College Essay Writing Season Is Now

Get ahead of the curve and hone your writing skills

essay writing
(Image: iStock.com/skynesher)

It’s July and we’re talking about college application essay writing? You bet—because you can’t start too early.

Writing well is a skill in top demand, not only by college admissions officers, but also by future employers. Writing is difficult to teach and not easy to learn. Are you getting the point? You simply cannot put too much effort into learning how to write well.

To get a few tips, I spoke with Akil Bello, director of strategic initiatives for The Princeton Review in New York.

“In high school, students aren’t often asked to write essays that extol their virtues from their own point of view,” Bello says. “That task can be strange and daunting. But now that they’re in 12th grade, students have to do this—with their college admissions on the line!”

Ok, so the stakes are a little high. Here are Bello’s top three tips to get you started:

  1. Fix the grammar. Far too many students focus on content and not grammar, or vice versa, but in this case admissions officers are looking at everything. They’re evaluating the technical aspects—the grammar and spelling of your essay, and they must be solid.
  2. Respond to the essay question in an engaging way. The college application essay is more a narrative or personal statement. Its purpose is to give the admissions officer some insight into who you are. So show your personality, explain why you think the school is the place for you, what makes you the person you are, and how you think the school will help you develop that: why you think the school is a good fit?
  3. Make the school feel special. Don’t let them know that you’re dating other schools! Don’t, for example, copy and paste the essay you wrote for Georgetown into the application for New York University. The core ideas may be the same from school to school, but do thoughtfully adapt each essay for each school.

Academic Writing

Bello notes that “words have meaning and nuance—as your writing matures, you’ll encounter new terms.” He says that academic writing basically involves using appropriate vocabulary, not necessarily hard or obscure words.

And he advises being aware of the need to interpret—interpretation isn’t always part of academic writing.

Helpful Resources

  1. The Princeton Review website offers tips for writing an unforgettable college essay.
  2. On Writing the College Application Essay, which has 4.5 stars on Amazon.