The college application essay is a big source of stress for high school seniors seeking admission to different universities. With a large number of applicants and limited time in which to review each application, the essay becomes a critical strategy to stand out while presenting yourself in the best light. To craft an essay that will support your application most effectively, consider the following tips.

1. It’s all about you.

The essay is a product description, and you are the product. You are writing this essay to sell yourself to a disinterested party. If no writing prompt is provided, pick a topic that focuses on your strengths as an individual. Examine your personal story to see which of your academic and character assets have not yet been presented in that exhaustive college application that already includes your high school records and recommendation letters. Write about your experiences from your point of view. Avoid embellishing because it is too easy these days to fact-check every statement.

2. Always start with an effective lead-in.

As your high school English teacher has probably emphasized too many times, starting your essay with a powerful hook works as an attention grabber. After spending hours reading admission essays, finding one that starts with an interesting line will be most welcome by admissions officers. However, the lead-in should not be click-bait material or your essay will quickly lose its cachet as an interesting piece.

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One of the best ways to open an essay is by writing about an anecdote from your own life stories. Relate an incident that is relevant to your message. For instance, if you are seeking admission to a health sciences program, think of moments in your young life that illustrated the crucial role of health care workers in your family or in your community. Name-dropping is good, but only if the name is directly related to your story.

3. Write like a persuasive storyteller.

The story is about you, but it is written with two very specific goals in mind: to present yourself as a college-ready individual and to persuade the college that you are a good fit for the school’s unique learning environment. Demonstrate your abilities for organization, communication and cohesive thought with an essay that paints a picture, provides details and expresses your arguments in a relatable way. Structure your essay in a logical pattern by presenting an idea followed by supporting ideas and supporting details. To avoid a rambling composition, stick to a single and narrow theme.

4. Take a stand and defend it vigorously.

Too many students write bland essays to stay within the confines of political correctness. To avoid offending anyone especially those involved in the college admission process, students shy away from expressing their own beliefs in the college essay. Your passion will not shine through if you hide behind the walls of what is safe and acceptable. College is a place where diversity encourages discourse, so your ability to present ideas in a respectful and persuasive manner should demonstrate your college readiness. That said, there is no point in courting controversy for the sake of being controversial. Don’t rant; explain respectfully and logically instead.

5. Start early.

Writing takes time especially if you know the topic too well. Start writing your essay long before the application period starts. Write several versions and edit each one for clarity, cohesion, accuracy and mechanics. This essay may change the arc of your life story. Prepare for it by researching about the program and the school you are applying to and finding updated information on people and places that will be mentioned in your essay.

The Final Product

The college admission essay is your chance to show what you are made of as a young adult. Take the time to create a persuasive piece that will sway admissions counselors to give your application another look. Proofread it and ask someone else to proofread it. Finally, make sure that the essay is in the required format and complies with all submission guidelines.