Your college application essay is a key element in the collegiate admissions decision. Effective college essays grab the reader's attention while simultaneously convincing her that you are a good fit for the university. Weaving your personal story into the confines of the essay topic is no small feat. Only careful preparation of essay contents and diligent refining of the text will ensure that your essay wins over the admissions officers and enhances you chances of getting into a college.
Before choosing a topic or writing, take inventory of yourself, including your strengths and weaknesses as a person and as a student. List your achievements in high school, the activities you are most proud to have participated in and the outstanding awards and acknowledgements you have received. Think about any weaknesses or irregularities in your secondary academic record that you will need to explain.
Choose a Topic
Whether you are writing an essay for the common application or for a specific college, you will likely have a choice of topics. When making a decision about the topic you will write, try to take into account the strengths and weaknesses you have reflected on. Choose the topic that best lets you describe and frame those strengths and explain the weaknesses you have listed.
Make an Outline
Good writing begins with an outline of the main points to be covered in the essay. While most essays will not state the total amount of points to be addressed in the essay, you must cover all points asked in the essay prompt in your outline as well as additional topics you believe are relevant to adequately expound on that topic. The outline should include an introduction, body and conclusion but need only list the topics and sub points; you will provide detail in the draft.
Write a Draft
Using the points from the outline for guidance, begin writing a first rough draft. Use specific details of events and other evidence to support your points. For example, if you are stating that you are choosing to study journalism because you have had a life-long desire to cover news events, include your experience on the school newspaper to support your point.
After an initial draft, rework your text by finding anecdotes from important experiences to highlight your strengths. Add additional points that include your volunteer work, extracurricular activities and career goals; delete irrelevant material. Continue this process until you are satisfied that your draft covers everything that you feel is important to properly expound on the topic of your essay.
Seek a Second Reader
Ask a trusted teacher with a writing background or a counselor who knows your personality and work to read your essay. This person should give you feedback about the content and organization of your work, paying attention to the persuasive of your writing, the structure of your draft and the logical flow of your material. Ask for specific advice for ways to strengthen the draft by requesting that the second reader give two or more pointers for supporting your most important argument or better illustrating your anecdotes or stories.
Make Final Corrections
Rework your essay text taking into account any comments from others and asking yourself whether the text paints a vivid picture of you as a candidate. Proofread the text and check that you have correct punctuation and grammar; reading the entire text aloud helps you discover awkward phrases and incomplete ideas. Reread the entire text correcting all spelling and capitalization errors.