school was my first glimpse into business as Wharton professor Barbara Kahn’s The Shopping Revolution appeared before me. An avid shopper myself, middle school me was sold.”
Why this intro worked : In addition to providing a great image and a subtle sense of humor, this opening is great because it ties into the school without being obvious, with a quick mention of a Wharton professor, making the student’s passion for UPenn clear.
Example Intro #10
Check out this sample introduction from a Princeton applicant:
“It began with a tree. At age 7, I was digging up soil to help plant trees at [NAME OF ORGANIZATION]. It was blazing hot outside in the brutal [CITY] sun, yet somehow my heart was burning hotter - I had never felt a rush so fiery, so warm, so… euphoric. And I knew: this was the start of something new.”
Why this intro worked : This intro’s intriguing first sentence invites questions from the reader and then dives right into a passionate description by the author. The setup here masterfully sparks the reader’s imagination as to where this essay could be going!
College Essay Introductions to Avoid
Let’s discuss what you shouldn't include in the start of your essay. First, remain authentic. Avoid using famous quotes or anything that didn’t directly come from your experience.
Second, look to the great writer George Orwell. He had some excellent advice on making writing unique that you can implement in your college application.
With everything you write, ask yourself these questions :
- What am I trying to say?
- What words will express it?
- What image or idiom will make it clearer?
- Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
These are all fantastic questions to ask yourself. If you can interrogate your drafts using this advice, you are sure to improve your college essay’s quality. If you don’t think that will be enough to guide you, Orwell also provided six “rules” — they are more guidelines than rules — that can provide more rigid advice:
- “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”
Obviously, some of these rules can sound pretty outdated — who says barbarous anymore? — but don’t let that distract you from the solid advice. Orwell’s questions and rules basically break down to this: Of everything you write, ask what you are trying to achieve and why you are making each choice.
You want your writing to precisely express, as much as it can, your own thoughts and opinions, rather than trying to seem clever with big words or coasting by using worn-out phrases.
Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about crafting a stellar college essay introduction.
1. Why Does the Start of My College Essay Matter?
Admissions officers process tens of thousands of applications every year, so you need to stand out, and the best place to do that is by seizing your reader’s attention at the very beginning.
2. What Should be the First Thing You Write in a College Essay?
The first thing you include in your college essay depends on the topic. However, no matter what topic your essay is about, you should be able to grab the reader’s attention right away and set up the story of your paper. The “who, what, when and where,” should be clear within the first 5 sentences.
3. How Can I Start A College Essay About Me?
Our personal statement (or other essays discussing your personal life) should start by introducing key factors of who you are that are relevant to the essay. Remember, college essays are the place for colleges to get to know you!
Just make sure not to include too much irrelevant background information and focus on the story of how you became interested in the college/degree you are applying for.
4. How Do I Begin A Narrative Essay?
There are various ways to begin a narrative essay. You might choose to begin with vivid description, a bit of punchy dialogue, or in medias res with some attention-grabbing action.
There’s a whole lot of information included here that can be pretty overwhelming. And while this may not have alleviated your tensions, it should teach you how to start a college essay.
The most important thing is this: If you can authentically talk about yourself, you’ve already made the best contribution to your college essay possible. Colleges are interested in who you are and not so much in your ability to learn writing techniques online.
That said, if you’re looking for ways to express yourself and stand out among other applicants, the tips listed here can help. Good luck!
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How to Write an Essay on Sociology
Last Updated: June 4, 2023 Approved
wikiHow is a “wiki,” similar to Wikipedia, which means that many of our articles are co-written by multiple authors. To create this article, 11 people, some anonymous, worked to edit and improve it over time. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 80% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 112,880 times.
Sociology is a new topic for many students, and writing a paper for a sociology class can be daunting. It is important to remember that sociology is an empirical discipline, which means all sociological writings (including your paper) need a thorough grounding in research and rigorous documentation. You will be asked to interpret these facts that you gather during your research phase. You might be asked to write a paper on cultural topics such as gender stereotypes, marriage, or race. Sociology is different from other social sciences because it relies heavily on both statistics and more interpretive analysis than say, English Literature. It is also a subject that relies heavily on the written word. Chances are, if you are a student in a sociology course, you will need to write several papers. If you learn the proper way to write a sociology essay, the rest of your semester should go smoothly. There are several steps to take to make sure you do a great job and earn the grade you want.
Preparing to Write
- Remember that a good sociology paper starts with an important sociological question. Your first step in writing a good essay is to figure out which question you are going to answer.
