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The College Essay

The Essay is one of the four most important factor in the College Admissions process!

When you apply to any college, you will be asked to turn in several documents which they will use to determine your admission. Colleges will want a transcript, some references, an academic resume, and most colleges will ask for an essay or personal statement.

Admissions committees put the most weight on your high school grades and your test scores, but when push comes to shove, your essay will carry a lot of weight.

Whether you are applying via CommonApp, Coaltion, ApplyTexas, UCAS, UCal or other, choosing one of these two prompts will allow you to build a universal master essay that will fit well into any application.

Prompt 1 - Tell us your story. What unique opportunities or challenges have you experienced throughout your high school career that have shaped who you are today?

Prompt 2 - Most students have an identity, an interest, or a talent that defines them in an essential way. Tell us about yourself.


  • Your essay should be approximately 500 words.

  • You can edit it up or down slights as needed for a particular app.

  • Your essay should be grammatically correct and carefully edited for typos.

  • Make sure your essay is typed and submitted at the same time as you app.

  • Do not include any specific university in your master essay. But you can customize.

  • Do not include information that does not help explain you as a student/applicant.

  • Do not include inaccurate or false information.


1. Write about something that's important to you.

It could be an experience, a person, a book—anything that has had an impact on your life.

2. Don't just recount—reflect!

Anyone can write about how they won the big game or the summer they spent in Rome.

When recalling these events, you need to give more than the play-by-play or itinerary.

Describe what you learned from the experience and how it changed you.

3. Being funny is tough.

A student who can make an admissions officer laugh never gets lost in the shuffle. But

beware. What you think is funny and what an adult working in a college thinks is funny are

different. We caution against one-liners, limericks and anything off–color.

4. Start early and write several drafts.

Set it aside for a few days and read it again. Put yourself in the shoes of an admissions

officer: Is the essay interesting? Do the ideas flow logically? Does it reveal something

about the applicant? Is it written in the applicant’s own voice?

5. No repeats.

What you write in your application essay or personal statement should not contradict any

other part of your application–nor should it repeat it. This isn't the place to list your awards

or discuss your grades or test scores.

6. Answer the question being asked.

Don't reuse an answer to a similar question from another application.

7. Have at least one other person edit your essay.

A teacher or college counselor is your best resource. And before you send it off, check,

check again, and then triple check to make sure your essay is free of spelling or grammar

errors. If you can afford it, have your essay professionally edited.


  • Exceptional hardships, setbacks or personal experiences that have shaped your abilities or academic credentials (illness, disability, death, finance, etc.)

  • Personal responsibilities (i.e. children, employment, caring for ill or aging parent/guardian, etc.)

  • Exceptional achievements - academic or special talents (such as National Honor Society, poetry, music, art, bilingual proficiency, etc.)

  • Educational goals and choice of major.

  • Leadership experiences (Student Council, R.O.T.C., and other school, community and religious clubs or organizations)

  • Learning disabilities (i.e. dyslexia, etc.) but approach this topic carefully.

  • Ways you have associated with the university (i.e. family members or close friends who’ve attended the university, visits to the campus, etc.)

  • Work history (specify hours and times)

  • Community service involvement (specify hours and times)

NOTE - It is sometimes helpful to include documentation or contact references for verification purposes when you include something that is particularly impressive or notable.


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