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9 Tips to Make Your College Application Essay Stand Out

As a high school student preparing to apply for college, one of the most important aspects of your application is the essay. Your college application essay, or personal statement, is an opportunity to showcase your unique personality and experiences to the admissions officer reading your essay. In this blog, we’ll provide you with valuable tips and insights to help you craft a compelling and memorable college application essay that incorporates key elements like storytelling, authenticity, and personal reflection.


1. Demonstrate Self-Reflection and Growth


To make your college application essay stand out, it’s important to take the time to reflect on your life experiences, values, and goals. Admissions officers are particularly interested in your capacity for growth and self-reflection. Reflect on the challenges you've faced, how you overcame them, and the valuable lessons you've learned. When sharing your stories, remember that admissions officers are genuinely interested in getting to know the real you - and what qualities, values and skills you'll contribute to your future college community. By highlighting your personal growth, you can demonstrate maturity, resilience, and a readiness to embrace the college experience.


2. Show Something New


While your college application provides an overview of your achievements and activities, use your essay as an opportunity to reveal something about yourself that schools haven’t yet learned. Avoid repeating information already presented in your application. Open up about experiences or insights that haven't been showcased elsewhere, providing the admissions officers with a fresh understanding of who you are - the living, breathing teenager behind those test scores, grades and activities.


3. Be Personal and Impactful


Remember, your essay is a chance for the reader to get to know you on a personal level. Even if the prompt asks about someone or something else, use it as a springboard to reflect on how that person or experience has influenced or impacted YOU. Share your emotions, thoughts, and personal growth resulting from the encounter, providing the reader with a genuine connection to your story.


4. Start with a Captivating Introduction


Your introduction is the first impression you make on the reader. It should be engaging and captivating, grabbing their attention from the beginning. Consider using a thought-provoking question, an anecdote, or a vivid description to hook the reader. A strong introduction sets the tone for the rest of your essay and makes the reader eager to continue reading.


5. Show, Then Tell


Instead of simply telling the admissions officers about your qualities or achievements, show them through vivid storytelling. Go beyond vague statements and provide concrete details and specific examples. For instance, imagine you want to highlight your leadership skills. Instead of stating, "I am a strong leader," you could "show" a specific example of a time when you demonstrated strong leadership abilities.


As you delve into the "show" part of your story, aim to bring your story to life by incorporating a line or two of dialogue and descriptive language that engages the reader's senses. Use sensory details, those that appeal to the five senses:

Sight: "The dark green of the towering forest enveloped us."

Sound: "The crackling of twigs underfoot echoed through the silent woods."

Smell: "The campfire's smoky aroma intertwined with the crisp scent of pine."

Touch: "The rough texture of the tree bark scraped against my palm."

Taste: "The tangy sweetness of wild berries burst on my tongue."


After "showing" the story through vivid details and specific examples, it's important to do some "telling." You don't need to aim for a moment of profound revelation - you can share a small yet thoughtful insight that provided a new perspective. This reflective moment allows you to convey why the story matters and how it influenced your personal growth.


6. Be Genuine and Authentic


The most compelling essays are those that are honest and genuine. Avoid the temptation to impress the admissions officer by writing what you think they want to hear. Instead, write about what is truly important to you. Share your passions, values, and experiences that have had a significant impact on your life. Admissions officers are skilled at recognizing sincerity and can easily spot exaggerated or inauthentic essays.


7. Find Your Voice


Write your essay in your own voice, as though you were having a conversation with a friendly adult. Strike a balance between being too formal and too casual, allowing your personality and natural tone to shine through. When a friend reads your essay, they should remark that it "sounds like you."


8. Edit and Revise


Don't expect your first draft to be perfect. Writing a standout essay requires multiple rounds of editing and revision. After completing your first draft, set it aside for a day or two, and then return to it with fresh eyes. Look for areas where you can improve sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Ensure that your essay flows smoothly and logically.


To ensure that your essay is error-free and polished, have it read and edited by at least one other person. Whether it's a teacher, counselor, or friend, seek their feedback on grammar, spelling, and overall clarity. Additionally, make sure your essay adheres to the word limit set by the college.


9. Is My College Essay Done?


When you finish writing your essay, ask yourself these questions:

1. Did I answer the question?

2. What does the reader learn about me? Is that what I want them to learn about me?

3. Am I the only person who could have written this essay?


If you can answer "Yes" to these questions, then you can submit!



Crafting a college application essay that stands out requires introspection, creativity, and attention to detail. By including a real-life story, revealing something new, being personal and impactful, embracing honesty and authenticity, finding your voice, and seeking feedback, you can create a memorable essay. Remember, your essay is an opportunity to present yourself beyond grades and test scores, so seize the chance to let your true self shine. With these tips in mind, you are now well-equipped to embark on the journey of writing an outstanding college application essay. Good luck!


Does writing a college application essay still seem like an impossible task? Uprooted Academy can help. We can provide you with the tools to apply to college with confidence and success, including how to write a compelling college application essay. Get started with our FREE Step-by-Step College Advising Video Course, and let's figure this out together!

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