- If you are unable to attend office hours, you can ask your professor questions via e-mail. Write this e-mail as if it is business. Be professional, courteous, and clear.
- One type of sociological data is quantitative. These statistics are based on sources such as surveys and censuses. These are generally numbers. An example of quantitative data could be: 9,326 people lived in Urbantown in 1972.
- The other type of data you need is qualitative. This research is less concrete, and is based on sources such as interviews and the researcher's own impressions. An example of qualitative data is: "The number of people living in Urbantown in 1972 likely was much lower because the major industry in town had closed and there were also severe racial tensions".
- Highlight important information. Not only will this make it easier to find that specific information later, but the act of highlighting itself will help embed the information into your brain.
- Don't be afraid to skim over parts of books or articles that either do not relate to your paper topic or are not helpful.
- Remember that sociology is largely about concepts. For example, you might need to explain the relationship between class and power in contemporary society. Therefore, your notes will be different from your chemistry notes, since you are memorizing ideas, not formulas or methods. In your notes, make sure that you have been thorough enough that you will understand the concept when you review your notes.
- Experiment with the noise level in your writing space. Some people work well with music playing, while others work best in total silence. Figure out the right atmosphere for you.
Writing Your Essay
- You can use several methods to come up with a thesis statement. For example, you can start by asking a series of questions. Once you find a good one, turn it into a declarative statement.
- Another method is to use "free association". Write down all of the terms that come to mind when you think of your topic. An idea for a thesis might jump out at you.
- Your thesis must have two key parts: first, it must be debatable. This means that your argument is not a basic statement of facts, but that it is open for critical debate. Second, your thesis must be tightly focused enough that it can be clearly supported with evidence.  X Research source
- For example, perhaps you have been assigned an essay about gender. Your thesis statement could be something like this: "Gender is essentially a social construct, particularly during the early to mid-twentieth century. There are actually much fewer biological differences between men and women than previously thought; the divide between the sexes has actually been created by society."
- When writing your outline, make sure that all of the parts of your essay support your thesis. If the information is not directly related to your thesis, you don't need it.
- For example, if you have been assigned an essay about racial segregation in Chicago, you do not need to spend time discussing sexism in the same city.
- If you are writing a brief essay about race, your outline could indicate that you will discuss the historical precedents, the quantitative date, the scholarly interpretations, and trends for the future.
- Don't worry if your outline takes a while. Once you have a sturdy outline, the rest of the writing progress will be much more efficient.
- Try using a specific example in your introduction. In the example essay of racial segregation in Chicago, you might include a story about a young child who was not allowed to attend the school nearest her house.
- It is useful to write the conclusion before you write the body of your essay. This will help you to stay on track and make sure that your essay clearly relates to the conclusion you are making.
- For example, if you are writing an essay about ageism in America, one of the topic sentences for a body paragraph might be, "Ageism is a prejudice that makes it difficult for older citizens to get hired for certain jobs, even if they are the most qualified."
- An ASA citation could look like this: "The results gathered by Davis (1982: 78) demonstrate that...  X Research source
- Make sure to check with your professor to ensure that you are supposed to use ASA style. Then familiarize yourself with the rules of this documentation system.
Polishing Your Paper
- Use spell check, but do not overly rely on it. Remember, you know what your paper is supposed to say--your computer is not familiar with the points you are making.
- Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to work on this assignment. Researching and writing a paper is a process, and you will likely need to spend several days on the project. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- There is always room for improvement. Make sure to read your professor's comments and use that feedback in future essays. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ https://www.geneseo.edu/sociology/sociology_papers
- ↑ http://las.depaul.edu/academics/sociology/student-resources/Documents/how-to-talk-to-professors.pdf
- ↑ http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/sociology/
- ↑ http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/reading.html
- ↑ http://writerswin.com/three-ways-to-organize-your-ultimate-home-writing-space-plus-infographic/
- ↑ https://sociology.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/documents/student_services/writing_guide/Writing%20for%20Sociology%20Guide%20Second%20Edition.pdf
- ↑ https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/583/02/
- ↑ http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/07/16/is-proper-spelling-still-important_n_1676408.html
- ↑ http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-revise-edit-and-proofread-your-writing/
- ↑ http://www.gonzaga.edu/academics/colleges-and-Schools/College-of-Arts-and-Sciences/Majors-Programs/Political-Science/writing-guidelines.asp
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