Essay writing advice

Writing a college admission essay can be intimidating. What should you write about? How should you write it? How personal should you get?

As you prepare to face a blank screen with these and other questions weighing on your mind, remember the advice below from the admission team at Wheaton College Massachusetts:

  1. Choose a topic that interests you. The focus of the essay should be on you. Your topic doesn’t have to be a life altering event that changed your worldview. If you are stuck, think small. Even if other people have written about a similar topic, tell the story in your own way. If you enjoy writing about this topic, others will enjoy reading it. Have you ever had an experience or a moment that taught you something about yourself or that caught you by surprise?
  1. Write in your own voice and style. This is the time to let your personality shine and to tell admission counselors something about yourself that they can’t glean from your other application materials. Be mindful of your tone and word choices and don’t overdo it with big words that you think sound smart.
  1. Hook your reader and answer the question. Admission counselors read a lot of essays so grab their attention right from the start. Remember the question or the writing prompt and be sure to bring your essay to a conclusion that answers the question asked of you.
  1. Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This is not a text message among friends. Do not use abbreviations. Communicate clearly and with punctuation.
  1. Read it out loud. There are many benefits to reading out loud that might help with both understanding the essay questions and proofreading your work.
  1. Speaking of proofreading: Have someone else proofread your essay (a teacher, counselor, friend, or family member is perfect) for content and grammar. Does this person understand what you are trying to say or are they confused by your writing?

Some of our favorite essays were about surprising topics from pasta shapes to timid dogs. Really, anything goes. If you love it, we’ll love reading it!  Read ‘A few ideas’ below.

What Not to Do

  1. Plagiarize
  1. Write about things you know nothing about in a misguided attempt to impress the admission counselors.
  1. Rehash your resume and application or summarize your accomplishments—say something new that a counselor couldn’t know from reading your references and transcripts.
Wheaton’s Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Walter Caffey and other admission leaders share some college application mistakes to avoid in this U.​S.​ News & World Report article.