Tips for Writing Application Essays

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


By Recent Grad Toni Vollano

You’re about to graduate Gateway Community College (GCC) and continue your education at a four-year university. You’ve done all your research and picked a handful of universities that fit your needs, but there is one obstacle in your way: the dreaded college application essays. All these application essays share the same frustrating problems: “What do I write about?” and “What is the person who is reading this looking for?” While these questions seem overwhelming, there is a way to ease the frustration and write a great essay.

According to the first step is choosing a topic that will highlight you. When writing an essay, it is important to talk about who you are as a person. Tell your personal story and mention things that are not in the application. For example, if you have already listed the awards you’ve won or the clubs you have participated in, don’t simply relist them in the essay. Expand on the topic and talk about how you participated in the club; tell your audience about your experiences and what led you to winning the award. University applications, especially the Common Application, usually give you an array of questions to choose from, so pick a topic that highlights you and your accomplishments.

It is important to remember that the admissions staff wants to learn about you, and not about the university; they already work there. Make sure your essay stays on topic and focuses on you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention the university, but don’t focus the entire essay on it. Referring to the university, tell your reader what qualities and accomplishments you can bring to their school. If you were the president of the Black Student Association and plan to join the university’s Black Student Association (BSA), make sure to mention that. Explain to them how your experiences have helped you grow as a person and how that will help you contribute to BSA. This way, you are telling your audience about who you are and why you will be an asset to them.

Make sure you are using your own voice. Advanced vocabulary spices up an essay, but it is important not to over-spice-it. Trying to make an impression by using big words in an essay is one of the most common mistakes and it causes students to misuse words. You should always be mindful of the definitions of the synonym you are using from Thesaurus (yes, we all do it) and be aware of how the synonym is being used (is it a verb, adjective, noun?) Changing it up with your vocabulary can improve an essay, but don’t make your audience pull out a dictionary to decode it.  

The last bit of advice I have is take advantage of GCC’s Writing Center. It is extremely important to let someone read your essay to check for grammatical mistakes, flow, narrative, and to make sure the topic is clear and concise. The Writing Center can also help you with writer’s block, and give you pointers to make your essay writing experience go smoothly. To schedule an appointment click HERE.

Good luck!