Student sat writing at a table. Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

Systems & Services

Access Student Self Service

  • Student Self Service
  • Self Service guide
  • Registration guide
  • Libraries search
  • OXCORT - see TMS
  • GSS - see Student Self Service
  • The Careers Service
  • Oxford University Sport
  • Online store
  • Gardens, Libraries and Museums
  • Researchers Skills Toolkit
  • LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com)
  • Access Guide
  • Lecture Lists
  • Exam Papers (OXAM)
  • Oxford Talks

Latest student news

new twitter x logo

CAN'T FIND WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?

Try our extensive database of FAQs or submit your own question...

Ask a question

  • Academic Skills
  • Reading, writing and referencing

Writing a great essay

This resource covers key considerations when writing an essay.

While reading a student’s essay, markers will ask themselves questions such as:

  • Does this essay directly address the set task?
  • Does it present a strong, supported position?
  • Does it use relevant sources appropriately?
  • Is the expression clear, and the style appropriate?
  • Is the essay organised coherently? Is there a clear introduction, body and conclusion?

You can use these questions to reflect on your own writing. Here are six top tips to help you address these criteria.

1. Analyse the question

Student essays are responses to specific questions. As an essay must address the question directly, your first step should be to analyse the question. Make sure you know exactly what is being asked of you.

Generally, essay questions contain three component parts:

  • Content terms: Key concepts that are specific to the task
  • Limiting terms: The scope that the topic focuses on
  • Directive terms: What you need to do in relation to the content, e.g. discuss, analyse, define, compare, evaluate.

Look at the following essay question:

Discuss the importance of light in Gothic architecture.
  • Content terms: Gothic architecture
  • Limiting terms: the importance of light. If you discussed some other feature of Gothic architecture, for example spires or arches, you would be deviating from what is required. This essay question is limited to a discussion of light. Likewise, it asks you to write about the importance of light – not, for example, to discuss how light enters Gothic churches.
  • Directive term: discuss. This term asks you to take a broad approach to the variety of ways in which light may be important for Gothic architecture. You should introduce and consider different ideas and opinions that you have met in academic literature on this topic, citing them appropriately .

For a more complex question, you can highlight the key words and break it down into a series of sub-questions to make sure you answer all parts of the task. Consider the following question (from Arts):

To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?

The key words here are American Revolution and revolution ‘from below’. This is a view that you would need to respond to in this essay. This response must focus on the aims and motivations of working people in the revolution, as stated in the second question.

2. Define your argument

As you plan and prepare to write the essay, you must consider what your argument is going to be. This means taking an informed position or point of view on the topic presented in the question, then defining and presenting a specific argument.

Consider these two argument statements:

The architectural use of light in Gothic cathedrals physically embodied the significance of light in medieval theology.
In the Gothic cathedral of Cologne, light served to accentuate the authority and ritual centrality of the priest.

Statements like these define an essay’s argument. They give coherence by providing an overarching theme and position towards which the entire essay is directed.

3. Use evidence, reasoning and scholarship

To convince your audience of your argument, you must use evidence and reasoning, which involves referring to and evaluating relevant scholarship.

  • Evidence provides concrete information to support your claim. It typically consists of specific examples, facts, quotations, statistics and illustrations.
  • Reasoning connects the evidence to your argument. Rather than citing evidence like a shopping list, you need to evaluate the evidence and show how it supports your argument.
  • Scholarship is used to show how your argument relates to what has been written on the topic (citing specific works). Scholarship can be used as part of your evidence and reasoning to support your argument.

4. Organise a coherent essay

An essay has three basic components - introduction, body and conclusion.

The purpose of an introduction is to introduce your essay. It typically presents information in the following order:

  • A general statement about the topic that provides context for your argument
  • A thesis statement showing your argument. You can use explicit lead-ins, such as ‘This essay argues that...’
  • A ‘road map’ of the essay, telling the reader how it is going to present and develop your argument.

Example introduction

"To what extent can the American Revolution be understood as a revolution ‘from below’? Why did working people become involved and with what aims in mind?"

Introduction*

Historians generally concentrate on the twenty-year period between 1763 and 1783 as the period which constitutes the American Revolution [This sentence sets the general context of the period] . However, when considering the involvement of working people, or people from below, in the revolution it is important to make a distinction between the pre-revolutionary period 1763-1774 and the revolutionary period 1774-1788, marked by the establishment of the continental Congress(1) [This sentence defines the key term from below and gives more context to the argument that follows] . This paper will argue that the nature and aims of the actions of working people are difficult to assess as it changed according to each phase [This is the thesis statement] . The pre-revolutionary period was characterised by opposition to Britain’s authority. During this period the aims and actions of the working people were more conservative as they responded to grievances related to taxes and scarce land, issues which directly affected them. However, examination of activities such as the organisation of crowd action and town meetings, pamphlet writing, formal communications to Britain of American grievances and physical action in the streets, demonstrates that their aims and actions became more revolutionary after 1775 [These sentences give the ‘road map’ or overview of the content of the essay] .

The body of the essay develops and elaborates your argument. It does this by presenting a reasoned case supported by evidence from relevant scholarship. Its shape corresponds to the overview that you provided in your introduction.

The body of your essay should be written in paragraphs. Each body paragraph should develop one main idea that supports your argument. To learn how to structure a paragraph, look at the page developing clarity and focus in academic writing .

Your conclusion should not offer any new material. Your evidence and argumentation should have been made clear to the reader in the body of the essay.

Use the conclusion to briefly restate the main argumentative position and provide a short summary of the themes discussed. In addition, also consider telling your reader:

  • What the significance of your findings, or the implications of your conclusion, might be
  • Whether there are other factors which need to be looked at, but which were outside the scope of the essay
  • How your topic links to the wider context (‘bigger picture’) in your discipline.

Do not simply repeat yourself in this section. A conclusion which merely summarises is repetitive and reduces the impact of your paper.

Example conclusion

Conclusion*.

Although, to a large extent, the working class were mainly those in the forefront of crowd action and they also led the revolts against wealthy plantation farmers, the American Revolution was not a class struggle [This is a statement of the concluding position of the essay]. Working people participated because the issues directly affected them – the threat posed by powerful landowners and the tyranny Britain represented. Whereas the aims and actions of the working classes were more concerned with resistance to British rule during the pre-revolutionary period, they became more revolutionary in nature after 1775 when the tension with Britain escalated [These sentences restate the key argument]. With this shift, a change in ideas occurred. In terms of considering the Revolution as a whole range of activities such as organising riots, communicating to Britain, attendance at town hall meetings and pamphlet writing, a difficulty emerges in that all classes were involved. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the extent to which a single group such as working people contributed to the American Revolution [These sentences give final thoughts on the topic].

5. Write clearly

An essay that makes good, evidence-supported points will only receive a high grade if it is written clearly. Clarity is produced through careful revision and editing, which can turn a good essay into an excellent one.

When you edit your essay, try to view it with fresh eyes – almost as if someone else had written it.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Overall structure

  • Have you clearly stated your argument in your introduction?
  • Does the actual structure correspond to the ‘road map’ set out in your introduction?
  • Have you clearly indicated how your main points support your argument?
  • Have you clearly signposted the transitions between each of your main points for your reader?
  • Does each paragraph introduce one main idea?
  • Does every sentence in the paragraph support that main idea?
  • Does each paragraph display relevant evidence and reasoning?
  • Does each paragraph logically follow on from the one before it?
  • Is each sentence grammatically complete?
  • Is the spelling correct?
  • Is the link between sentences clear to your readers?
  • Have you avoided redundancy and repetition?

See more about editing on our  editing your writing page.

6. Cite sources and evidence

Finally, check your citations to make sure that they are accurate and complete. Some faculties require you to use a specific citation style (e.g. APA) while others may allow you to choose a preferred one. Whatever style you use, you must follow its guidelines correctly and consistently. You can use Recite, the University of Melbourne style guide, to check your citations.

Further resources

  • Germov, J. (2011). Get great marks for your essays, reports and presentations (3rd ed.). NSW: Allen and Unwin.
  • Using English for Academic Purposes: A guide for students in Higher Education [online]. Retrieved January 2020 from http://www.uefap.com
  • Williams, J.M. & Colomb, G. G. (2010) Style: Lessons in clarity and grace. 10th ed. New York: Longman.

* Example introduction and conclusion adapted from a student paper.

Two people looking over study materials

Looking for one-on-one advice?

Get tailored advice from an Academic Skills Adviser by booking an Individual appointment, or get quick feedback from one of our Academic Writing Mentors via email through our Writing advice service.

Go to Student appointments

Oxford Summer School 2024 – Final Places Left

Oxford Scholastica Academy logo

How to Write the Perfect Essay

06 Feb, 2024 | Blog Articles , English Language Articles , Get the Edge , Humanities Articles , Writing Articles

Student sitting at a desk writing in a notebook

You can keep adding to this plan, crossing bits out and linking the different bubbles when you spot connections between them. Even though you won’t have time to make a detailed plan under exam conditions, it can be helpful to draft a brief one, including a few key words, so that you don’t panic and go off topic when writing your essay.

If you don’t like the mind map format, there are plenty of others to choose from: you could make a table, a flowchart, or simply a list of bullet points.

Discover More

Thanks for signing up, step 2: have a clear structure.

Think about this while you’re planning: your essay is like an argument or a speech. It needs to have a logical structure, with all your points coming together to answer the question.

Start with the basics! It’s best to choose a few major points which will become your main paragraphs. Three main paragraphs is a good number for an exam essay, since you’ll be under time pressure. 

If you agree with the question overall, it can be helpful to organise your points in the following pattern:

  • YES (agreement with the question)
  • AND (another YES point)
  • BUT (disagreement or complication)

If you disagree with the question overall, try:

  • AND (another BUT point)

For example, you could structure the Of Mice and Men sample question, “To what extent is Curley’s wife portrayed as a victim in Of Mice and Men ?”, as follows:

  • YES (descriptions of her appearance)
  • AND (other people’s attitudes towards her)
  • BUT (her position as the only woman on the ranch gives her power as she uses her femininity to her advantage)

If you wanted to write a longer essay, you could include additional paragraphs under the YES/AND categories, perhaps discussing the ways in which Curley’s wife reveals her vulnerability and insecurities, and shares her dreams with the other characters. Alternatively, you could also lengthen your essay by including another BUT paragraph about her cruel and manipulative streak.

Of course, this is not necessarily the only right way to answer this essay question – as long as you back up your points with evidence from the text, you can take any standpoint that makes sense.

Smiling student typing on laptop

Step 3: Back up your points with well-analysed quotations

You wouldn’t write a scientific report without including evidence to support your findings, so why should it be any different with an essay? Even though you aren’t strictly required to substantiate every single point you make with a quotation, there’s no harm in trying.

