It’s mid-November.  If your college-bound student hasn’t already applied early action or early decision, then the regular admission deadlines are fast approaching.  He or she may still be worried about how to write a winning college essay. Many of my clients struggle with this process, and this is what I tell them:

1.  Brainstorm.

Writing your best college essay is not an event; it is a process.  The process should be messy, and involves lots of drafts.  If you stick with it, however, your final product will reflect all your hard work! The best place to begin the writing process is by brainstorming ideas for a few essay questions.  After that, see which topic resonates with you and will enable you to write an interesting and original essay.

2.  Write.

Block out some time, minimize distractions, and write!  Solid writing skills leads to good essays–solid writing skills plus thoughtful editing leads to great essays.  Revise your essay a few times.  Read it out loud to yourself as you go through the revision process.   Finally, be certain that you can answer “yes” to the following questions:  “Did I answer the essay question?”  and “Does my essay help the reader know more about me?”  Remember, the primary objective of your college essay is to let the admissions officer learn more about an important aspect of who you are–not just to show how well you write.  So, no matter the essay question you’re responding to, make sure it highlights something unique about you.

3.  Seek Feedback. 

Identify one or two people who can read your essay and provide thoughtful feedback to you.  Whether it’s your teacher, parent, or your educational consultant, you’ll want to give the reader enough time to read your essay so you can make any necessary changes and still meet your application deadline.

Remember, the writing process is time-consuming, but it is also one of the most important parts of the college application.  It allows students to share their voices in ways that transcripts, test scores, and other application materials can not.  Make sure to give yourself plenty of time for this essential part of the college application process!