College Essay Tips & Tricks


This past week, an admissions counselor from Villanova came to talk to our class about writing our admissions essay. Along with sample essay questions, he gave us really good advice that I want to share with all of you!

General Tips

  • There is beauty in simplicity. Don’t go overboard on details! If you end up going off on a tangent, you’ll lose the main point you’re trying to talk about.
  • Keep your major in mind. As an example, I want to become a nurse so I would gravitate more towards an essay topic where I can express my love of helping others.
  • Show you can communicate. Colleges want students that are able to step up and become leaders. In your essay, show your ability to communicate! That is one of the most important qualities of a leader.

So, why is there an essay?

  • Students can become three dimensional. In other words, you’re not just numbers and letters anymore. Counselors are able to get a sense of who you really are.
  • Measure of skills. A college essay measures a student’s ability to write and think critically and convey ideas onto paper and in writing.
  • The admissions office is interested in what a student has to say and how they say it!

What shouldn’t you include?

  • Excessive dialogue. Don’t make a movie! if you need to use it, make it clear and concise.
  • Profanity. This is a no brainer. It’s not appropriate and there’s a chance you’ll automatically be denied admission.
  • Negativity. You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar!
  • Conventional/blanket statements. You never know who is reading your essay and what their background and political ideology are.
  • Excessively large words. It’s better to keep it simple. Here are some examples:
    • The man walked to the eating place – NO. This is too simple.
    • The gentleman went to the restaurant – YES! This is just right.
    • The chap moseyed to the bistro – NO. This is excessive.

Things you can do to prepare

  • Start now!
  • Brainstorm ideas
    • Your best days
    • Worst days
    • Biggest accomplishments
    • What inspires you
    • Strengths/weaknesses
    • Goals
    • What’s unique about you
    • Where you excel
  • Research essay topics

Sample essay questions (some of the more ambiguous ones are actual questions from the University of Chicago)!

  • It has been 25 years since you have graduated from college, and you have been invited back to address the graduating class at commencement. Provide your speech.
  • Write about yourself as a superhero for a day.
  • What is your favorite word and why?
  • You have just completed your 300-page autobiography. Please submit page 217.
  • How do you feel about Wednesday?
  • Find x.
  • Don’t write about reverse psychology.
  • Write an essay inspired by a giant tub of mustard.

Final advice

  • Try to be unique in your topic
  • Make sure your voice is present
  • Write what you know!
  • Don’t try to guess what the admissions office wants to read

Good luck! Remember to be calm and relaxed 🙂 You got this!



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