A close reading of your quotations can enrich your appreciation of the question and will be sure to impress examiners. When selecting the best quotations to use in your essay, keep an eye out for specific literary techniques. For example, you could highlight Curley’s wife’s use of a rhetorical question when she says, a”n’ what am I doin’? Standin’ here talking to a bunch of bindle stiffs.” This might look like:

The rhetorical question “an’ what am I doin’?” signifies that Curley’s wife is very insecure; she seems to be questioning her own life choices. Moreover, she does not expect anyone to respond to her question, highlighting her loneliness and isolation on the ranch.

Other literary techniques to look out for include:

  • Tricolon – a group of three words or phrases placed close together for emphasis
  • Tautology – using different words that mean the same thing: e.g. “frightening” and “terrifying”
  • Parallelism – ABAB structure, often signifying movement from one concept to another
  • Chiasmus – ABBA structure, drawing attention to a phrase
  • Polysyndeton – many conjunctions in a sentence
  • Asyndeton – lack of conjunctions, which can speed up the pace of a sentence
  • Polyptoton – using the same word in different forms for emphasis: e.g. “done” and “doing”
  • Alliteration – repetition of the same sound, including assonance (similar vowel sounds), plosive alliteration (“b”, “d” and “p” sounds) and sibilance (“s” sounds)
  • Anaphora – repetition of words, often used to emphasise a particular point

Don’t worry if you can’t locate all of these literary devices in the work you’re analysing. You can also discuss more obvious techniques, like metaphor, simile and onomatopoeia. It’s not a problem if you can’t remember all the long names; it’s far more important to be able to confidently explain the effects of each technique and highlight its relevance to the question.

Person reading a book outside

Step 4: Be creative and original throughout

Anyone can write an essay using the tips above, but the thing that really makes it “perfect” is your own unique take on the topic. If you’ve noticed something intriguing or unusual in your reading, point it out – if you find it interesting, chances are the examiner will too!

Creative writing and essay writing are more closely linked than you might imagine. Keep the idea that you’re writing a speech or argument in mind, and you’re guaranteed to grab your reader’s attention.

It’s important to set out your line of argument in your introduction, introducing your main points and the general direction your essay will take, but don’t forget to keep something back for the conclusion, too. Yes, you need to summarise your main points, but if you’re just repeating the things you said in your introduction, the body of the essay is rendered pointless.

Think of your conclusion as the climax of your speech, the bit everything else has been leading up to, rather than the boring plenary at the end of the interesting stuff.

To return to Of Mice and Men once more, here’s an example of the ideal difference between an introduction and a conclusion:

Introduction

In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men , Curley’s wife is portrayed as an ambiguous character. She could be viewed either as a cruel, seductive temptress or a lonely woman who is a victim of her society’s attitudes. Though she does seem to wield a form of sexual power, it is clear that Curley’s wife is largely a victim. This interpretation is supported by Steinbeck’s description of her appearance, other people’s attitudes, her dreams, and her evident loneliness and insecurity.
Overall, it is clear that Curley’s wife is a victim and is portrayed as such throughout the novel in the descriptions of her appearance, her dreams, other people’s judgemental attitudes, and her loneliness and insecurities. However, a character who was a victim and nothing else would be one-dimensional and Curley’s wife is not. Although she suffers in many ways, she is shown to assert herself through the manipulation of her femininity – a small rebellion against the victimisation she experiences.

Both refer back consistently to the question and summarise the essay’s main points. However, the conclusion adds something new which has been established in the main body of the essay and complicates the simple summary which is found in the introduction.

Hannah

Hannah is an undergraduate English student at Somerville College, University of Oxford, and has a particular interest in postcolonial literature and the Gothic. She thinks literature is a crucial way of developing empathy and learning about the wider world. When she isn’t writing about 17th-century court masques, she enjoys acting, travelling and creative writing. 

Recommended articles

The 25 Best Walks In and Around Oxford

The 25 Best Walks In and Around Oxford

Oxford is a city famous for its dreaming spires, with college buildings ranging from the twelfth to the 21st century demonstrating the greatest works of some of England’s most famous architects.  Visitors to the city will also be impressed with the large parks and...

What’s the Difference Between an Online Summer School and an In-Person Summer School?

What’s the Difference Between an Online Summer School and an In-Person Summer School?

Academic summer schools are an incredibly popular way to maintain academic focus over the school holidays, and they continue to evolve beyond the typical school curriculum.  When it comes to choosing the summer school that’s right for you, it’s important to make an...

A Beginner’s Guide to Shakespeare’s Plays

A Beginner’s Guide to Shakespeare’s Plays

William Shakespeare is one of the most famous playwrights in history, and has had an incredible impact on English literature – even the English language itself!  His influence has endured over hundreds of years. Despite writing most of his works in the 16th century,...

Celebrating 150 years of Harvard Summer School. Learn about our history.

12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay

College admission committees sift through thousands of college essays each year. Here’s how to make yours stand out.

Pamela Reynolds

When it comes to deciding who they will admit into their programs, colleges consider many criteria, including high school grades, extracurricular activities, and ACT and SAT scores. But in recent years, more colleges are no longer considering test scores.

Instead, many (including Harvard through 2026) are opting for “test-blind” admission policies that give more weight to other elements in a college application. This policy change is seen as fairer to students who don’t have the means or access to testing, or who suffer from test anxiety.

So, what does this mean for you?

Simply that your college essay, traditionally a requirement of any college application, is more important than ever.

A college essay is your unique opportunity to introduce yourself to admissions committees who must comb through thousands of applications each year. It is your chance to stand out as someone worthy of a seat in that classroom.

A well-written and thoughtful essay—reflecting who you are and what you believe—can go a long way to separating your application from the slew of forgettable ones that admissions officers read. Indeed, officers may rely on them even more now that many colleges are not considering test scores.

Below we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to help your essay stand out from the pack. We’ll touch on how to start your essay, what you should write for your college essay, and elements that make for a great college essay.

Be Authentic

More than any other consideration, you should choose a topic or point of view that is consistent with who you truly are.

Readers can sense when writers are inauthentic.

Inauthenticity could mean the use of overly flowery language that no one would ever use in conversation, or it could mean choosing an inconsequential topic that reveals very little about who you are.

Use your own voice, sense of humor, and a natural way of speaking.

Whatever subject you choose, make sure it’s something that’s genuinely important to you and not a subject you’ve chosen just to impress. You can write about a specific experience, hobby, or personality quirk that illustrates your strengths, but also feel free to write about your weaknesses.

Honesty about traits, situations, or a childhood background that you are working to improve may resonate with the reader more strongly than a glib victory speech.

Grab the Reader From the Start

You’ll be competing with so many other applicants for an admission officer’s attention.

Therefore, start your essay with an opening sentence or paragraph that immediately seizes the imagination. This might be a bold statement, a thoughtful quote, a question you pose, or a descriptive scene.

Starting your essay in a powerful way with a clear thesis statement can often help you along in the writing process. If your task is to tell a good story, a bold beginning can be a natural prelude to getting there, serving as a roadmap, engaging the reader from the start, and presenting the purpose of your writing.

Focus on Deeper Themes

Some essay writers think they will impress committees by loading an essay with facts, figures, and descriptions of activities, like wins in sports or descriptions of volunteer work. But that’s not the point.

College admissions officers are interested in learning more about who you are as a person and what makes you tick.

They want to know what has brought you to this stage in life. They want to read about realizations you may have come to through adversity as well as your successes, not just about how many games you won while on the soccer team or how many people you served at a soup kitchen.

Let the reader know how winning the soccer game helped you develop as a person, friend, family member, or leader. Make a connection with your soup kitchen volunteerism and how it may have inspired your educational journey and future aspirations. What did you discover about yourself?

Show Don’t Tell

As you expand on whatever theme you’ve decided to explore in your essay, remember to show, don’t tell.

The most engaging writing “shows” by setting scenes and providing anecdotes, rather than just providing a list of accomplishments and activities.

Reciting a list of activities is also boring. An admissions officer will want to know about the arc of your emotional journey too.

Try Doing Something Different

If you want your essay to stand out, think about approaching your subject from an entirely new perspective. While many students might choose to write about their wins, for instance, what if you wrote an essay about what you learned from all your losses?

If you are an especially talented writer, you might play with the element of surprise by crafting an essay that leaves the response to a question to the very last sentence.

You may want to stay away from well-worn themes entirely, like a sports-related obstacle or success, volunteer stories, immigration stories, moving, a summary of personal achievements or overcoming obstacles.

However, such themes are popular for a reason. They represent the totality of most people’s lives coming out of high school. Therefore, it may be less important to stay away from these topics than to take a fresh approach.

Explore Harvard Summer School’s College Programs for High School Students

Write With the Reader in Mind

Writing for the reader means building a clear and logical argument in which one thought flows naturally from another.

Use transitions between paragraphs.

Think about any information you may have left out that the reader may need to know. Are there ideas you have included that do not help illustrate your theme?

Be sure you can answer questions such as: Does what you have written make sense? Is the essay organized? Does the opening grab the reader? Is there a strong ending? Have you given enough background information? Is it wordy?

Write Several Drafts

Set your essay aside for a few days and come back to it after you’ve had some time to forget what you’ve written. Often, you’ll discover you have a whole new perspective that enhances your ability to make revisions.

Start writing months before your essay is due to give yourself enough time to write multiple drafts. A good time to start could be as early as the summer before your senior year when homework and extracurricular activities take up less time.

Read It Aloud

Writer’s tip : Reading your essay aloud can instantly uncover passages that sound clumsy, long-winded, or false.

Don’t Repeat

If you’ve mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don’t repeat it again in your essay.

Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.

Also, be sure you’ve answered whatever question or prompt may have been posed to you at the outset.

Ask Others to Read Your Essay

Be sure the people you ask to read your essay represent different demographic groups—a teacher, a parent, even a younger sister or brother.

Ask each reader what they took from the essay and listen closely to what they have to say. If anyone expresses confusion, revise until the confusion is cleared up.

Pay Attention to Form

Although there are often no strict word limits for college essays, most essays are shorter rather than longer. Common App, which students can use to submit to multiple colleges, suggests that essays stay at about 650 words.

“While we won’t as a rule stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you’d hoped it would,” the Common App website states.

In reviewing other technical aspects of your essay, be sure that the font is readable, that the margins are properly spaced, that any dialogue is set off properly, and that there is enough spacing at the top. Your essay should look clean and inviting to readers.

End Your Essay With a “Kicker”

In journalism, a kicker is the last punchy line, paragraph, or section that brings everything together.

It provides a lasting impression that leaves the reader satisfied and impressed by the points you have artfully woven throughout your piece.

So, here’s our kicker: Be concise and coherent, engage in honest self-reflection, and include vivid details and anecdotes that deftly illustrate your point.

While writing a fantastic essay may not guarantee you get selected, it can tip the balance in your favor if admissions officers are considering a candidate with a similar GPA and background.

Write, revise, revise again, and good luck!

Experience life on a college campus. Spend your summer at Harvard.

Explore Harvard Summer School’s College Programs for High School Students.

About the Author

Pamela Reynolds is a Boston-area feature writer and editor whose work appears in numerous publications. She is the author of “Revamp: A Memoir of Travel and Obsessive Renovation.”

