Top 10 Checklist For Writing Your College Essay

Unfortunately there is no one-method-fits-all technique to writing a quality college essay, every topic requires a different approach. However, that being said if you follow this top 10 checklist you can make the process a little easier.

  1. Understand what is being asked. Read the question two or three times, make sure you understand exactly what is being asked. One of the biggest mistakes students make is writing what they think others want to hear, rather than the issue being asked.
    Plan. Once you have read the question a few times and you are confident that you understand what is being asked, ask yourself “what do I need to do to answer the question?” Begin jotting down ideas on paper – anything that pops to mind. Start to formulate a ruff plan, then slowly an overall plan for each section will start to emerge.
    Tell a story. As you make your plan, try to tell a story, set the scene, and introduce the reader with some background info. Take the reader on a journey that ends with a conclusion – a conclusion that answers the question.
    Ask yourself “so what?” Does your story have a point? As you write your essay, after each section, ask yourself “so what?” Does this paragraph have a point, is it helping to tell the story I am trying to sell?
    Do something different. Take a risk. Don’t write the essay that everyone else is writing. Imagine you are the marker – after reading 30 essays, the novelty will wear off. A bit of creativity, taking a slightly different angle on even the most boring topic, may be that extra push your essay requires. Remember, even seemingly boring essay topics can sound interesting if creatively approached.
    “The danger lies not in writing bad essays but in writing common essays-the one that admission officers are going to read dozens of”
    – Scott Anderson, associate director of college counselling at Mercersburg Academy (PA).
    Big words do not make good essays. Many students think big words make good essays. Big words are fine, but only if they are used in the appropriate contexts.
    Grab interest from the beginning. Expect your marker to spend just a few minutes reading your essay. You must use your introduction to grab their interest from the outset. Your introduction needs to do two things; firstly create mystery and Intrigue. It is not necessary or recommended that your first paragraph give away the entire essay. Raise questions in the minds of the reader so that they will want to read on. Appeal to their emotions so that the reader forms a personal connection with your essay. Secondly do not summarize the entire contents of your college essay in your Introduction, if you summarise the entire paper, the marker need not read the rest of your essay!
    The body is the story. The introduction sets the scene for the rest of the essay so make sure the body of your essay is consistent with the points raised in your introduction and make sure you tell that story.
    Research. Take the time to research all the information that is required for your college essay. Use a variety of sources – local libraries, teachers/tutors, and friends. With the internet at your finger tips you have access to over 5 billion web pages. Use search engines such as Google to search for information, try a variety of queries, ranging from broad keywords on the discipline to specific queries on the subject matter. Use websites such as Wikipedia and If you get stuck, you can find custom research for your college essay from a number of reputable websites, when using these websites; remember not to plagiarize. For guidelines of what constitutes plagiarism, visit
    The conclusion is crucial. It is the logical ending to your essay. Students can quite often find the conclusion to be the most difficult part of an essay to write, because they feel that they have nothing left to say – hang in there, it is important to keep in mind that the conclusion is often what your marker will remember most, your conclusion should be the best part of your paper. A good conclusion should complete the essay and emphasize the importance of the thesis statement outlined at the beginning.

If you follow the above tips, you’re already half way to writing your essay. Before we finish remember that you do not need to write this masterpiece on your first attempt. It’s not possible, and all that pressure is likely to give you writer’s block. For your first draft, write anything that comes to mind. Don’t worry too much about grammar or spelling. Just get it down on paper (or computer screen). If time permits, it is also a good idea to spend a little time (a few days or a week) away from your draft to not only refresh your ideas and thoughts but also decide if you still consider your approach correct.

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