The Dos and Don’t s of Writing A College Essay

The Dos and Don’t s of Writing A College Essay

By the time you get to college, you will have written hundreds of essays. This means that your instructors expect you to present a polished college essay that follows the rules of academic writing and showcases your unique traits. However, these rules are not the end of testing, so you will need skills in other areas.

Writing a college essay requires you to understand the rules of formatting and referencing. While these guidelines are easy to follow once you get used to them, some students struggle with creativity which is important when writing a college application essay. You may have trouble forming a topic to writing the text itself, so we have lists such as these special occasion speech topics to help get you started.

Below are some tips to help you know what to do and what to avoid.

The Do’s

1.      Read the instructions carefully 

The college application process is highly competitive, and small mistakes can lead to your disqualification. As such, you need to understand each instruction and follow it, or you may risk sending in an essay that does not fit the bare minimum requirements.

2.      Answer the prompt directly

While you may have a pre-written piece you’ve polished for some time, avoid forcing it into the essay. Be sure to write an essay that answers the question directly.

3.      Write a captivating hook

The hook captures the reader’s interest and keeps them curious about what you must say next. You may use an interesting fact, claim, or story to draw the reader in. Starting with a boring sentence will turn your reader off, so be sure to submit the best one you can come up with.

4.      Start early

Even though you might be nervous, avoid procrastinating, as it will limit the time you could have spent polishing your essay. You are also likely to miss out on the mistakes you made if you wait too long to start.

5.      Be authentic

Write about something that matters to you as it makes you seem like a well-rounded candidate. Do not be overly calculated and write what you think the admissions officer wants to hear, as it will make you seem boring.

6.      Reflect

Many admissions officers want to learn more about applicants from their essays. The information shared on this should be different from that shared in your application. As such, you should reflect on something personal to you to help them see what makes you stand out from the rest.

7.      Write different drafts

Make sure that you write several papers to help you select the best. During your selection, you should check which draft answers the question comprehensively, its logical flow, and whether it’s interesting. Select the best option from all your drafts, then send it.

8.      Ask others opinions

Be sure to ask your teacher or mentor to look through your final draft and give their opinion. They may notice something you have not and help you correct or enhance it.

The Don’ts

1.      Repeat information

A college application essay is not meant for you to list off your accomplishments, so focus on your experiences and how you grew from them. 

2.      Contradict yourself

Make sure that the way you present yourself in your application is similar to the other paperwork you send in. This may make you seem like a liar.

3.      Use off-color humor

Your sense of humor as a young adult and the admissions officer is likely different, so avoid any jokes that may offend them or put you in a bad light.

4.      Use clichés

One misconception students have is that colleges expect them to submit a certain type of essay, like winning a sports game or losing a pet. However, they want a unique essay, so avoid using overly familiar tropes, as they can bore your admissions officer.

5.      Use fluff

College application essays tend to have a word count requirement. As such, you should avoid using unnecessary words as it could weigh down your writing and prevent you from giving important details.

6.      Underestimate the value of a good essay

You may not be the best student in the country, but a school may still choose you if you are a good fit for their institution. For this reason, you should put in your best effort, as it may pay off.


Writing a good college essay is an integral part of your application. It can make or break your application. Hence students should apply the tips mentioned in this guide on what to do and avoid. Writing experts advise you to begin early, write several drafts, be authentic, and ask for a teacher’s opinion on your final draft. However, they would advise you against contradicting yourself, using off-color jokes, clichés, fluff, and underestimating the value of your essay. With these tips, you are sure to write a fantastic essay, which may give you a spot in your school of choice.


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