How Involved Should Parents and Guardians Be in High School Student College Applications and Admissions?

There are several ways parents can lend support to their children during the college application process. Here's how to get the ball rolling.

Harvard Division of Continuing Education

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) at Harvard University is dedicated to bringing rigorous academics and innovative teaching capabilities to those seeking to improve their lives through education. We make Harvard education accessible to lifelong learners from high school to retirement.

Harvard Division of Continuing Education Logo

Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

Tips for writing an effective college essay.

College admissions essays are an important part of your college application and gives you the chance to show colleges and universities your character and experiences. This guide will give you tips to write an effective college essay.

Want free help with your college essay?

UPchieve connects you with knowledgeable and friendly college advisors—online, 24/7, and completely free. Get 1:1 help brainstorming topics, outlining your essay, revising a draft, or editing grammar.

 alt=

Writing a strong college admissions essay

Learn about the elements of a solid admissions essay.

Avoiding common admissions essay mistakes

Learn some of the most common mistakes made on college essays

Brainstorming tips for your college essay

Stuck on what to write your college essay about? Here are some exercises to help you get started.

How formal should the tone of your college essay be?

Learn how formal your college essay should be and get tips on how to bring out your natural voice.

Taking your college essay to the next level

Hear an admissions expert discuss the appropriate level of depth necessary in your college essay.

Student Stories

 alt=

Student Story: Admissions essay about a formative experience

Get the perspective of a current college student on how he approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about personal identity

Get the perspective of a current college student on how she approached the admissions essay.

Student Story: Admissions essay about community impact

Student story: admissions essay about a past mistake, how to write a college application essay, tips for writing an effective application essay, sample college essay 1 with feedback, sample college essay 2 with feedback.

This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at www.khanacademy.org.

  • Log in
  • Site search

How to write an essay

Essay writing is an inevitable part of the student experience. To achieve top grades on these assignments, discover how to compose a well-written essay

You might think you know how to write a good essay from your time at school but writing an essay at undergraduate level is a whole new ball game. Taking the time to properly plan your work can lead to higher marks, with lecturers welcoming a logical structure that clearly demonstrates your understanding of the subject.

However, knowing where to begin and how to go about completing the assignment is not always easy - especially if you're still adjusting to university life and you haven't written at undergraduate level before.

'There is an art (and a bit of a science) to every type of writing,' says Dr Rushana Khusainova, lecturer in marketing at the University of Bristol. 'By mastering the art of academic essay writing, you'll also be mastering the skill for writing general and business emails, reports, etc. Overall, it's a vital skill to have.'

Katherine Cox, professor and head of department for humanities and law at Bournemouth University agrees. 'Getting feedback on your development is a key part of developing as a student. Essay writing is an excellent opportunity for formal feedback on your progress, and like any skill it needs practice and polish.'

Here we'll cover the seven main points of planning and executing a well-written essay:

  • understanding the question
  • researching and gathering helpful resources
  • putting together an essay plan
  • writing the essay
  • tackling the introduction and conclusion
  • reviewing what you’ve written.

Mastering how to write an essay early on will also help you prepare for  writing your dissertation  in your final year.

Understand the question

The first step in tackling an essay is to make sure that you understand what is being asked of you.

'I recommend that you read and re-read the essay question,' advises Dr Khusainova. 'With each time, the question will feel clearer.' Break it down into its component parts and pay particular attention to instruction words, for example, 'explain', 'discuss', 'outline' - what do these mean in practice? What are you being asked to do? Be aware that essays take several different forms and a 'compare and contrast' essay requires a different approach to an analytical ('analyse') or argumentative ('critically examine') essay.

For example, the question, 'Compare and contrast the representation of masculinity in two James Bond films from the 1960s and 2000s', can be classified like this:

  • instruction (i.e. compare and contrast)
  • topic (i.e. the representation of masculinity)
  • focus (i.e. in two James Bond films)
  • further information (i.e. from the 1960s and 2000s).

'Take coloured pens and highlight each sub-question or sub-task within the essay brief,' explains Dr Khusainova. 'Write bullet points for all sub-questions of the essay. I would recommend using pen and paper. Research suggests that when we use pen and paper to write down our thoughts, our brain structures information in a more efficient way.'

Ask yourself:

  • What is significant about the question and its topic?
  • What existing knowledge do you have that will help you answer this question?
  • What do you need to find out?
  • How are you going to successfully address this question?
  • What logical sequence will your ideas appear in?

If you still don't understand the question or the complexity of the response expected from you, don't be afraid to ask for clarification from your lecturer or tutor if you need it. If you have questions, speak up when the essay is set rather than leaving it too late.

Gather resources

With so much information available, it's vital that you only look for directly relevant material when researching. Decide where the gaps in your knowledge and understanding are, and identify the areas where you need more supporting evidence. Make a list of keywords that describe the topic and use them to search with.

Useful resources include:

  • course material
  • lecture notes
  • library books
  • journal articles

Engage in active reading and keep organised with effective note-taking. Once you've done your research, create a mind map. Carefully note the key theories, information and quotes that will help you to answer all components of the question. Consider grouping these into three or four main themes, including only the most significant points. You must be ruthless and exclude ideas that don't fit in seamlessly with your essay's focus.

Create an essay plan

'You can write an essay without planning, but I'm not sure you can write a good essay without planning,' says Katherine.

When you have an idea of the points you're going to address in your essay, and a rough idea of the order in which these will appear, you're ready to start planning. There are two main ways to do this:

  • Linear plans  - useful for essays requiring a rigid structure. They provide a chronological breakdown of the key points you're going to address.
  • Tabular plans  - best for comparative assignments. You'll be able to better visualise how the points you're contrasting differ across several aspects.

Scrutinise the notes you've already made - including those from your evaluation of relevant materials from your literature search - and ensure they're placed into a logical order.

There are different approaches to planning an essay. Some students might prefer a step-by-step, structured approach, while others might find it helpful to begin in a more fluid way - jotting down keywords and ideas that they later develop into a more structured working plan.   Essay planning can take several forms, 'for example, you might try a mind map, a collage, or use headings. You might prefer to plan in written form or online. You'll also turn ideas over in your head - just remember to jot down these insights,' adds Katherine.

'In my experience most students find it helpful to start by writing an essay skeleton - a bullet pointed structure of the essay,' says Dr Khusainova.

'I also advise taking an inverted pyramid approach to the storyline. This is where you start broad and slowly narrow down your focus to the specific essay question.'

Write clearly and concisely

Most university essays are set with a word count and deadline in place. It's therefore important that you don't waste time or words on waffle. You need to write clearly and concisely and ensure that every sentence and paragraph works towards answering the essay question.

Aim to write a first draft where you cover everything in your plan. You can then refine and edit this in your second draft.

'A successful essay is one that answers all parts of the essay question,' explains Dr Khusainova. 'Also consider elements such as the level of critical thinking and whether it's written in a suitable style.

'One of the most important (and coincidentally, the most challenging) elements of essay writing is ensuring your assignment has a logical storyline. Make sure no idea is coming out of the blue and that the discussion flows logically.'

Also consider your method of referencing. Some institutions specify a preferred citation style such as The Harvard System. Whatever referencing system you're using ensure that you're doing so correctly to avoid plagiarism. It should go without saying that your writing needs to be your own.

If you need help Katherine points out 'you can turn to your tutors and your peers. Perhaps you can you organise a study group and discuss one another's ideas? It's tempting with new and emerging artificial intelligence technology to turn to these resources but they are in their infancy and not particularly reliable. A number of universities advise you to avoid these resources altogether.'

Carefully consider the introduction and conclusion

Starting an essay and writing an impactful conclusion are often the trickiest parts.

It can be useful to outline your introduction during the early stages of writing your essay. You can then use this as a frame of reference for your writing. If you adopt this approach be aware that your ideas will likely develop or change as you write, so remember to revisit and review your introduction in later stages to ensure it reflects the content of your final essay.

While the conclusion may not be the first thing you write, it's still helpful to consider the end point of your essay early on, so that you develop a clear and consistent argument. The conclusion needs to do justice to your essay, as it will leave the greatest impression on your reader.

On the other hand, if you're unsure what shape your argument may take, it's best to leave both your introduction and conclusion until last.

Evaluate what you've written

Once you've written and edited your essay, leave it alone for a couple of days if possible. Return to it with fresh eyes and give it a final check.

'Reading an essay out loud works well for some students,' says Dr Khusainova. 'Swapping drafts with a classmate could also work on some modules.'

Don't skip this step, final checks are important. This is when you can pick up on formatting and spelling errors and correct any referencing mistakes.

  • Check that your introduction provides a clear purpose for your essay.
  • Ensure that the conclusion provides a clear response to the essay question, summarising your key findings/argument. 
  • Check the structure of your paragraphs for clear topic and link sentences. Are the paragraphs in a logical order with a clear and consistent line of argument that a reader can follow?
  • Read your essay slowly and carefully. Writing has a rhythm - does your writing flow and is it correctly punctuated?
  • Remove unnecessary repetition.
  • Review the examples and evidence you've used. Is there enough to support your argument?

'Receiving feedback can be an emotional experience - so be honest with yourself,' advises Katherine. 'What is the feedback telling you - what are your strengths? What areas could you improve?'

Find out more

  • Struggling with your workload? Here are  5 ways to manage student stress .
  • Discover  how to revise for exams .
  • Take a look at 7 time management tips for students .

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

  • Dislike 1 unhappy-very
  • Like 5 happy-very

Thank you for rating the page

logo (1)

Tips for Online Students , Tips for Students

How To Write An Essay: Beginner Tips And Tricks

How To Write An Essay # Beginner Tips And Tricks

Many students dread writing essays, but essay writing is an important skill to develop in high school, university, and even into your future career. By learning how to write an essay properly, the process can become more enjoyable and you’ll find you’re better able to organize and articulate your thoughts.

When writing an essay, it’s common to follow a specific pattern, no matter what the topic is. Once you’ve used the pattern a few times and you know how to structure an essay, it will become a lot more simple to apply your knowledge to every essay. 

No matter which major you choose, you should know how to craft a good essay. Here, we’ll cover the basics of essay writing, along with some helpful tips to make the writing process go smoothly.

Ink pen on paper before writing an essay

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

Types of Essays

Think of an essay as a discussion. There are many types of discussions you can have with someone else. You can be describing a story that happened to you, you might explain to them how to do something, or you might even argue about a certain topic. 

When it comes to different types of essays, it follows a similar pattern. Like a friendly discussion, each type of essay will come with its own set of expectations or goals. 

For example, when arguing with a friend, your goal is to convince them that you’re right. The same goes for an argumentative essay. 

Here are a few of the main essay types you can expect to come across during your time in school:

Narrative Essay

This type of essay is almost like telling a story, not in the traditional sense with dialogue and characters, but as if you’re writing out an event or series of events to relay information to the reader.

Persuasive Essay

Here, your goal is to persuade the reader about your views on a specific topic.

