If you’re ready to start applying to colleges, then you’re also headed toward the “dreaded” college essay. Writing essays for your college application can be pretty intimidating, but in the end, if you follow a few key tips, then you’ll be sure to catch the eye of admissions counselors and stand out as a competitive candidate for acceptance to their school. Northgate Academy has sent plenty of students on to college, and we know a thing or two about what your application essay requires.
The most important bit of advice we can give you is to plan ahead. Be sure that you know when your essays are due, and mark those dates on your calendar, setting reminders for yourself to get started on them months in advance. Why months in advance? Your college essays have to be the best writing you’ve ever turned in as well as the most sincere bit of self-advocacy you’ve ever created. That’s going to require some time, some thought, and some revision.
If you’re rushing at the last minute, your essay might come off that way; additionally, you probably won’t be able to find anyone at the last minute to give you any significant feedback. Either that, or you won’t be able to act on the feedback you’re given with any level of thought and effort. Both of those scenarios lead to a bad turnout for the impression you want to have on the person reading your essay. If getting into the school is important enough to you, you’ll make writing an excellent essay a priority by planning far enough in advance to do it right.
Answer The Prompt
Some students struggle with answering the prompt in a college essay. Often, you are given options about what to write, so after you choose the prompt you want to respond to, be sure you check with someone you trust to make sure you’re on the right track. Brainstorming about what you want to write about first and then running your ideas by a trusted advisor is an important step in presenting yourself in the best possible way.
By involving someone else after you’ve brainstormed ideas responding to the specific prompt, you can rest assured that you’ve answered the question being asked and have included the best possible anecdotal evidence from your life. We sometimes forget things about ourselves or overlook some of our best traits and experiences that others remember and can add to our writing plan.
Everything you include in your essay should be a way to promote yourself as a positive candidate for the school. Even if you explain about a mistake you’ve made, your end goal is to show how that mistake taught you a lesson and allowed you to grow. Sure, everyone knows that you are not perfect; no one is. However, your goal is to highlight how you will be an asset to the school, to include the goals that you have for your life, and to show how you will achieve those goals by attending that specific school.
How do your talents, interests, and objectives align with those of the school? Will you be able to add something positive to the culture of the campus? Do you have a special interest in one of their departments and how will your involvement impact it positively? What do you hope to gain from that department and the school? Your goal is to sell yourself, so be sure that regardless of what you type, at some point, you’re moving back to how it makes you the best candidate for acceptance.
Once you’ve gotten your ideas brainstormed and you’re sure you’ve represented yourself in the most positive light possible, your next step is to organize your thoughts. You want to start with something to catch your reader’s attention and end with self-reflection that shows you are an insightful, mature human being who recognizes that there is a world outside of you. Every time you tell a story or anecdote, your goal is to reflect on the meaning of it. That means that even though everything you write should support your main point, everything you write should also include a few sentences of reflection or deeper meaning.
Start with your main point, provide support for that main point, include evidence for each piece of support, and take time to reflect on the significance of each piece of evidence. Your essay will look something like this:
- Introduction that catches your reader’s attention and addresses the prompt through a thesis statement
- Support the main point
- Provide evidence for your support
- Reflect on the meaning of that evidence
- Repeat evidence and reflection as many times as necessary
- Repeat the above format as many times as necessary
- Conclusion that connects back to your catchy introduction and the thesis of your essay
Though every essay prompt is different, following a basic outline format can help you stay on track with your thoughts and more clearly and easily communicate to your reader.
Revise & Edit
Your last step is extremely important. Take the time to revise your essay yourself and have a trusted friend, family member, or role model evaluate it, too. This part can be difficult because even constructive criticism can be hard to hear. However, keeping an open mind about other people’s suggestions can really help you improve your writing. Of course, you can always reject some of their ideas, but try hard to listen to them or read them with openness. Remember that they took the time to try to help you improve! Not everyone would do that, so certainly, their feedback isn’t being sent to you out of any nasty feelings. That means that they are giving you feedback to help you, not to hurt you. Be open to it.
Once you’ve revised and had others give you revision feedback, it’s now time to edit your writing. This is when you take a look at the grammar, usage, and mechanics of your work. Editing is another perfect time to have someone who is good at this skill take a look at your essay. Give them the version of your essay that is as close to a final draft as possible. Editing is about putting the final touches on the written work, so be sure to let them know what you’re looking for specifically: grammar, usage, and mechanics. You can also use a program like Grammarly to help you with this aspect of your writing if you can’t think of anyone who is especially good at the editing portion of writing.
Submit On Time
If you’ve planned ahead, you’ll be ready to submit your essay way before the deadline. That’s great news because you’re far more likely to achieve acceptance early in the game rather than later. Be sure that you check all the parts of your essay one last time before you hit that submit button, and then just sit back and wait, confident that you did your very best and represented yourself in the most positive light possible.
About Northgate Academy
If you’re not already a student at Northgate Academy but are interested in using our faith-based online high school program as an accredited choice for your Christian student or as a resource for homeschool coursework, you can check out our programs online. Although we welcome and support our part-time students as well, every full time student at NGA is assigned an Academic Success Coach, can email their instructors with questions, can reach out to staff through online chat and text, and has access to one-on-one tutoring through Train The Brain.
Still have questions? Feel free to send us a text at 763-412-4701 or call us at 800-339-7132. Our academic support team will be happy to answer your questions or help guide you to the best program for you or your child.