The College Essay

Hives, profusive sweating and anxiety attacks need not be part of college essay writing. College essays are not five paragraph English class papers. They are more like telling a story. Sit down at your computer and tell the reader something about your life just as if you were telling it out loud. Let your first draft go, don't halt writing to perfect your punctuation or that captivating opening. The important thing is to get the ideas flowing.

And when that idea starts to flow, use these tips as a guide.

Top 10 Dos

  1. Do create a bond with reader.
  2. Do be honest writing about yourself so the reader learns something about the way you view yourself and the world.
  3. Do develop a main event with lots of narrative and specifics
  4. Do show humor if it’s natural in your writing.
  5. Do show a weakness (did you learn something from it?). A touch of self-deprecating humor can be endearing.
  6. Do reveal something important about your character.
  7. Do demonstrate that you can create new ideas and that you have the practical skills to implement them.
  8. Do spend time finding the right idea. It will take less time to write the essay.
  9. Do let the first draft pour out of you. Go back and perfect it later.
  10. Do have a trusted adult or English teacher review your essay and make sure you eliminate all misspellings and grammar mistakes. (But see Don’t number 9).

Top 10 Don'ts

  1. Don’t brag. Don’t try to impress the reader.
  2. Don’t list your resume.
  3. Don’t tell the reader something that’s already in your application.
  4. Don’t be overly verbose (using vocabulary for the sake of including big words).
  5. Don’t use slang, text talk, ampersands (&), etc. and other abbreviations.
  6. Don’t stick with an idea that isn’t working.
  7. Don’t make yours a college essay cliché. Go ahead and Google that.
  8. Don’t think longer is better. Quality is more important than length.
  9. Don’t let others over edit your essay so it’s too perfect and no longer sounds like you.
  10. Don’t wait until the last minute! Give yourself time for 3-4 drafts.