Descriptive Essay

This is the kind of essay where you go into a lot more specific details describing a topic such as a place or an event. 

Argumentative Essay

In this essay, you’re choosing a stance on a topic, usually controversial, and your goal is to present evidence that proves your point is correct.

Expository Essay

Your purpose with this type of essay is to tell the reader how to complete a specific process, often including a step-by-step guide or something similar.

Compare and Contrast Essay

You might have done this in school with two different books or characters, but the ultimate goal is to draw similarities and differences between any two given subjects.

The Main Stages of Essay Writing

When it comes to writing an essay, many students think the only stage is getting all your ideas down on paper and submitting your work. However, that’s not quite the case. 

There are three main stages of writing an essay, each one with its own purpose. Of course, writing the essay itself is the most substantial part, but the other two stages are equally as important.

So, what are these three stages of essay writing? They are:

Preparation

Before you even write one word, it’s important to prepare the content and structure of your essay. If a topic wasn’t assigned to you, then the first thing you should do is settle on a topic. Next, you want to conduct your research on that topic and create a detailed outline based on your research. The preparation stage will make writing your essay that much easier since, with your outline and research, you should already have the skeleton of your essay.

Writing is the most time-consuming stage. In this stage, you will write out all your thoughts and ideas and craft your essay based on your outline. You’ll work on developing your ideas and fleshing them out throughout the introduction, body, and conclusion (more on these soon).

In the final stage, you’ll go over your essay and check for a few things. First, you’ll check if your essay is cohesive, if all the points make sense and are related to your topic, and that your facts are cited and backed up. You can also check for typos, grammar and punctuation mistakes, and formatting errors.  

The Five-Paragraph Essay

We mentioned earlier that essay writing follows a specific structure, and for the most part in academic or college essays , the five-paragraph essay is the generally accepted structure you’ll be expected to use. 

The five-paragraph essay is broken down into one introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a closing paragraph. However, that doesn’t always mean that an essay is written strictly in five paragraphs, but rather that this structure can be used loosely and the three body paragraphs might become three sections instead.

Let’s take a closer look at each section and what it entails.

Introduction

As the name implies, the purpose of your introduction paragraph is to introduce your idea. A good introduction begins with a “hook,” something that grabs your reader’s attention and makes them excited to read more. 

Another key tenant of an introduction is a thesis statement, which usually comes towards the end of the introduction itself. Your thesis statement should be a phrase that explains your argument, position, or central idea that you plan on developing throughout the essay. 

You can also include a short outline of what to expect in your introduction, including bringing up brief points that you plan on explaining more later on in the body paragraphs.

Here is where most of your essay happens. The body paragraphs are where you develop your ideas and bring up all the points related to your main topic. 

In general, you’re meant to have three body paragraphs, or sections, and each one should bring up a different point. Think of it as bringing up evidence. Each paragraph is a different piece of evidence, and when the three pieces are taken together, it backs up your main point — your thesis statement — really well.

That being said, you still want each body paragraph to be tied together in some way so that the essay flows. The points should be distinct enough, but they should relate to each other, and definitely to your thesis statement. Each body paragraph works to advance your point, so when crafting your essay, it’s important to keep this in mind so that you avoid going off-track or writing things that are off-topic.

Many students aren’t sure how to write a conclusion for an essay and tend to see their conclusion as an afterthought, but this section is just as important as the rest of your work. 

You shouldn’t be presenting any new ideas in your conclusion, but you should summarize your main points and show how they back up your thesis statement. 

Essentially, the conclusion is similar in structure and content to the introduction, but instead of introducing your essay, it should be wrapping up the main thoughts and presenting them to the reader as a singular closed argument. 

student writing an essay on his laptop

Photo by AMIT RANJAN on Unsplash

Steps to Writing an Essay

Now that you have a better idea of an essay’s structure and all the elements that go into it, you might be wondering what the different steps are to actually write your essay. 

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Instead of going in blind, follow these steps on how to write your essay from start to finish.

Understand Your Assignment

When writing an essay for an assignment, the first critical step is to make sure you’ve read through your assignment carefully and understand it thoroughly. You want to check what type of essay is required, that you understand the topic, and that you pay attention to any formatting or structural requirements. You don’t want to lose marks just because you didn’t read the assignment carefully.

Research Your Topic

Once you understand your assignment, it’s time to do some research. In this step, you should start looking at different sources to get ideas for what points you want to bring up throughout your essay. 

Search online or head to the library and get as many resources as possible. You don’t need to use them all, but it’s good to start with a lot and then narrow down your sources as you become more certain of your essay’s direction.

Start Brainstorming

After research comes the brainstorming. There are a lot of different ways to start the brainstorming process . Here are a few you might find helpful:

  • Think about what you found during your research that interested you the most
  • Jot down all your ideas, even if they’re not yet fully formed
  • Create word clouds or maps for similar terms or ideas that come up so you can group them together based on their similarities
  • Try freewriting to get all your ideas out before arranging them

Create a Thesis

This is often the most tricky part of the whole process since you want to create a thesis that’s strong and that you’re about to develop throughout the entire essay. Therefore, you want to choose a thesis statement that’s broad enough that you’ll have enough to say about it, but not so broad that you can’t be precise. 

Write Your Outline

Armed with your research, brainstorming sessions, and your thesis statement, the next step is to write an outline. 

In the outline, you’ll want to put your thesis statement at the beginning and start creating the basic skeleton of how you want your essay to look. 

A good way to tackle an essay is to use topic sentences . A topic sentence is like a mini-thesis statement that is usually the first sentence of a new paragraph. This sentence introduces the main idea that will be detailed throughout the paragraph. 

If you create an outline with the topic sentences for your body paragraphs and then a few points of what you want to discuss, you’ll already have a strong starting point when it comes time to sit down and write. This brings us to our next step… 

Write a First Draft

The first time you write your entire essay doesn’t need to be perfect, but you do need to get everything on the page so that you’re able to then write a second draft or review it afterward. 

Everyone’s writing process is different. Some students like to write their essay in the standard order of intro, body, and conclusion, while others prefer to start with the “meat” of the essay and tackle the body, and then fill in the other sections afterward. 

Make sure your essay follows your outline and that everything relates to your thesis statement and your points are backed up by the research you did. 

Revise, Edit, and Proofread

The revision process is one of the three main stages of writing an essay, yet many people skip this step thinking their work is done after the first draft is complete. 

However, proofreading, reviewing, and making edits on your essay can spell the difference between a B paper and an A.

After writing the first draft, try and set your essay aside for a few hours or even a day or two, and then come back to it with fresh eyes to review it. You might find mistakes or inconsistencies you missed or better ways to formulate your arguments.

Add the Finishing Touches

Finally, you’ll want to make sure everything that’s required is in your essay. Review your assignment again and see if all the requirements are there, such as formatting rules, citations, quotes, etc. 

Go over the order of your paragraphs and make sure everything makes sense, flows well, and uses the same writing style . 

Once everything is checked and all the last touches are added, give your essay a final read through just to ensure it’s as you want it before handing it in. 

A good way to do this is to read your essay out loud since you’ll be able to hear if there are any mistakes or inaccuracies.

Essay Writing Tips

With the steps outlined above, you should be able to craft a great essay. Still, there are some other handy tips we’d recommend just to ensure that the essay writing process goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Start your essay early. This is the first tip for a reason. It’s one of the most important things you can do to write a good essay. If you start it the night before, then you won’t have enough time to research, brainstorm, and outline — and you surely won’t have enough time to review.
  • Don’t try and write it in one sitting. It’s ok if you need to take breaks or write it over a few days. It’s better to write it in multiple sittings so that you have a fresh mind each time and you’re able to focus.
  • Always keep the essay question in mind. If you’re given an assigned question, then you should always keep it handy when writing your essay to make sure you’re always working to answer the question.
  • Use transitions between paragraphs. In order to improve the readability of your essay, try and make clear transitions between paragraphs. This means trying to relate the end of one paragraph to the beginning of the next one so the shift doesn’t seem random.
  • Integrate your research thoughtfully. Add in citations or quotes from your research materials to back up your thesis and main points. This will show that you did the research and that your thesis is backed up by it.

Wrapping Up

Writing an essay doesn’t need to be daunting if you know how to approach it. Using our essay writing steps and tips, you’ll have better knowledge on how to write an essay and you’ll be able to apply it to your next assignment. Once you do this a few times, it will become more natural to you and the essay writing process will become quicker and easier.

If you still need assistance with your essay, check with a student advisor to see if they offer help with writing. At University of the People(UoPeople), we always want our students to succeed, so our student advisors are ready to help with writing skills when necessary. 

Related Articles

PrepScholar

Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 177 college essay examples for 11 schools + expert analysis.

author image

College Admissions , College Essays

body-typewriter-writing-desk-cc0

The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I'll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 11 different schools. Finally, I'll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 177 full essays and essay excerpts , this article is a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

What Excellent College Essays Have in Common

Even though in many ways these sample college essays are very different from one other, they do share some traits you should try to emulate as you write your own essay.

Visible Signs of Planning

Building out from a narrow, concrete focus. You'll see a similar structure in many of the essays. The author starts with a very detailed story of an event or description of a person or place. After this sense-heavy imagery, the essay expands out to make a broader point about the author, and connects this very memorable experience to the author's present situation, state of mind, newfound understanding, or maturity level.

Knowing how to tell a story. Some of the experiences in these essays are one-of-a-kind. But most deal with the stuff of everyday life. What sets them apart is the way the author approaches the topic: analyzing it for drama and humor, for its moving qualities, for what it says about the author's world, and for how it connects to the author's emotional life.

Stellar Execution

A killer first sentence. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again: you have to suck the reader in, and the best place to do that is the first sentence. Great first sentences are punchy. They are like cliffhangers, setting up an exciting scene or an unusual situation with an unclear conclusion, in order to make the reader want to know more. Don't take my word for it—check out these 22 first sentences from Stanford applicants and tell me you don't want to read the rest of those essays to find out what happens!

A lively, individual voice. Writing is for readers. In this case, your reader is an admissions officer who has read thousands of essays before yours and will read thousands after. Your goal? Don't bore your reader. Use interesting descriptions, stay away from clichés, include your own offbeat observations—anything that makes this essay sounds like you and not like anyone else.

body-frog-cc0

Technical correctness. No spelling mistakes, no grammar weirdness, no syntax issues, no punctuation snafus—each of these sample college essays has been formatted and proofread perfectly. If this kind of exactness is not your strong suit, you're in luck! All colleges advise applicants to have their essays looked over several times by parents, teachers, mentors, and anyone else who can spot a comma splice. Your essay must be your own work, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help polishing it.

And if you need more guidance, connect with PrepScholar's expert admissions consultants . These expert writers know exactly what college admissions committees look for in an admissions essay and chan help you craft an essay that boosts your chances of getting into your dream school.

Check out PrepScholar's Essay Editing and Coaching progra m for more details!

how to write good university essays

Want to write the perfect college application essay? Get professional help from PrepScholar.

Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We'll learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay that you'll proudly submit to your top choice colleges.

Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now :

Craft Your Perfect College Essay

Links to Full College Essay Examples

Some colleges publish a selection of their favorite accepted college essays that worked, and I've put together a selection of over 100 of these.

Common App Essay Samples

Please note that some of these college essay examples may be responding to prompts that are no longer in use. The current Common App prompts are as follows:

1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. 2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? 3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? 4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you? 5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. 6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Now, let's get to the good stuff: the list of 177 college essay examples responding to current and past Common App essay prompts. 

Connecticut college.

  • 12 Common Application essays from the classes of 2022-2025

Hamilton College

  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2026
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 7 Common Application essays from the class of 2018
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2012
  • 8 Common Application essays from the class of 2007

Johns Hopkins

These essays are answers to past prompts from either the Common Application or the Coalition Application (which Johns Hopkins used to accept).

  • 1 Common Application or Coalition Application essay from the class of 2026
  • 6 Common Application or Coalition Application essays from the class of 2025
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2024
  • 6 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2023
  • 7 Common Application of Universal Application essays from the class of 2022
  • 5 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2021
  • 7 Common Application or Universal Application essays from the class of 2020

Essay Examples Published by Other Websites

  • 2 Common Application essays ( 1st essay , 2nd essay ) from applicants admitted to Columbia

Other Sample College Essays

Here is a collection of essays that are college-specific.

Babson College

  • 4 essays (and 1 video response) on "Why Babson" from the class of 2020

Emory University

  • 5 essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) from the class of 2020 along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on why the essays were exceptional
  • 5 more recent essay examples ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 ) along with analysis from Emory admissions staff on what made these essays stand out

University of Georgia

  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2019
  • 1 “strong essay” sample from 2018
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2023
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2022
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2021
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2020
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2019
  • 10 Harvard essays from 2018
  • 6 essays from admitted MIT students

Smith College

  • 6 "best gift" essays from the class of 2018

body-library-cc0-2

Books of College Essays

If you're looking for even more sample college essays, consider purchasing a college essay book. The best of these include dozens of essays that worked and feedback from real admissions officers.

College Essays That Made a Difference —This detailed guide from Princeton Review includes not only successful essays, but also interviews with admissions officers and full student profiles.

50 Successful Harvard Application Essays by the Staff of the Harvard Crimson—A must for anyone aspiring to Harvard .

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays and 50 Successful Stanford Application Essays by Gen and Kelly Tanabe—For essays from other top schools, check out this venerated series, which is regularly updated with new essays.

Heavenly Essays by Janine W. Robinson—This collection from the popular blogger behind Essay Hell includes a wider range of schools, as well as helpful tips on honing your own essay.

body-writing-notebook-student-cc0

Analyzing Great Common App Essays That Worked

I've picked two essays from the examples collected above to examine in more depth so that you can see exactly what makes a successful college essay work. Full credit for these essays goes to the original authors and the schools that published them.

Example 1: "Breaking Into Cars," by Stephen, Johns Hopkins Class of '19 (Common App Essay, 636 words long)

I had never broken into a car before.

We were in Laredo, having just finished our first day at a Habitat for Humanity work site. The Hotchkiss volunteers had already left, off to enjoy some Texas BBQ, leaving me behind with the college kids to clean up. Not until we were stranded did we realize we were locked out of the van.

Someone picked a coat hanger out of the dumpster, handed it to me, and took a few steps back.

"Can you do that thing with a coat hanger to unlock it?"

"Why me?" I thought.

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame. Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally. My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed. "The water's on fire! Clear a hole!" he shouted, tossing me in the lake without warning. While I'm still unconvinced about that particular lesson's practicality, my Dad's overarching message is unequivocally true: much of life is unexpected, and you have to deal with the twists and turns.

Living in my family, days rarely unfolded as planned. A bit overlooked, a little pushed around, I learned to roll with reality, negotiate a quick deal, and give the improbable a try. I don't sweat the small stuff, and I definitely don't expect perfect fairness. So what if our dining room table only has six chairs for seven people? Someone learns the importance of punctuality every night.

But more than punctuality and a special affinity for musical chairs, my family life has taught me to thrive in situations over which I have no power. Growing up, I never controlled my older siblings, but I learned how to thwart their attempts to control me. I forged alliances, and realigned them as necessary. Sometimes, I was the poor, defenseless little brother; sometimes I was the omniscient elder. Different things to different people, as the situation demanded. I learned to adapt.

Back then, these techniques were merely reactions undertaken to ensure my survival. But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The question caught me off guard, much like the question posed to me in Laredo. Then, I realized I knew the answer. I knew why the coat hanger had been handed to me.

Growing up as the middle child in my family, I was a vital participant in a thing I did not govern, in the company of people I did not choose. It's family. It's society. And often, it's chaos. You participate by letting go of the small stuff, not expecting order and perfection, and facing the unexpected with confidence, optimism, and preparedness. My family experience taught me to face a serendipitous world with confidence.

What Makes This Essay Tick?

It's very helpful to take writing apart in order to see just how it accomplishes its objectives. Stephen's essay is very effective. Let's find out why!

An Opening Line That Draws You In

In just eight words, we get: scene-setting (he is standing next to a car about to break in), the idea of crossing a boundary (he is maybe about to do an illegal thing for the first time), and a cliffhanger (we are thinking: is he going to get caught? Is he headed for a life of crime? Is he about to be scared straight?).

Great, Detailed Opening Story

More out of amusement than optimism, I gave it a try. I slid the hanger into the window's seal like I'd seen on crime shows, and spent a few minutes jiggling the apparatus around the inside of the frame.

It's the details that really make this small experience come alive. Notice how whenever he can, Stephen uses a more specific, descriptive word in place of a more generic one. The volunteers aren't going to get food or dinner; they're going for "Texas BBQ." The coat hanger comes from "a dumpster." Stephen doesn't just move the coat hanger—he "jiggles" it.

Details also help us visualize the emotions of the people in the scene. The person who hands Stephen the coat hanger isn't just uncomfortable or nervous; he "takes a few steps back"—a description of movement that conveys feelings. Finally, the detail of actual speech makes the scene pop. Instead of writing that the other guy asked him to unlock the van, Stephen has the guy actually say his own words in a way that sounds like a teenager talking.

body_coathangers

Turning a Specific Incident Into a Deeper Insight

Suddenly, two things simultaneously clicked. One was the lock on the door. (I actually succeeded in springing it.) The other was the realization that I'd been in this type of situation before. In fact, I'd been born into this type of situation.

Stephen makes the locked car experience a meaningful illustration of how he has learned to be resourceful and ready for anything, and he also makes this turn from the specific to the broad through an elegant play on the two meanings of the word "click."

Using Concrete Examples When Making Abstract Claims

My upbringing has numbed me to unpredictability and chaos. With a family of seven, my home was loud, messy, and spottily supervised. My siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing—all meant my house was functioning normally.

"Unpredictability and chaos" are very abstract, not easily visualized concepts. They could also mean any number of things—violence, abandonment, poverty, mental instability. By instantly following up with highly finite and unambiguous illustrations like "family of seven" and "siblings arguing, the dog barking, the phone ringing," Stephen grounds the abstraction in something that is easy to picture: a large, noisy family.

Using Small Bits of Humor and Casual Word Choice

My Dad, a retired Navy pilot, was away half the time. When he was home, he had a parenting style something like a drill sergeant. At the age of nine, I learned how to clear burning oil from the surface of water. My Dad considered this a critical life skill—you know, in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed.

Obviously, knowing how to clean burning oil is not high on the list of things every 9-year-old needs to know. To emphasize this, Stephen uses sarcasm by bringing up a situation that is clearly over-the-top: "in case my aircraft carrier should ever get torpedoed."

The humor also feels relaxed. Part of this is because he introduces it with the colloquial phrase "you know," so it sounds like he is talking to us in person. This approach also diffuses the potential discomfort of the reader with his father's strictness—since he is making jokes about it, clearly he is OK. Notice, though, that this doesn't occur very much in the essay. This helps keep the tone meaningful and serious rather than flippant.

body-oil-spill

An Ending That Stretches the Insight Into the Future

But one day this fall, Dr. Hicks, our Head of School, asked me a question that he hoped all seniors would reflect on throughout the year: "How can I participate in a thing I do not govern, in the company of people I did not choose?"

The ending of the essay reveals that Stephen's life has been one long preparation for the future. He has emerged from chaos and his dad's approach to parenting as a person who can thrive in a world that he can't control.

This connection of past experience to current maturity and self-knowledge is a key element in all successful personal essays. Colleges are very much looking for mature, self-aware applicants. These are the qualities of successful college students, who will be able to navigate the independence college classes require and the responsibility and quasi-adulthood of college life.

What Could This Essay Do Even Better?

Even the best essays aren't perfect, and even the world's greatest writers will tell you that writing is never "finished"—just "due." So what would we tweak in this essay if we could?

Replace some of the clichéd language. Stephen uses handy phrases like "twists and turns" and "don't sweat the small stuff" as a kind of shorthand for explaining his relationship to chaos and unpredictability. But using too many of these ready-made expressions runs the risk of clouding out your own voice and replacing it with something expected and boring.

Use another example from recent life. Stephen's first example (breaking into the van in Laredo) is a great illustration of being resourceful in an unexpected situation. But his essay also emphasizes that he "learned to adapt" by being "different things to different people." It would be great to see how this plays out outside his family, either in the situation in Laredo or another context.

how to write good university essays

Want to build the best possible college application?

We can help. PrepScholar Admissions is the world's best admissions consulting service. We combine world-class admissions counselors with our data-driven, proprietary admissions strategies . We've overseen thousands of students get into their top choice schools , from state colleges to the Ivy League.

We know what kinds of students colleges want to admit. We want to get you admitted to your dream schools .

Learn more about PrepScholar Admissions to maximize your chance of getting in.

Get Into Your Top Choice School

Example 2: By Renner Kwittken, Tufts Class of '23 (Common App Essay, 645 words long)

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver. I saw it in my favorite book, Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things That Go," and for some reason, I was absolutely obsessed with the idea of driving a giant pickle. Much to the discontent of my younger sister, I insisted that my parents read us that book as many nights as possible so we could find goldbug, a small little golden bug, on every page. I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Then I discovered a real goldbug: gold nanoparticles that can reprogram macrophages to assist in killing tumors, produce clear images of them without sacrificing the subject, and heat them to obliteration.

Suddenly the destination of my pickle was clear.

I quickly became enveloped by the world of nanomedicine; I scoured articles about liposomes, polymeric micelles, dendrimers, targeting ligands, and self-assembling nanoparticles, all conquering cancer in some exotic way. Completely absorbed, I set out to find a mentor to dive even deeper into these topics. After several rejections, I was immensely grateful to receive an invitation to work alongside Dr. Sangeeta Ray at Johns Hopkins.

