The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your College App Essay

You need to get started planning your college app essay.

The Common App essay, otherwise known as the personal statement, is an integral part of the college admissions process. It provides students with an opportunity to demonstrate their personality, accomplishments, and ambitions outside their academic performance and testing results. Writing the perfect essay may seem out of your comfort zone or skillset, but it doesn’t have to be! Think of it more like it’s your chance to stand out and make a lasting impression on the admissions committee. Are you in the midst of planning your college app essay?  Don’t worry – this guide will give you all the planning tools you need to craft a compelling personal statement.

What are the main components of a college app essay?

The college application essay is a great way for students to show off their writing abilities and share their unique stories. It’s the perfect chance to demonstrate their passions, goals, and motivations that have driven them to apply to college. Basically, it’s a way for the students to show their best selves to admissions officers.

The Common App essay should really grab the reader’s attention with a strong introduction that sets the scene. When planning your college essay, make sure you include these other components:

  • An introduction with a hook to capture the reader’s attention and a clear thesis statement.
  • Body paragraphs with the main content of the essay divided into sections that link to the prompt you’re answering and contribute to your story.
  • A conclusion that sums up the answer to the prompt you wrote about.
  • No grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Try to keep a casual tone in your writing.

The essay should demonstrate a casual writing style that is engaging. Let it be a guide into the student’s personality, authentically reflecting their true experiences, passions, and goals.

Tips for planning your college app essay

Selecting an effective topic while planning your college app essay is key! You can check out the Common Application prompts and then begin brainstorming.

But what are the best ways to brainstorm before writing an essay? Here are some exercises to get you brainstorming for your personal statement:

Reflect on past experiences

Take a moment to think about your personal experiences. Think about the big moments, struggles, and successes you have had and how they have affected you and the goals you have. Maybe you conquered your fear of speaking in front of people, gave back while traveling, or even won a championship. All these memories have shaped who you are today.

Explore your interests

Take some time to explore what really interests and excites you. Whether it’s a hobby, an academic topic, or an extracurricular activity, reflecting on the things that have encouraged your personal growth can be rewarding. For instance, if writing is something you’re passionate about, consider how it has helped you express your creativity and cultivate your empathy.

Discover your roots

Talking about your background and culture can immensely impact your values, perspectives, and aspirations. Growing up in a multicultural home provides both challenges and rewards, and the family’s strong emphasis on education can shape your goals. Write about that if it applies to you.

Remember your relationships

Think about an important connection you have in your life. It could be a friend, relative, teacher, or mentor who has had a big impact on you. Take a moment to consider how this person has helped shape your academic and personal development. For instance, how has a supportive guide motivated you to reach your goals?

Share your perspective on adversity

Have you ever faced a difficult experience or setback? Whether it was a health issue, a complicated family situation, or an academic challenge, you can address it in your app and discuss what you learned from it. Don’t be afraid to explore your struggles and how you overcame them, especially if they impacted your academic performance. It’s worth reflecting on so you can take away something positive from the experience.

Discuss a topic

Explore a thought-provoking book, article, or piece of art that has really made an impression on you. Reflect on what makes it so special and how it has shaped your outlook on life or your aspirations. Should your college application essay tie into your future major? This type of essay could give you an answer.

Present something novel

If you have something special to bring to the table, why not write about it? Showcase how your unique perspective or talent makes you who you are and how it can help you reach your goals. It could be anything from being the first in your family to go to college to having a passion for a particular art form or excelling in a certain subject. Whatever it is, make sure to share your story.

How to create an outline for your essay

For high school students, writing an app essay can be made easier by creating an outline. It is the second step to planning your college app essay. How should you outline a college app essay? Here’s what your outline structure should look like:

  • Introduction: Grab the reader’s attention and set the scene for the story you have chosen to tell.
  • Body paragraphs: Elaborate on the events that demonstrate personal characteristics you’re trying to show with this story.
  • Conclusion: Summarize by answering, “so, who are you?” that you just laid out in the essay. Leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Writing the essay: What to include and what to avoid

Planning your college app essay is not easy. This guide will show you how to avoid the pitfalls of subpar app submission.

When composing the essay, high school students should be authentic and write from the heart. Use vivid and descriptive language to accurately portray your experiences and ensure that it remains focused on the main theme.

Be concise and make every word count, as the essay should be around 650 words (the maximum word count). Furthermore, avoid using slang or clichés. Follow the guide, and your written piece will sound compelling!

There are many steps in planning your college app essay.
Image by Freepik

Tips for proofreading and editing

Proofreading and editing are just as important as the writing process when planning your college app essay. Here are some helpful tips for a high school applicant like yourself to make sure your essay is in tip-top shape:

  • Step away for a bit: Take a breather and come back with a fresh set of eyes.
  • Hear it out loud: Read your essay out loud to identify any mistakes you may have missed and to get a better feel for the flow of the words.
  • Invest in editing software: There are many programs out there that can help with grammar and spelling errors.
  • Get some feedback: Have someone else read your essay and give you their opinion. It’s always great to get a second opinion.

When in doubt, you can always count on awesome online College Essay Writing tutors on Lessonpal. Don’t hesitate to ask for help!

The big picture

A high school student has a lot to deal with. The purpose of this guide is to take some of that burden away by sharing tips for planning your college app essay.

Remember these points:

Take some time to plan and craft a great college application essay. It’s a chance to show the admissions committee the real you, so make it authentic.

Don’t forget to proofread your work – it’s an essential step in order to make a good impression. With a bit of effort, you’ll be well on your way to a successful college essay and application.

For more guidance, College Essay Writing tutors at Lessonpal are available to help you through the application process!

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