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Eight Tips for Writing Your College Essay

Most colleges require a college essay, sometimes called a personal statement, as part of their application process. These essays offer admissions officers a glimpse into your personality, interests, and goals—things that show you as a person, rather than just the grades and other academic or personal facts you are asked to include in a form application.

Ready to buckle down and start writing, but not sure what to write about? Read on for these eight tips on how to get started with your essay, and what to include in it.

Student at computer

1. Make a list of what matters to you.

To get the ball rolling on writing your essay, start with something a bit easier—make a list of what matters to you. This can include your hobbies (like photography, basketball, reading), your interests (like pop culture, sports, serving the community), what you’re most proud of (perhaps winning that spelling bee in fourth grade, or an obstacle that you’ve overcome), what you value the most in life (family, friends, freedom), and what you hope to accomplish in college and beyond.

2. Pick your top three.

Now that you have a list, pick what you’re most passionate about from that list. These favorites will lay the groundwork for your essay, and will help demonstrate your personality to admissions counselors. If you are most interested in or passionate about sports, family, and pop-culture, talk about how those things have shaped your life. What have you learned from them? Are you interested in turning your interest in sports or pop-culture into a career in sports management or communications one day?

3. Be yourself, and be honest.

Here’s the big secret: You don’t have to have your whole life figured out yet, and you don’t have to pretend that you do in your essay. If you do know what you want to do with your life, that’s great, but the cool thing about college is that you’ll be able to discover different interests and potential career fields. If you’re undecided about the direction you’d like life to take you, then address that in your essay! Talk about what you hope to learn and experience in college.

4. Stay focused.

When you’re writing about yourself, it can be easy to write more than necessary. Admissions representatives will already see your academic achievements in your application, so try to only focus on the aspects of you that a form application won’t be able to convey.

Students in computer lab

5. Make it personal.

Try to avoid lines such as, “I really like <insert favorite activity here>.” Lines like this fall flat with admissions counselors because it doesn’t say much about you. Instead, use your own experiences to bring your essay to life. Here’s an example: “My love of baseball started when my father took me to my first Phillies game when I was 5 years old. That game, and every game since, has taught me the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, and perseverance.”

6. Remember who is reading your essay.

Admissions counselors read dozens of essays every day, so do your best to write clearly and concisely. In your essay, they are looking for signs that you will be a successful student at their institution. It’s important to show that you want to learn, and that you’re enthusiastic about this next chapter in your life and what it can mean for your future.

7. Please, please, read what you write.

You’ve finished writing your essay, and you want to immediately submit it and be done with it. Wait! Before you check that box, read over what you wrote, and read over it slowly. Look for typos and correct them. Notice any lines that might sound confusing to someone who doesn’t know you and rewrite them. Enlist a friend or family member to read over it, too. It always helps to have someone else give you their feedback before your essay lands in the inboxes of admissions counselors.

8. Follow instructions.

You wouldn’t want to go through all of the work of writing an essay, and then not submit it correctly, would you? Does your essay fit the word count requested? Do you know exactly how to submit it? Do you have to submit it as plain text in order for admissions counselors to read it? Go back one more time and make sure that you are following instructions. When you are confident that you know exactly what to do, send that essay off and then sit back and wait for your acceptance letter!

Smiling student 

At Cabrini University, we are dedicated to our students’ success—from their first steps on campus to their walk across the stage at graduation and beyond. Begin your Cabrini application (and personal statement) now!

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