In the lab, Dr. Ray encouraged a great amount of autonomy to design and implement my own procedures. I chose to attack a problem that affects the entire field of nanomedicine: nanoparticles consistently fail to translate from animal studies into clinical trials. Jumping off recent literature, I set out to see if a pre-dose of a common chemotherapeutic could enhance nanoparticle delivery in aggressive prostate cancer, creating three novel constructs based on three different linear polymers, each using fluorescent dye (although no gold, sorry goldbug!). Though using radioactive isotopes like Gallium and Yttrium would have been incredible, as a 17-year-old, I unfortunately wasn't allowed in the same room as these radioactive materials (even though I took a Geiger counter to a pair of shoes and found them to be slightly dangerous).

I hadn't expected my hypothesis to work, as the research project would have ideally been led across two full years. Yet while there are still many optimizations and revisions to be done, I was thrilled to find -- with completely new nanoparticles that may one day mean future trials will use particles with the initials "RK-1" -- thatcyclophosphamide did indeed increase nanoparticle delivery to the tumor in a statistically significant way.

A secondary, unexpected research project was living alone in Baltimore, a new city to me, surrounded by people much older than I. Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research. Whether in a presentation or in a casual conversation, making others interested in science is perhaps more exciting to me than the research itself. This solidified a new pursuit to angle my love for writing towards illuminating science in ways people can understand, adding value to a society that can certainly benefit from more scientific literacy.

It seems fitting that my goals are still transforming: in Scarry's book, there is not just one goldbug, there is one on every page. With each new experience, I'm learning that it isn't the goldbug itself, but rather the act of searching for the goldbugs that will encourage, shape, and refine my ever-evolving passions. Regardless of the goldbug I seek -- I know my pickle truck has just begun its journey.

Renner takes a somewhat different approach than Stephen, but their essay is just as detailed and engaging. Let's go through some of the strengths of this essay.

One Clear Governing Metaphor

This essay is ultimately about two things: Renner’s dreams and future career goals, and Renner’s philosophy on goal-setting and achieving one’s dreams.

But instead of listing off all the amazing things they’ve done to pursue their dream of working in nanomedicine, Renner tells a powerful, unique story instead. To set up the narrative, Renner opens the essay by connecting their experiences with goal-setting and dream-chasing all the way back to a memorable childhood experience:

This lighthearted–but relevant!--story about the moment when Renner first developed a passion for a specific career (“finding the goldbug”) provides an anchor point for the rest of the essay. As Renner pivots to describing their current dreams and goals–working in nanomedicine–the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” is reflected in Renner’s experiments, rejections, and new discoveries.

Though Renner tells multiple stories about their quest to “find the goldbug,” or, in other words, pursue their passion, each story is connected by a unifying theme; namely, that as we search and grow over time, our goals will transform…and that’s okay! By the end of the essay, Renner uses the metaphor of “finding the goldbug” to reiterate the relevance of the opening story:

While the earlier parts of the essay convey Renner’s core message by showing, the final, concluding paragraph sums up Renner’s insights by telling. By briefly and clearly stating the relevance of the goldbug metaphor to their own philosophy on goals and dreams, Renner demonstrates their creativity, insight, and eagerness to grow and evolve as the journey continues into college.

body_fixers

An Engaging, Individual Voice

This essay uses many techniques that make Renner sound genuine and make the reader feel like we already know them.

Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other).

My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

I would imagine the wonderful life I would have: being a pig driving a giant pickle truck across the country, chasing and finding goldbug. I then moved on to wanting to be a Lego Master. Then an architect. Then a surgeon.

Renner gives a great example of how to use humor to your advantage in college essays. You don’t want to come off as too self-deprecating or sarcastic, but telling a lightheartedly humorous story about your younger self that also showcases how you’ve grown and changed over time can set the right tone for your entire essay.

Technique #2: intentional, eye-catching structure. The second technique is the way Renner uses a unique structure to bolster the tone and themes of their essay . The structure of your essay can have a major impact on how your ideas come across…so it’s important to give it just as much thought as the content of your essay!

For instance, Renner does a great job of using one-line paragraphs to create dramatic emphasis and to make clear transitions from one phase of the story to the next:

Suddenly the destination of my pickle car was clear.

Not only does the one-liner above signal that Renner is moving into a new phase of the narrative (their nanoparticle research experiences), it also tells the reader that this is a big moment in Renner’s story. It’s clear that Renner made a major discovery that changed the course of their goal pursuit and dream-chasing. Through structure, Renner conveys excitement and entices the reader to keep pushing forward to the next part of the story.

Technique #3: playing with syntax. The third technique is to use sentences of varying length, syntax, and structure. Most of the essay's written in standard English and uses grammatically correct sentences. However, at key moments, Renner emphasizes that the reader needs to sit up and pay attention by switching to short, colloquial, differently punctuated, and sometimes fragmented sentences.

Even with moving frequently between hotels, AirBnB's, and students' apartments, I strangely reveled in the freedom I had to enjoy my surroundings and form new friendships with graduate school students from the lab. We explored The Inner Harbor at night, attended a concert together one weekend, and even got to watch the Orioles lose (to nobody's surprise). Ironically, it's through these new friendships I discovered something unexpected: what I truly love is sharing research.

In the examples above, Renner switches adeptly between long, flowing sentences and quippy, telegraphic ones. At the same time, Renner uses these different sentence lengths intentionally. As they describe their experiences in new places, they use longer sentences to immerse the reader in the sights, smells, and sounds of those experiences. And when it’s time to get a big, key idea across, Renner switches to a short, punchy sentence to stop the reader in their tracks.

The varying syntax and sentence lengths pull the reader into the narrative and set up crucial “aha” moments when it’s most important…which is a surefire way to make any college essay stand out.

body-crying-upset-cc0

Renner's essay is very strong, but there are still a few little things that could be improved.

Connecting the research experiences to the theme of “finding the goldbug.”  The essay begins and ends with Renner’s connection to the idea of “finding the goldbug.” And while this metaphor is deftly tied into the essay’s intro and conclusion, it isn’t entirely clear what Renner’s big findings were during the research experiences that are described in the middle of the essay. It would be great to add a sentence or two stating what Renner’s big takeaways (or “goldbugs”) were from these experiences, which add more cohesion to the essay as a whole.

Give more details about discovering the world of nanomedicine. It makes sense that Renner wants to get into the details of their big research experiences as quickly as possible. After all, these are the details that show Renner’s dedication to nanomedicine! But a smoother transition from the opening pickle car/goldbug story to Renner’s “real goldbug” of nanoparticles would help the reader understand why nanoparticles became Renner’s goldbug. Finding out why Renner is so motivated to study nanomedicine–and perhaps what put them on to this field of study–would help readers fully understand why Renner chose this path in the first place.

4 Essential Tips for Writing Your Own Essay

How can you use this discussion to better your own college essay? Here are some suggestions for ways to use this resource effectively.

#1: Get Help From the Experts

Getting your college applications together takes a lot of work and can be pretty intimidatin g. Essays are even more important than ever now that admissions processes are changing and schools are going test-optional and removing diversity standards thanks to new Supreme Court rulings .  If you want certified expert help that really makes a difference, get started with  PrepScholar’s Essay Editing and Coaching program. Our program can help you put together an incredible essay from idea to completion so that your application stands out from the crowd. We've helped students get into the best colleges in the United States, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale.  If you're ready to take the next step and boost your odds of getting into your dream school, connect with our experts today .

#2: Read Other Essays to Get Ideas for Your Own

As you go through the essays we've compiled for you above, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you explain to yourself (or someone else!) why the opening sentence works well?
  • Look for the essay's detailed personal anecdote. What senses is the author describing? Can you easily picture the scene in your mind's eye?
  • Find the place where this anecdote bridges into a larger insight about the author. How does the essay connect the two? How does the anecdote work as an example of the author's characteristic, trait, or skill?
  • Check out the essay's tone. If it's funny, can you find the places where the humor comes from? If it's sad and moving, can you find the imagery and description of feelings that make you moved? If it's serious, can you see how word choice adds to this tone?

Make a note whenever you find an essay or part of an essay that you think was particularly well-written, and think about what you like about it . Is it funny? Does it help you really get to know the writer? Does it show what makes the writer unique? Once you have your list, keep it next to you while writing your essay to remind yourself to try and use those same techniques in your own essay.

body-gears-cogs-puzzle-cc0

#3: Find Your "A-Ha!" Moment

All of these essays rely on connecting with the reader through a heartfelt, highly descriptive scene from the author's life. It can either be very dramatic (did you survive a plane crash?) or it can be completely mundane (did you finally beat your dad at Scrabble?). Either way, it should be personal and revealing about you, your personality, and the way you are now that you are entering the adult world.

Check out essays by authors like John Jeremiah Sullivan , Leslie Jamison , Hanif Abdurraqib , and Esmé Weijun Wang to get more examples of how to craft a compelling personal narrative.

#4: Start Early, Revise Often

Let me level with you: the best writing isn't writing at all. It's rewriting. And in order to have time to rewrite, you have to start way before the application deadline. My advice is to write your first draft at least two months before your applications are due.

Let it sit for a few days untouched. Then come back to it with fresh eyes and think critically about what you've written. What's extra? What's missing? What is in the wrong place? What doesn't make sense? Don't be afraid to take it apart and rearrange sections. Do this several times over, and your essay will be much better for it!

For more editing tips, check out a style guide like Dreyer's English or Eats, Shoots & Leaves .

body_next_step_drawing_blackboard

What's Next?

Still not sure which colleges you want to apply to? Our experts will show you how to make a college list that will help you choose a college that's right for you.

Interested in learning more about college essays? Check out our detailed breakdown of exactly how personal statements work in an application , some suggestions on what to avoid when writing your essay , and our guide to writing about your extracurricular activities .

Working on the rest of your application? Read what admissions officers wish applicants knew before applying .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

Get eBook: 5 Tips for 160+ Points

The recommendations in this post are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

author image

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at ExpertHub.PrepScholar.com , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

how to write good university essays

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”

how to write good university essays

  • SUGGESTED TOPICS
  • The Magazine
  • Newsletters
  • Managing Yourself
  • Managing Teams
  • Work-life Balance
  • The Big Idea
  • Data & Visuals
  • Reading Lists
  • Case Selections
  • HBR Learning
  • Topic Feeds
  • Account Settings
  • Email Preferences

How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

how to write good university essays

What does it take to land in the “accept” (instead of “reject”) pile?

How can you write an essay that helps advance you in the eyes of the admissions officers and makes a real impression? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Start early.  Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don’t have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to work on the essay.
  • Keep the focus narrow.  Your essay does not have to cover a massive, earth-shattering event. Some people in their teens haven’t experienced a major life event. Some people have. Either way, it’s okay.
  • Be yourself.  Whether writing about a painful experience or a more simple experience, use the narrative to be vulnerable and honest about who you are. Use words you would normally use. Trust your voice and the fact that your story is interesting enough in that no one else has lived it.
  • Be creative.  “Show, don’t tell,” and that applies here — to an extent. The best essays typically do both. You can help your reader see and feel what you are describing by using some figurative language throughout your piece.
  • Make a point. As you finish your final body paragraphs ask yourself “So what?” This will help you hone in on how to end your essay in a way that elevates it into a story about an insight or discovery you made about yourself, rather than just being about an experience you had.

