How to Write A College Application Essay

March 1, 2023
How to start an application essay
A keyboard with pencils

Writing great essays is an important step in getting accepted to the school of your dreams. So how do you write a college essay that stands out from all the other applicants? In this article, you will find everything you need to know about writing a memorable and creative college application essay.

What is a college application essay?

A college application essay is a written statement submitted as part of the college or university admission process. It is usually one of the last pieces of information that the applicant submits.  The university application essay should express the student’s identity, values, interests, and aspirations. It provides them with an opportunity to demonstrate their writing skills, knowledge, and creativity.

Application essays can also be considered personal stories. This allows applicants to express themselves more freely. They show universities who they are and why they should be admitted. Writing application essays allows students to reflect on their lives. In addition, students can describe how they have developed over the years. The essays also provide admissions officers with additional information about a student’s potential.

College application essay format

How to format a college application essay
The figure of a woman with a notebook in her hands and an image of a tablet

Font and size 

Most colleges prefer essays in 12-point font with 1-inch margins, so use this as the initial format for a college application essay. The most common fonts are Times New Roman, Arial, and Verdana, but you can choose another font that is easy to read. Make sure the font size is the same throughout the document – avoid using different sizes for headings or titles.  


When structuring your essay, begin with an introduction in which you introduce or describe yourself. Then, briefly explain why you are applying for this particular course of study at this university or college. This is followed by the body paragraphs, in which you expand on each of the points made in the introduction. Finally, summarize what was covered in your essay in the conclusion. Make sure your college admissions essay is cohesive and well-structured. Each paragraph should be concise and focus on one idea.


When considering how long a college application essay should be, you must follow your school or university’s guidelines exactly. If there are no specific length guidelines, you should try to write between 500 and 600 words in total. Most admissions officers agree that this length is usually sufficient without the essay becoming too wordy or rambling.

Application Essay Tips 

Writing application essays can be daunting, but with a little preparation and the right mindset, it doesn’t have to be. Here are 5 tips that will show you how to start application essays.

Start early

When it comes to how to write a college application essay, the rule of thumb is to start early. That way you have time to think about the topic and get feedback from others. Starting early also gives you the time you need to refine the content. Additionally, with more time, you will have less need to rush through the writing and revision process.

Brainstorm ideas

Writing an application essay can seem like an intimidating task, but the key is to find a topic that interests you and that you can look at from different angles. Have you been particularly involved in volunteer work or extracurricular activities? Did something motivate you to further your education? These stories and moments can provide insight into your work and help admissions officers get to know you better. After you have laid out your general points, think of specific examples or details that can underscore them. This will bring what you have written to life. Brainstorming is just the beginning of writing the best essay for college admission — good luck!

Write a draft

Writing down the first draft helps you get your ideas down on paper so they stop floating around in your head. Putting ideas on paper helps you turn them into something concrete and tangible. Once you have the words on paper, you can begin to organize and connect them in a way that makes sense.

Another great benefit of a rough draft is that you can begin writing a college application essay imperfectly. We all know how intimidating it can be to start from scratch on an important assignment. When we think that our first attempt must be perfect, we can be paralyzed with fear and not dare to start. When we write a rough draft, we can focus on getting our ideas down on paper. At the same time, we do not have to worry about making mistakes or having our work judged by others. This kind of freedom can lead to unexpected ideas and creativity.

Be Specific 

When writing your college essay application, make sure to be as specific as possible about yourself and why you are a good fit for the school or program. Avoid vague language and try to give concrete examples of experiences or accomplishments. This will demonstrate why you should be accepted into the college or university program. Remember that this is your chance to show who you are! So don’t be afraid to include unique experiences or interests that set you apart from other applicants.

Edit and revise 

Editing and revising your essay for college application is an essential part of the writing process. By stepping back from your work, you can look at it with fresh eyes and determine what improvements need to be made. When you return to an essay you have already written, it’s a good idea to read it aloud. Errors in grammar or clunky sentences are likely to become clearer with this exercise. Often, re-reading an essay for college admission helps you figure out how to express ideas more clearly and effectively by refining existing language or adding new words and phrases. You can also give work to professionals who can check college essay application format, edit, and generally improve the presentation of your work.

Applications Essays: What to Avoid?

The college application process is daunting enough without also having to worry about writing good application essays. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and make mistakes. That’s why it’s important to know what not to do when writing application essays. Here are some pitfalls you should avoid to write a successful essay.

  1. Don’t copy someone else’s work. Plagiarism is not only an academic offense, but it also does not help you stand out from other applicants. You should always strive to be original when writing your college application essay. After all, admissions officers are looking for a unique insight into your personality and background.
  2. Don’t be generic or focus on clichés. Colleges want to know more about you. Try not to focus on mundane topics like “world peace” or how much you already love college. Instead, try to write about something meaningful to you. A personal experience that made you who you are today, or a topic that has been on your mind lately.
  3. Don’t be too literal or technical in your language. You mustn’t make your prose too flowery (no one likes a show-off!). It’s also important that you don’t write too dryly or formally. This is a great opportunity for you to be creative, don’t get overwhelmed by technical details and facts. Instead, let them flow into your story as long as you don’t rely on them too much!

College Application Essay Example

Here’s an example of how to write an application essay:

I am intrigued by the idea of studying history from an unbiased perspective. The U.S. University course on World War II seems to offer an important opportunity to broaden one’s perspective when considering major world events. This includes learning about the lens of lesser-known nations or groups. They are often not considered in mainstream historical research.

I am passionate about history, and I believe that a degree can open the door to an exciting career in journalism. I have gained knowledge on how to best research data and accurately convey important information. These qualities are essential when sharing stories or ideas publicly. Because I have had this skill in me since I was in high school, I find it easy to teach others. The ability to confidently articulate points of view sets great communicators apart!

My deep attachment to journalism was solidified during my recent internship at a local newspaper. As part of the program, I shadowed a journalist and assisted him with research work. Both online and print sources provide accuracy when writing articles. Surprisingly, I even got the rare opportunity to ghostwrite a few small articles! This experience and my future studies have prepared me for an exciting career as a journalist!

When I’m not engrossed in textbooks, I can be found doing a variety of athletic activities with friends or at the gym. After an exciting day outdoors, nothing soothes my soul like immersing myself in books. From timeless classics to contemporary works, knowledge truly is power! One book that stands out for its controversial ideas on leadership is Machiavelli’s The Prince: advocating brutal methods like “fear’ as opposed to love has left lasting impressions in history to this day.

So, exposure to unconventional political thinking has sparked my passion for journalism. It awakens a desire to question points of view and to engage with the richness of the ideas put forward.


The essay for college admission is your opportunity to showcase your personality, goals, influences, challenges, triumphs, life experiences, and lessons learned. Now that you know the secrets to write great college essays, it’s time to put them into practice. If it helps, try to use our college application essay sample to guide your thoughts. 

Stay true to yourself and follow your passions. Be specific and paint a picture for the admissions committee – this is your chance to stand out from the other applicants.  If you take these tips to heart, you’ll be well on your way to writing an essay that reflects who you’re and why you deserve to be admitted to the school of your dreams.