How to Write College Essays: What Are Schools Looking For?

Colleges ask for you to write essays as part of your application for several reasons. Articulating yourself clearly and compellingly through writing is a skill that students applying to selective colleges must have. No one is expected to write papers like a professor from the day they show up on campus, but classes at selective colleges involve lots of writing, and admissions counselors want to make sure they’re setting you up to be successful in writing-intensive classes.

While your test scores, grades, and recommendation letters give us a nice sense for what you’ve accomplished while in school, essays are a way we can understand a little bit about who you are—what you think about, what things are important to you, how you look at the world, what your personality is like. Finding your voice and using it to express yourself in writing can be one of the most challenging, but also one of the most rewarding, parts of applying to selective colleges.

Typically, you will prepare a personal statement that will be sent to every college that you’re applying to. Then, most selective schools also have supplemental essays or short response questions that are specific to them, designed to see if you are good fit for their campus community.

Learn more about writing a personal statement.

Learn more about writing school-specific essays.

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