Ascend logo

Where your work meets your life. See more from Ascend here .

We’ve all heard about the dreaded “college essay,” the bane of every high school senior’s existence. This daunting element of the college application is something that can create angst for even the most accomplished students.

  • AA Amy Allen is a writer, educator, and lifelong learner. Her freelance writing business,  All of the Write Words , focuses on providing high school students with one-on-one feedback to guide them through the college application process and with crafting a thoughtful personal essay. A dedicated poet, Amy’s work has also been published in several journals including  Pine Row Press ,  Months to Years,  and  Atlanta Review .

Partner Center

Essay writing: Introductions

  • Introductions
  • Conclusions
  • Analysing questions
  • Planning & drafting
  • Revising & editing
  • Proofreading
  • Essay writing videos

Jump to content on this page:

“A relevant and coherent beginning is perhaps your best single guarantee that the essay as a whole will achieve its object.” Gordon Taylor, A Student's Writing Guide

Your introduction is the first thing your marker will read and should be approximately 10% of your word count. Within the first minute they should know if your essay is going to be a good one or not. An introduction has several components but the most important of these are the last two we give here. You need to show the reader what your position is and how you are going to argue the case to get there so that the essay becomes your answer to the question rather than just an answer.

What an introduction should include:

  • A little basic background about the key subject area (just enough to put your essay into context, no more or you'll bore the reader).
  • Explanation of how you are defining any key terms . Confusion on this could be your undoing.
  • A road-map of how your essay will answer the question. What is your overall argument and how will you develop it?
  • A confirmation of your position .

Background information

It is good to start with a statement that fixes your essay topic and focus in a wider context so that the reader is sure of where they are within the field. This is a very small part of the introduction though - do not fall into the trap of writing a whole paragraph that is nothing but background information.

Beware though, this only has to be a little bit wider, not completely universal. That is, do not start with something like "In the whole field of nursing...." or "Since man could write, he has always...". Instead, simply situate the area that you are writing about within a slightly bigger area. For example, you could start with a general statement about a topic, outlining some key issues but explain that your essay will focus on only one. Here is an example:

The ability to communicate effectively and compassionately is a key skill within nursing. Communication is about more than being able to speak confidently and clearly, it is about effective listening (Singh, 2019), the use of gesture, body language and tone (Adebe et al., 2016) and the ability to tailor language and messaging to particular situations (Smith & Jones, 2015). This essay will explore the importance of non-verbal communication ...

The example introduction at the bottom of this page also starts with similar, short background information.

Prehistoric man with the caption "Since the dawn of man..."

Defining key terms

This does not mean quoting dictionary definitions - we all have access to dictionary.com with a click or two. There are many words we use in academic work that can have multiple or nuanced definitions. You have to write about how you are defining any potentially ambiguous terms in relation to  your  essay topic. This is really important for your reader, as it will inform them how you are using such words in the context of your essay and prevent confusion or misunderstanding.

Student deciding if 'superpower' relates to the USA and China or Superman and Spider-man

Stating your case (road mapping)

The main thing an introduction will do is...introduce your essay! That means you need to tell the reader what your conclusion is and how you will get there.

There is no need to worry about *SPOILER ALERTS* - this is not a detective novel you can give away the ending! Sorry, but building up suspense is just going to irritate the reader rather than eventually satisfy. Simply outline how your main arguments (give them in order) lead to your conclusion. In American essay guides you will see something described as the ‘thesis statement’ - although we don't use this terminology in the UK, it is still necessary to state in your introduction what the over-arching argument of your essay will be. Think of it as the mega-argument , to distinguish it from the mini-arguments you make in each paragraph. Look at the example introduction at the bottom of this page which includes both of these elements.

Car on a road to a place called 'Conclusion'

Confirming your position

To some extent, this is covered in your roadmap (above), but it is so important, it deserves some additional attention here. Setting out your position is an essential component of all essays. Brick et al. (2016:143) even suggest

"The purpose of an essay is to present a clear position and defend it"

It is, however, very difficult to defend a position if you have not made it clear in the first place. This is where your introduction comes in. In stating your position, you are ultimately outlining the answer to the question. You can then make the rest of your essay about providing the evidence that supports your answer. As such, if you make your position clear, you will find all subsequent paragraphs in your essay easier to write and join together. As you have already told your reader where the essay is going, you can be explicit in how each paragraph contributes to your mega-argument.

In establishing your position and defending it, you are ultimately engaging in scholarly debate. This is because your positions are supported by academic evidence and analysis. It is in your analysis of the academic evidence that should lead your reader to understand your position. Once again - this is only possible if your introduction has explained your position in the first place.

student standing on a cross holding a sign saying "my position"

An example introduction

(Essay title = Evaluate the role of stories as pedagogical tools in higher education)

Stories have been an essential communication technique for thousands of years and although teachers and parents still think they are important for educating younger children, they have been restricted to the role of entertainment for most of us since our teenage years. This essay will claim that stories make ideal pedagogical tools, whatever the age of the student, due to their unique position in cultural and cognitive development. To argue this, it will consider three main areas: firstly, the prevalence of stories across time and cultures and how the similarity of story structure suggests an inherent understanding of their form which could be of use to academics teaching multicultural cohorts when organising lecture material; secondly, the power of stories to enable listeners to personally relate to the content and how this increases the likelihood of changing thoughts, behaviours and decisions - a concept that has not gone unnoticed in some fields, both professional and academic; and finally, the way that different areas of the brain are activated when reading, listening to or watching a story unfold, which suggests that both understanding and ease of recall, two key components of learning, are both likely to be increased . Each of these alone could make a reasoned argument for including more stories within higher education teaching – taken together, this argument is even more compelling.

Key:   Background information (scene setting)   Stating the case (r oad map)    Confirming a position (in two places). Note in this introduction there was no need to define key terms.

Brick, J., Herke, M., and Wong, D., (2016) Academic Culture, A students guide to studying at university, 3rd edition. Victoria, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • << Previous: Home
  • Next: Main body >>
  • Last Updated: Nov 3, 2023 3:17 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.hull.ac.uk/essays
  • Login to LibApps
  • Library websites Privacy Policy
  • University of Hull privacy policy & cookies
  • Website terms and conditions
  • Accessibility
  • Report a problem

What are your chances of acceptance?

Calculate for all schools, your chance of acceptance.

University of Washington

Your chancing factors

Extracurriculars.

how to write good university essays

How to Write the University of Washington Essays 2023-2024

how to write good university essays

The University of Washington has two supplemental essays that are required for all applicants, and one optional, “additional information” prompt. While we typically encourage students to respond to any optional prompt, this one is actually optional, as you should only respond if there truly are unusual circumstances that have impacted your high school career. If you are applying to UW’s Honors Program, you will also have to write an additional essay.

UW is one of the top public universities in the country, with elite STEM programs and a location that offers unparalleled access to Amazon and Microsoft, among other influential companies, so you’ll want to make sure your essays truly shine. In this post, we’ll break down how to brainstorm for and write each one, so you can be sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Read these University of Washington essay examples to inspire your writing.

University of Washington Prompts

All applicants.

Prompt 1: Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words)

Prompt 2: Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words)

Prompt 3 (optional): You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. For example, you may use this space if:

You have experienced personal hardships in attaining your education

Your activities have been limited because of work or family obligations, you have experienced unusual limitations or opportunities unique to the schools you attended. (200 words), uw interdisciplinary honors program applicants.

We want to understand your desire to learn new things and to push your education outside of the areas of learning that you are most familiar with. Tell us why this type of learning interests you and which subjects you’re excited to explore in college. (450 words)

All Applicants, Prompt 1

Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words).

This prompt is the first of the five options on the Coalition Application and is purposefully phrased nebulously to allow for a wide range of responses. You can relay any experience that reflects or shaped who you are. 

To start, examine your many identities, and choose one that you want to highlight. All experiences are valid, whether they are traditional or unconventional. Focus on the things that make you different from others, and reflect on how they shaped you as a person. Remember that this is your main college essay, so be sure to pick an experience that was integral to your growth throughout high school. 

This is a good chance to tell the story behind any major extracurriculars on your activity list. For example, you might write “debate team captain” as an extracurricular, but this essay is where you can recount the grit and dedication it took for you to reach that position, as you once were extremely shy. You can also use this space to explore identities that don’t appear elsewhere on your application, such as your role within your family. For example, you can write about how you tutor your younger brother in math, and how watching his face light up after understanding a new concept sparked your love of teaching. 

A common theme across all college essays is “show, don’t tell.” This phrase is thrown around frequently, but is easier said than done. A few things to keep in mind when showing rather than telling are vividness and authenticity, which can be created by invoking imagery and specific details. For example, rather than saying “I like tennis and the game has always fascinated me,” try conjuring an image in the reader’s mind such as “At the start of my first official match, I gripped my trusted red racquet tightly, swaying ever so slightly from foot to foot in the ‘ready’ stance that I had practiced for years.” While the first response may be true, it is generic and can apply to any tennis aficionado. The latter response better authenticates your experiences than the former, and demonstrates your sincerity to readers. 

All Applicants, Prompt 2

Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the uw. (300 words).

This question serves two purposes: it gives UW an opportunity to learn more about how you developed your values, and it allows them to consider how you might interact with others on campus. It is easy to get mired in focusing on describing your community, but remember, UW wants to learn about you through seeing how your community impacted you. Use a description of your community to frame your essay, but always remind yourself to connect the story back to how it changed you. Once you have framed the essay with a description of who you have become as a result of your community’s impact, be sure to extend this thread to your potential future influence on UW.

There are several ways to interpret community. You could interpret it in the literal sense by explaining how your hometown and family have guided your ambitions. For example, maybe growing up on your family’s farm inspired your appreciation for agriculture and working with your hands. You hope to share this appreciation with other students by working on the UW farm and organizing workshops where students can learn how to plant their own flowers or herbs.

Or, perhaps the community you want to highlight is less conventional, such as the coffeeshop you work at. You could discuss how your coworkers are from all walks of life, and how you’ve befriended a retired older couple that picks up weekend shifts. They offer you advice based on their many life experiences, showing you the importance of having an older mentor. This makes you want to join the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter at UW.

Regardless of what your community is, be sure to highlight how you’ll contribute to UW’s diversity, whether that’s through your perspective, actions, ideas, cultural traditions, etc.

All Applicants, Prompt 3 (optional)

You are not required to write anything in this section, but you may include additional information if something has particular significance to you. for example, you may use this space if:.

This portion of the application is optional, and while we recommend that you fill out most “optional” essays, this space is truly optional. If you don’t have any unusual circumstances, you can leave it blank without penalty. If feel that the parameters apply to you, you should fill this section out. This is your chance to explain anything that hasn’t been addressed in other parts of your application. Since the maximum is 200 words and the prompt is straightforward, you can (and should) also be totally straightforward in your response, rather than painting a picture with vivid imagery. 

