Linda Abraham

Article Summary:

Ten tips for writing the best college admission essay.

College Admission Essay Writing Tips

1. Express yourself in positive language. Say what is, not what is not.

2. Use transitions between paragraphs. Transitions tie one paragraph to the next. A transition can be a word, like later, furthermore, additionally, or moreover; a phrase like After this incident…; or an entire sentence.
If you are writing about Topic A and now want to discuss Topic B, you can begin the new paragraph with a transition such as "Like (or unlike) Topic A, Topic B…"

3. Vary your sentence structure. It’s boring to see subject, verb, object all the time. Mix simple, complex, and compound sentences.

4. Understand the words you write. You write to communicate, not to impress the admissions staff with your vocabulary. When you choose a word that means something other than what you intend, you neither communicate nor impress. You do convey the wrong message or convince the admissions officer that you are inarticulate.

5. Look up synonyms in a thesaurus when you use the same word repeatedly. After the DELETE key, the thesaurus is your best friend. As long as you follow Tip 4, using one will make your writing more interesting.

6. Be succinct. Compare:

During tenth and eleventh grades, there was significant development of my maturity and markedly improved self-discipline towards homework.

During my sophomore and junior years, I matured and my self-discipline improved tremendously.

The first example takes many more words to give the same information. The admissions officers are swamped; they do not want to spend more time than necessary reading your essay. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible. Tips 7, 8, and 9 will help you to implement this suggestion.

7. Make every word count. Do not repeat yourself. Each sentence and every word should state something new.

8. Avoid qualifiers such as rather, quite, somewhat, probably, possibly, etc.You might improve your writing somewhat if you sometimes try to follow this suggestion.
The example contains nonsense. Deleting unnecessary qualifiers will strengthen your writing 1000%. Equivocating reveals a lack of confidence. If you do not believe what you write, why should the admissions officer?

9. Use the active voice. Compare:

The application was sent by the student. (Passive voice)

The student sent the application. (Active voice)

They both communicate the same information. The active voice, however, is more concise; it specifies who is performing the action and what is the object. The passive voice is wordier and frequently less clear.

10. Read and reread Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. Containing basic rules of grammar, punctuation, composition, and style, this indispensable classic is available in paperback and is only eighty-five pages long.

In addition to personally advising hundreds of applicants over the last decade, Linda Abraham is the founder and president of, the premier online resources for college and graduate school applicants. She has written and lectured on different aspects of the admissions process, hosted a successful series of online admissions events, and developed the foremost application editing and advising services on the Web. Linda has been quoted by The NY Times, The Wall St. Journal, Businessweek, Business 2.0, The Washington Times, The Sunday Times, and other fine publications.

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