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5 Tips to an Outstanding College Application Essay

Learn, Brainstorm, Write, Revise & Polish. 
These are the steps in LEAP’s 5-step process to an essay that will make you stand out from the crowd of applicants vying for a spot at your dream school. Creating an optimal essay takes focus and time.
August 1st brings a flurry of activity when most applications becoming available, fall extracurriculars starting, and don’t forget senior year starting. Keeping all of the balls in the air, while keeping grades up, requires room in your schedule that can be hard to find.
One way to maximize your schedule and develop the best essay possible is for rising seniors to complete their essay over the summer aiming to be finished by August 1st, so you can start applications. With nearly 900 schools using the Common App, odds are at least one, if not more, of the schools you’ll apply to will use these application essay prompts. For schools not using the Common App, you can typically expect a similar topic that is biographical in nature, so these prompts can usually be adapted.
Now that you know when to do it, what are the key tips in crafting an outstanding essay?
  • Find Your Voice. While much of the college application is the numbers that define you (GPA, test scores, class rank) or others’ opinions in the form of recommendation letters, this is your opportunity to market yourself as only you can. Finding your voice and refining it takes time, so don’t rush the process.
  • Keep to the Limits. Most essays have firm word limits on the upper end and some have minimums as well. When you first write, ignore these then as you revise your essay eliminate extraneous words and choose flavorful, yet concise, words to get your message across. There is a firm 650-word limit and it will cut you off if you attempt to exceed this.
  • Be Honest. If you would craft an essay that is not truly representative of you and your experience or worse yet someone else’s words, your career at that school may end before it even gets started.  Admissions officers have read countless applications and most are very adept at identifying fraud. It’s simply not worth the risk. If you’ve started with plenty of time to work on your essay, you shouldn’t be tempted to take what seems like the easy way out.
  • Stand Out. Colleges are flooded with applications, so finding a unique topic is important. Talk through your life experiences, show someone your resume to dig deeper for a story that shows your unique you. Maybe even push the envelope a bit, but not too far, to get noticed. Remember, bland is boring and this is true of topic choice and word choice.
  • Be Polished. Once you hit submit on your application, there is no do-over. Put your best foot forward by crafting a polished essay that showcases not only who you are in your own, unique voice, but the quality of the work you’ll bring to the college when they accept you.
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