How to Write the Perfect College Essay

Question: What is the best type of college essay to write?

Answer: If there was a specific way to write a great essay, everybody would do it!

Writing a dynamic college essay could be the ticket to your dream school because it will set you apart from other applicants. College Admissions Counselors read potentially thousands of essays each year, making it really difficult to formulate and execute an original idea- there’s lots of competition. But there’s good news- you don’t have to be an incredible writer to write a great college essay (although it certainly helps). A unique concept can hide one’s writing limitations and a poor concept can handicap a stellar writer. To put yourself in a position to succeed, let’s review best practices and a proper essay timeline.


Summer before Senior Year: Identify and develop your Concepts.

You should begin brainstorming for your college essay the minute your Junior year of high school ends. Nobody wants to sit down and write essays over the summer, so don’t! Instead brainstorm potential topics and create a huge list. Think of life-changing events, instances where you overcame or learned from a challenge, moments special and meaningful to your life- anything goes in brainstorming! Running out of inspiration? Search the internet for examples of great admissions essays and checkout what worked for other students.


September of Senior Year: Draft Multiple Essays.

If you have the time and motivation, this can be done during the Summer, but starting on September 1st is fine. Towards the end of the summer, choose your best 3-5 topics and write notes about key points you’d like to cover in the essay. When choosing your topics, remember to BE DIFFERENT. Going away to camp, moving to a new country, and learning a language may be significant in your life, but they aren’t different by themselves. Find a new angle you have never heard before and work it hard. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or discuss a sensitive situation. Why should you write 3-5 essays when you’ll only submit one? As you’re writing, you’ll recognize that certain topics just aren’t working and you’ll stop working them.


October of Senior Year: Get Feedback.

Until now, you’ve been afraid to share your essay and the intimate details on the paper. FORGET THIS PRACTICE. Share your essay with everybody, start getting feedback from at least 3 people- your parents, your college counselor, and a peer. Don’t worry about grammatical issues or length right now. Ask for feedback on content and what further questions they have about your experience. Listen carefully and integrate the comments you like into your essay. By the end of the month, decide on your top 2 essays and forget about your other draft essays. When deciding remember- if you are bored by your essay, the reader will be bored too. 


November of Senior Year: Complete Your Essay.

With the concept of your essay almost perfected, now it’s time to prepare it for submission. If you are planning on applying Early Action or Early Decision the deadline will most likely be approaching. Therefore you need to accomplish the following things:

  1. Review your essay and make corrections to all grammatical, sentence structure and punctuation errors. Get another person to review your essay another time.
  2. Improve your vocabulary and paint a picture. Check your words and make sure you don’t use descriptive words like “great” or “so ____”. Notice areas of your essay that aren’t descriptive or coming to life- add details to these sections.
  3. Make sure your essay doesn’t exceed the 650 word limit. The minimum word count is 250, but any good essay should be at least 550 words.
  4. If you are still developing multiple essays, decide which essays will be sent to each of your colleges.
  5. Upload your essay to the CommonApp before your application deadlines! With this aspect of the application completed, you can focus on your CommonApp and Financial Aid information.


Before you know it, you’ll have your Perfect College Essay in hand and ready to standout in the admissions process.

For further essay and college application advice, check out our Elite Top 100 Admissions Services or e-mail us at

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