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how to write an amazing admissions essay

If you want to know how to write an amazing college admissions essay, look no further. We’ve assembled a step-by-step approach for you. You need nothing more than a sense of hope and a blank sheet of paper (or a blank computer screen).

Step One


Take a deep breath, and don’t worry – it’s not as bad as you think! And remember, we’re here to help you along with each step of the process.


Thoroughly Absorb the Prompt


A scenario that we surprisingly see over and over again is an essay that is well-written but does not address the prompt. Read the prompt very carefully – don’t just skim it – and make sure you have in your mind a thorough grasp of what admissions officers are looking for.




Once the prompt is front and center in your mind, rather than jump right in with writing, take time to reflect. It’s during deep reflection that our subconscious mind gets to work and comes up with ideas that we may not have thought about otherwise. Also, if the reflection period is skipped, there’s a tendency to feel stressed as you try to force yourself to come up with ideas. Let your brain do the work for you.




Brainstorming may be the most important part of the essay writing process. You can have a beautifully written essay with elegant prose and sophisticated vocabulary, but if the underlying content is not strong, it’s not going to be an effective essay. Content is key. 

A Note About The Internet


It’s increasingly common to search the internet or watch YouTube videos about “great” admissions essays that “got me accepted.” First, be wary of these claims – anyone can claim anything on the internet without verification. Second, view these essays only to spark some ideas for your own essay. Don’t try to emulate one of these essays. Your story is unique from everyone else, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by rewriting someone else’s essay. Third, any lists of “things you should write about” or “things to absolutely avoid” should be taken with a grain of salt. There’s certainly some good advice out there, but there’s also plenty of terrible advice! Knowing how to write an amazing college admissions essay is a skill that you already have within you; all that’s needed is for you to pull back the curtain and let your brilliance shine. 

Preliminary Outline(s)


Once you’ve come up with some good ideas of what the essay should be all about, the next step is to make those ideas concrete and create a preliminary outline. This first outline should be very high level, just a way to visualize and organize what has been brewing in your mind or in your notes thus far. This outline doesn’t have to be the final outline. If it doesn’t look quite right, if it doesn’t feel right, create another outline until you have something that you feel very confident about.


Detailed Outline 


The next step is to flesh out the preliminary outline. As you add details, you may find yourself coming up with new ideas or points you hadn’t considered previously. Wonderful! The more detailed the outline, the easier the writing will be.


First Draft


The dreaded first draft. Now’s the time to actually do the writing! This may be the most feared part of the entire process, but having a detailed outline will be a valuable springboard as you begin. As you write, don’t worry too much about vocabulary, sentence structure, etc. All of that can come later. Right now is the time for creating content. By focusing on ideas and content, and ignoring the details, you’ll be able to write more freely and more effectively. One thing that you should keep in mind, however, is the tone. The tone of the essay should be personable, not stiff. You’re talking to the admissions committee, and they want to know the real you. But don’t be too casual either - write as though you’re intelligently presenting yourself to someone you’ve just met for the first time.


Another very important point is to not pay too much attention to the word count. Doing so will be distracting and will take away from the flow of the essay. It will also hinder the quality of the content and the unexpected ideas that invariably pop up. Once the writing is finished, the essay can always be condensed and the parts that are not as effective can be cut, leaving the best writing intact.


A final point: use the outline as a guide. As you write, if you come up with new content that you haven’t previously considered, as you probably will, go with it. Don’t feel obligated to strictly adhere to the outline point by point. Writing is an art; let your artistic genius emerge. This is how to write an amazing college admissions essay.

The Beginning And The End


Two very important parts of the essay are the beginning and the end. You want to immediately grab the reader’s attention in the first sentence or two, where you also want to set the tone for what’s to come. The final paragraph will be the last thing they remember, so make sure to leave them with a great feeling.




Now that the first draft is complete, you can focus on refining the ideas and the storyline. Make sure everything you want to say is in there. If parts of the essay just don’t feel right, don’t feel compelled to keep them. You have full freedom to make any and all changes you see fit. Remember, the first draft is not the final draft; it’s a fluid version, a work in progress.


Final Draft


Once you’re happy with the latest draft, you can begin to focus on the details of the writing: sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary, diction, and punctuation. When this stage of the writing is done, the English should be absolutely impeccable. After all the hard work you put into the essay this far, don’t get sloppy at the end. The devil is in the details.


Error Checking


A trick to help with finding errors that may still be hidden deep inside the essay is to use different editing software. For example, if you used Word to write the essay, cut and paste it into Google Docs, or vice versa.  Each software program uses different algorithms for catching errors.


Read Aloud


We aren’t done yet! You want the essay to be perfect, right? Read the essay aloud. You’ll be surprised at the small things you will catch, things that either weren’t apparent or were overlooked when you were simply reading it silently.




This is a tricky step. You want to get feedback from others, but everyone will likely have very different ideas, and some may actually be contradictory. In the end, you will be the one submitting the essay, and your future is on the line, so be the final arbiter of the advice you receive. You’re the boss.


Gestation Period


At this point in the process, you most likely have the entire essay memorized, and it’s therefore hard to be objective. Let it sit, at least several days; the longer the better. Don’t think about it, don’t dream about it, just let it drift away from your memory.


The "Final" Final Draft


Now that the essay has been out of your mind for a while, you’ll be able to process it differently. This is the time for final minor tweaks to make the essay flawless.



Now that you know the best practices for how to write an amazing college admissions essay, let’s take a look at the secrets for making that essay truly phenomenal.

Ready to create that memorable and impactful college essay?

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