How to Write a Top-Notch College Admissions Essay

Texas college student working on her college admissions essay outside

Many colleges, like Dallas Baptist University, don't require a college admissions essay with an application. However, a college admissions essay allows you to reveal your personality and character and may be required for admissions to some universities and for certain scholarships.

You can review admissions essay examples to practice and perfect what you want to say. You might also consider asking a high school teacher or counselor for admissions essay help.

In the meantime, these tips will help you craft an essay to showcase your unique personality, experience, skills, and more.

How to Write a Great College Essay

Millions of students apply to colleges and universities nationwide each year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

A well-written college essay allows you to display your unique personality and character beyond your academic success and extracurricular activities. It can also help you stand out from other applicants. If you want to write a top-notch admissions essay, follow these tips.

Review Sample Essay Prompts and Practice Writing Early

For many students, writing a personal essay can be stressful. To help alleviate some of the pressure, look at sample college essay prompts, like those on Common App, and write practice answers early. Preparing well in advance — even during the summer between your junior and senior year — will boost your confidence and help the process go more smoothly when you're ready to start applying to schools.

Online writing sites like also offer college essay samples to give you an idea of their flow and tone.

Before you practice writing, make a list of experiences, people, and places that made a substantial impact on your life. Pivotal moments, difficult choices, extraordinary (or ordinary) people, and bold impressions are potential essay topics to consider.

Write Often

Writing often hones your skills and helps you narrow your topic selection. Set aside 20 to 30 minutes daily until you have completed a first draft. Leave the essay for a few days, then come back, review it, and make changes.

Once you have a solid rough draft, you can ask a teacher, counselor, or family member to review it and offer constructive feedback. You can pass out several copies and incorporate the suggestions you like best.

Choose a Topic that Resonates with You

If you have multiple essay prompts on an application, pick a topic that resonates with you. An ideal topic allows you to open up, reveal something personal, and display your strengths, values, beliefs, and character.

Reading your personal story allows admissions faculty members to get to know you on a deeper, human level and enables your inner qualities to shine.

Open Strong and Tell a Compelling Story

A strong opening line hooks your reader. You want to grab their attention and engage them so they want to read more. You also want to weave a compelling story. You might remember your English teacher telling you to start in the middle of the action and "show," not "tell," your story.

You can draw your reader into your narrative with interesting descriptive details — including the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and feelings you experienced in the moment or situation you're sharing with them.

Remember to strike a balance between highlighting these details and using verbose, flowery language. Instead, write in your own authentic voice in an easy, conversational style that shows the admissions team who you are and why the prompt you choose to answer means something to you.

Adapt Your Essay for Different Schools

If you're applying to several different schools, you should write a new essay for each one accordingly. The same essay won't fit every college's requirements. If you try to piece together a previous essay to make it fit, it won't work.

For example, if you're applying to a faith-based university, you should discuss how your faith has tried, helped, or impacted you. You can also share how Biblical principles, the gospel, and God led you through a situation. An essay is not a requirement for admission to Dallas Baptist University, however some scholarships may require one. 

Proofread and Edit Your Essay

Proofreading, editing, and correcting typos and grammatical errors before you submit your essay is essential. Even bestselling authors make mistakes, especially when they get into an intense writing flow. And you do want to demonstrate sharp writing skills to your prospective college or university.

You also want to avoid "on-the-nose" phrases like, "so that's what I learned in my life on my vacation." Lessons and impacts should tumble naturally out of your experience and onto the page as a vital part of the story.

Furthermore, many college essays are 400-600 words. As you edit, keep your response within the allotted word count.

Grammarly is an excellent online resource for identifying and eliminating grammatical errors. They even have a free essay-checking tool. Taking a few minutes to review your work can make a substantial difference in the eyes of the admissions committee.

Experience the DBU Difference

If you seek a nationally ranked Christian college education, DBU's staff of caring faculty members are ready to help you discover your calling and plan your career. Visit our undergraduate admissions page, browse our list of undergraduate degree majors, or call us at (214) 333-5360 with any questions.

"For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding." - Proverbs 2:6 ESV

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