12 Awesome College Essay Tips | Winward Academy


12 Awesome College Essay Tips


Be specific. Consider the following introductory paragraphs for Oberlin College’s creative writing program.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a passion for words. Since I was a child, I would look up every word I didn’t know the meaning of and find ways to use them in sentences. In a way, this is where my love for creative writing originated.”


“My grandpa, who used to pick me up from school almost everyday, used to bring me long lists of words he had uncovered in his readings, written down on a bookmark. As he quizzed me, I would object and ask to listen to the radio. However, I would often revisit the lists and attempt to use his findings in my own private poetry.”

Each paragraph conveys the same basic information (applicant likes words and creative writing). Where they differ is that the former is generic, and the latter is specific. It is a tangible story. It really took place, and it provides real insight into the applicant’s life.


Inspiration can strike when you least expect it.

Always have a way to write down your ideas. You might not walk around with a notepad, but chances are, you have your phone with you and could easily put your ideas into your notes app or shoot yourself an email. This way, you’ll be able to come back and pick up where you left off.

Whatever you do, don’t store it in your brain and think that you’ll remember it later. You might be great at coming up with ideas, but your brain may not be as great at holding onto them.


You don’t have to feel pressured to share every detail of a challenging experience, and a happy ending isn’t a requirement.

Help the reader get to know about who you are. Try to demonstrate the ways in which your challenges have influenced your development as a person, friend, leader, or student. Ideally, you’ll be able to tie your story into your educational journey and show how it has shaped your future aspirations.


Write like you talk.

Use words and sentences from your day-to-day life. When an idea comes to you, jot it down. Chances are, when you’re making notes, you’re writing in the same way that you think or speak. Then, when you review your ideas, try to keep your language in that same vein. When you write like you talk, it comes through, and it adds your personality. Whoever reads your essay will feel that.


Keep it simple.

Don’t get hung up on “big ideas”. This essay is meant to be about you. Your goal here isn’t to solve world hunger. What makes you different from the countless other applicants? Get specific and make yourself known.


Make the first sentence the most interesting.

The earlier you get the reader’s full attention, the longer you’ll keep it. Don’t start your essay with throat clearing. Dive right in.


Revise early and often.

Your essay is going to need a few stages of revision. Simple proof-reading won’t cut it here. It’s important to have your teachers, peers, and parents look at your work. Take their constructive criticism in stride, because ultimately, it will benefit you. If you feel up to it, ask someone who doesn’t know you well to read it. This can be very useful, because after all, the admissions department isn’t going to know you, either.


Parents should NEVER write your essay.

Admissions counselors can spot a parent’s writing within seconds. If a parent edits your essay, make sure that it’s still in your own words. You can use their feedback but make the writing your own.


Showcase yourself, but avoid bragging.

It’s important to sound confident, but you don’t want to sound boastful. Inform the reader of your goals and demonstrate how you plan to achieve those through your studies. You want to let the reader know that you’re applying to their university for a reason.


 Show emotions.

Showing your feelings can be far more powerful than listing your achievements. It allows readers to understand who you are and what motivates you. Being vulnerable is a great way to show maturity and self-awareness.


Read it aloud.

Hearing your essay out loud is a great way to find things you’d like to reword or edit. Sometimes, a sentence doesn’t sound funny when you read it quietly, but it doesn’t sound right when you hear it aloud. Try recording your essay in a voice memo and then listening to it.


 Start preparing now!

The earlier you start, the less pressure you’ll feel. Colleges will post their prompts at the beginning of the academic calendar, so look and start planning. If you have your major planned, take this opportunity to provide insights as to why you chose that major. If you don’t know yet, talk about your passions, interests, and career goals.

Now get writing!

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About Winward Academy – Winward Academy is one of the world’s leading innovators in the online education space, providing web-based academic support that enhances students’ knowledge, confidence, and competitiveness in middle and high school academics and in college applications. We help thousands of students every year by providing personalized, comprehensive ACT and SAT test preparation and extensive math curriculum support. The Winward Academy learning platform honors over 40 years of education and cognitive psychology research, incorporating proven techniques that promote effective learning.

Winward Academy’s unmatched reputation is wholly attributable to our students’ exceptional success and to the trust earned among students, parents, and schools around the world.

Jennifer Winward, Ph.D.

Dr. Jennifer Winward is a renowned college instructor, a distinguished 20-year veteran of high school tutoring, and the founder and lead instructor of Winward Academy. She earned her Ph.D. specializing in adolescent brain development and adolescent learning. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated summa cum laude with highest distinction honors. Dr. Winward has been widely recognized for her academic success, published research, and philanthropic efforts with awards from the President of the United States, the California State Assembly, Rotary International, the Marin County School Administrator Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Science Foundation.