5 tips for writing a great college application essay

Does someone sit down and actually read the essay you submit with your college application? Yes! Yes, we do! As the senior associate director of undergraduate admissions at SPU, I have read thousands of college essays.

As many of you prepare to write these application essays this fall, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it simple. Often the best essays are about the simplest things. You might feel pressure to write about a heavy life experience, but some of the best essays I have read are about simple things that bring the student joy: A memorable night camping under the stars. A silly labradoodle’s antics. Or the way it feels to cook alongside your grandmother. Topics like these reveal the student’s authentic voice and really come to life on the page.
  2. Paint a picture for the reader. Use descriptive language to set the stage for the reader, welcoming them into the world of your essay. Essays that help me see, smell, and fully sense the environment take me into the text as if I am experiencing something for myself.
  3. Be clear. Sometimes, in an effort to make an essay sound fancy or more academic, students lose their voice and essay direction. Clarity is key!
  4. Don’t rush your essay. Like any good piece of writing, it is important to give yourself time and space to review, edit, and look at your essay with fresh eyes. Don’t wait until hours before your essay is due to begin writing it. Write it early and then set it aside so you can read it with fresh eyes later. A new day may bring clarity and enhance the overall product.
  5. Proofread. As simple as this may sound, it is so important to spellcheck, proofread, and, if possible, have a trusted teacher, friend, or family member review your application essay. I find that reading essays aloud, even to yourself, helps catch grammatical errors or confusing sentence structure.

Now that you have these tips in mind, it’s time to begin writing! Good luck, and know that we’ll be looking forward to reading your essays!

Lora Yoder is the senior associate director of undergraduate admissions at Seattle Pacific University. 

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