Tips & Tricks for Writing Your Essay

For a lot of students, the essay or personal statement portion of college applications tends to cause a lot of anxiety. I’m here today to give you some pointers on how to write a good college essay.

The number one recommendation I can give is to answer the prompt. I know this may be common sense to a lot of you, but I’m also sure you know just how easy it can be to go off on a tangent and then all of a sudden you’re over the word limit. Another tip that ties into this is to be concise. If there’s a simpler or shorter way to say what you’re trying to get out, use that instead.

Speaking of the word limit, pay attention to it! Some (though not all) colleges or universities will literally stop reading your essay once you’ve exceeded the word limit. So that last sentence that perfectly pulls together your whole essay might not even be read! If you just can’t seem to get your essay under the word limit, have other people read through it. They might be able to whittle it down even more.

Always proofread your essay. Look for spelling and grammatical errors and also make sure that things flow well. A good way to find any awkward portions of your essay? Put it into Google Translate and listen to it being read out loud. You’ll be able to catch parts of your essay that sound funny and need to be reworked.

Having more than one person proofread your essay is helpful, too. I would suggest choosing 2 to 3 people from different backgrounds—anyone from your family to your English teacher to your high school guidance counselor. They’ll all have different writing styles and different suggestions for how you can improve things.

Most of all, remember that this is the section of the application where you’re allowed to express yourself. This is the place where you can make yourself stand out from the rest of the applicant pool and tell the reader something about yourself that isn’t included on the application itself.

Now that you have a better idea of how to approach your essay, go ahead and get started! Our prompt has already been posted here, so you can get started working on it before the application opens up on August 24. That way, once you’ve filled out the application, you just have to copy and paste your essay into the box and you’re good to go.

So stretch those fingers and get to writing!

Stretching Cat


Please note that comments close after 90 days.


July 13, 2016, 12:09 pm

In addition to the essay question on why an applicant has selected their major, is there a second essay where the student is able to write about special circumstances or challenges they’ve overcome?



July 14, 2016, 8:36 am

Hi Jim,
Yes! There is a sort of “catch all” question at the end of the application which asks if there’s anything else that we should know about your academics. You’ll be able to discuss any extenuating circumstances there.



August 1, 2016, 4:19 pm

Should students who are applying with a primary and secondary majors write two essays, or explain in a single essay their interest in each major?

Thanks very much!



August 2, 2016, 4:51 pm

Hi Jim,
You will need to write one essay for your first choice major and you will need to write one essay for your second choice major, as long as that second choice major is not undeclared. If your second choice major is undeclared then you will not need to write a second essay.



August 14, 2016, 12:04 pm

What if the student is undecided about their major?? What would they write about? Thank you!



August 15, 2016, 10:15 am

Hi Michelle,
On the webpage where we have our essay prompt posted, which is linked in the blog, there is also a prompt for students who will be applying to the Division of General Studies where our undeclared major is housed.