• Genine Babakian

5 Tips for Writing Your Best College Essay

Updated: Feb 5, 2020


Ah, the telltale signs of autumn: crisp mornings, pumpkin spice lattes, and high school seniors panicking about their college essays. Here are five tips to soothe nerves and help applicants write their best college essay.

1) Make the story your own. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd. You have a unique voice and a story to tell that is all your own. Imagine, as you write, that you are telling that story to a trusted companion.

2) Being real is better than showing off. You’ve got the rest of your college application to impress colleges with your achievements and activities. Don’t use your essay as a brag sheet – admissions officers can sniff out the fakers!

3) Take your time: The best college essays were not written overnight. Brainstorm. Write your thoughts down without worrying about direction, structure, grammar. Scribble ideas in a notebook. Record them on your phone. These are the building blocks of your essay. No outlining! Write first, and organize your thoughts later.

4) For the big picture, think small. To give the reader a sense of who you are, small details say a lot. Taking care of a sibling, overcoming a fear of parallel parking, perfecting your chocolate chip cookie recipe. You cannot cover your life story in 650 words or less, but you can offer a snapshot of yourself that makes an impression.

5) Show, don’t tell. I've been working with students for six years, and I cannot emphasize this enough. Don’t say you overcame a challenge, show how you did it. The process says a lot more about you than the result. Which is more interesting? Announcing that you worked hard to make the varsity team, or remembering those cold winter mornings when you got up before dawn to practice?

Stay tuned for next week’s post: 5 Tips on what NOT to do when writing your college essay. And for more information on one-on-one college essay coaching, go to my website.

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