For the first prompt, an example of a response could be:

“In the sophomore year of high school, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and it profoundly affected multiple areas of my life, including my academic performance. For that reason, there is a significant dip in my grades in the spring semester of that year.”

For the second:

“Because my parents own a small restaurant, it is often my responsibility to watch my younger siblings while they are working, and even help out by doing the dishes or bussing tables in my free time. For that reason, I was unable to join as many extracurriculars as my after school time went towards helping ensure the family restaurant was running smoothly.” 

For the last prompt, you can briefly state school-related limitations or opportunities, like if your school did not have an AP or IB program, or if it did have a special internship program that you participated in. Keep in mind that some universities designate admissions officers to research your region and know what programs your school has or doesn’t have – this might be something you want to look into before filling out this section. However, you might want to fill out this section if the school you’re applying to does not have regional admissions officers.

If there is a specific school program or opportunity that you wish to mention, we recommend doing so via your activity list or one of your essays, rather than in this short, 200-word window. If you find that you don’t have space in the rest of your application, then this section is fine.

Please reflect and respond to the following question, and in doing so explain your interest in the UW Interdisciplinary Honors Program. What is interdisciplinary learning and why is it important to you? (300 words)

While you might be tempted to approach this prompt in the way you would approach a traditional “Why This Major?” essay, hold on for a second and reread the prompt. Rather than being asked why you are pursuing a particular major or area of study, you’re being asked about why learning new things interests you and which “subjects you’re excited to explore in college”. 

Although you will likely be most excited to study the topics relevant to your major, this prompt specifically requests that you “push…outside of the areas of learning that you are most familiar with.” UW admissions officers are hoping to acquire a more comprehensive understanding of your intellectual potential, so your response should focus on a topic other than your intended major.

However, be sure to discuss an area of interest that has some alignment with the rest of your application, so that it doesn’t feel totally out-of-the-blue. If you’ve never been a part of any music-related classes or activities, writing about your passion for songwriting may feel a little disjointed. 

Of course, our identities are complicated, but remember that the people reading your applications don’t know you outside of what you tell them, which means it’s crucial that the various pieces of your application come together to form a cohesive unit. Otherwise, your readers may not understand who exactly you are.

To give an example of something you could write about, maybe your intended major is biology, but you’ve also studied Latin throughout high school. You could focus your essay on how you hope to read ancient and medieval scientific texts, to learn more about how human understanding of the world around us has evolved.

Another approach to this essay could be identifying a topic that has nothing to do with biology but ties into some aspect(s) of your identity. Perhaps growing up in a multilingual, bi-racial household, with parents from South America and East Asia, meant you were constantly participating in family gatherings and celebrating holidays with very different cultural contexts. In college, you hope to study anthropology and sociology, even though you have no direct experience with either of those subjects, so that you can not only understand your own identity better, but also be better prepared to engage with those who have their own complicated stories.

Note that the prompt asks you to not only describe one of your academic interests, but also explain “why this type of learning interests you,” with regards to interdisciplinary learning. To answer this part of the prompt, you’ll want to identify one or two of your goals for college, and how you see interdisciplinary learning in particular helping you reach them.

The second example given above already does this, as the student explains that they want to be able to better communicate with people from cultural backgrounds that differ from their own, and they clearly connect that goal to the subjects they are focusing on. 

The student in the first example is starting to get to this component of their essay, but needs a little more personal connection. They could get that by, for example, writing about how they’re not sure how they can best utilize their skills within the vast field of biology–as a doctor, researcher, educator, or something else–and throughout college, hopefully exploring the history of the subject will give them a clearer idea of the right path ahead.

Here are some finals tips for you to consider when responding to this essay: 

  • 450 words is on the long side for a supplemental essay, so take the time to share an anecdote that integrates your interest in a specific topic with your background, personal values, and overall love of learning, rather than just stating your points in a direct, factual way
  • Explain why the University of Washington specifically can help you reach your goals, by referencing a few course offerings, campus organizations, research opportunities, and so on that align with your interests
  • Not to sound cheesy, but have fun! As we noted at the beginning of this breakdown, you have more freedom here than in a “Why Major?” essay, so highlight your curiosity, excitement, and any quirky connection you have to your topic, rather than worrying about whether or not you’ve taken enough APs or done enough extracurriculars related to your topic

Where to Get Your University of Washington Essays Edited 

Do you want feedback on your UW essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools.  Find the right advisor for you  to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

Related CollegeVine Blog Posts

how to write good university essays

Have a language expert improve your writing

Check your paper for plagiarism in 10 minutes, generate your apa citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • College essay

How to Write a College Essay | A Complete Guide & Examples

The college essay can make or break your application. It’s your chance to provide personal context, communicate your values and qualities, and set yourself apart from other students.

A standout essay has a few key ingredients:

  • A unique, personal topic
  • A compelling, well-structured narrative
  • A clear, creative writing style
  • Evidence of self-reflection and insight

To achieve this, it’s crucial to give yourself enough time for brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through every step in the process of writing a college admissions essay.

Table of contents

Why do you need a standout essay, start organizing early, choose a unique topic, outline your essay, start with a memorable introduction, write like an artist, craft a strong conclusion, revise and receive feedback, frequently asked questions.

While most of your application lists your academic achievements, your college admissions essay is your opportunity to share who you are and why you’d be a good addition to the university.

Your college admissions essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s total weight一and may account for even more with some colleges making the SAT and ACT tests optional. The college admissions essay may be the deciding factor in your application, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurriculars.

What do colleges look for in an essay?

Admissions officers want to understand your background, personality, and values to get a fuller picture of you beyond your test scores and grades. Here’s what colleges look for in an essay :

  • Demonstrated values and qualities
  • Vulnerability and authenticity
  • Self-reflection and insight
  • Creative, clear, and concise writing skills

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

It’s a good idea to start organizing your college application timeline in the summer of your junior year to make your application process easier. This will give you ample time for essay brainstorming, writing, revision, and feedback.

While timelines will vary for each student, aim to spend at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing your first draft and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Remember to leave enough time for breaks in between each writing and editing stage.

Create an essay tracker sheet

If you’re applying to multiple schools, you will have to juggle writing several essays for each one. We recommend using an essay tracker spreadsheet to help you visualize and organize the following:

  • Deadlines and number of essays needed
  • Prompt overlap, allowing you to write one essay for similar prompts

You can build your own essay tracker using our free Google Sheets template.

College essay tracker template

Ideally, you should start brainstorming college essay topics the summer before your senior year. Keep in mind that it’s easier to write a standout essay with a unique topic.

If you want to write about a common essay topic, such as a sports injury or volunteer work overseas, think carefully about how you can make it unique and personal. You’ll need to demonstrate deep insight and write your story in an original way to differentiate it from similar essays.

What makes a good topic?

  • Meaningful and personal to you
  • Uncommon or has an unusual angle
  • Reveals something different from the rest of your application

Brainstorming questions

You should do a comprehensive brainstorm before choosing your topic. Here are a few questions to get started:

  • What are your top five values? What lived experiences demonstrate these values?
  • What adjectives would your friends and family use to describe you?
  • What challenges or failures have you faced and overcome? What lessons did you learn from them?
  • What makes you different from your classmates?
  • What are some objects that represent your identity, your community, your relationships, your passions, or your goals?
  • Whom do you admire most? Why?
  • What three people have significantly impacted your life? How did they influence you?

How to identify your topic

Here are two strategies for identifying a topic that demonstrates your values:

  • Start with your qualities : First, identify positive qualities about yourself; then, brainstorm stories that demonstrate these qualities.
  • Start with a story : Brainstorm a list of memorable life moments; then, identify a value shown in each story.

After choosing your topic, organize your ideas in an essay outline , which will help keep you focused while writing. Unlike a five-paragraph academic essay, there’s no set structure for a college admissions essay. You can take a more creative approach, using storytelling techniques to shape your essay.

Two common approaches are to structure your essay as a series of vignettes or as a single narrative.

Vignettes structure

The vignette, or montage, structure weaves together several stories united by a common theme. Each story should demonstrate one of your values or qualities and conclude with an insight or future outlook.

This structure gives the admissions officer glimpses into your personality, background, and identity, and shows how your qualities appear in different areas of your life.

Topic: Museum with a “five senses” exhibit of my experiences

  • Introduction: Tour guide introduces my museum and my “Making Sense of My Heritage” exhibit
  • Story: Racial discrimination with my eyes
  • Lesson: Using my writing to document truth
  • Story: Broadway musical interests
  • Lesson: Finding my voice
  • Story: Smells from family dinner table
  • Lesson: Appreciating home and family
  • Story: Washing dishes
  • Lesson: Finding moments of peace in busy schedule
  • Story: Biking with Ava
  • Lesson: Finding pleasure in job well done
  • Conclusion: Tour guide concludes tour, invites guest to come back for “fall College Collection,” featuring my search for identity and learning.

Single story structure

The single story, or narrative, structure uses a chronological narrative to show a student’s character development over time. Some narrative essays detail moments in a relatively brief event, while others narrate a longer journey spanning months or years.

Single story essays are effective if you have overcome a significant challenge or want to demonstrate personal development.

Topic: Sports injury helps me learn to be a better student and person

  • Situation: Football injury
  • Challenge: Friends distant, teachers don’t know how to help, football is gone for me
  • Turning point: Starting to like learning in Ms. Brady’s history class; meeting Christina and her friends
  • My reactions: Reading poetry; finding shared interest in poetry with Christina; spending more time studying and with people different from me
  • Insight: They taught me compassion and opened my eyes to a different lifestyle; even though I still can’t play football, I’m starting a new game

Brainstorm creative insights or story arcs

Regardless of your essay’s structure, try to craft a surprising story arc or original insights, especially if you’re writing about a common topic.

Never exaggerate or fabricate facts about yourself to seem interesting. However, try finding connections in your life that deviate from cliché storylines and lessons.

Admissions officers read thousands of essays each year, and they typically spend only a few minutes reading each one. To get your message across, your introduction , or hook, needs to grab the reader’s attention and compel them to read more..

Avoid starting your introduction with a famous quote, cliché, or reference to the essay itself (“While I sat down to write this essay…”).

While you can sometimes use dialogue or a meaningful quotation from a close family member or friend, make sure it encapsulates your essay’s overall theme.

Find an original, creative way of starting your essay using the following two methods.

Option 1: Start with an intriguing hook

Begin your essay with an unexpected statement to pique the reader’s curiosity and compel them to carefully read your essay. A mysterious introduction disarms the reader’s expectations and introduces questions that can only be answered by reading more.

Option 2: Start with vivid imagery

Illustrate a clear, detailed image to immediately transport your reader into your memory. You can start in the middle of an important scene or describe an object that conveys your essay’s theme.

A college application essay allows you to be creative in your style and tone. As you draft your essay, try to use interesting language to enliven your story and stand out .

Show, don’t tell

“Tell” in writing means to simply state a fact: “I am a basketball player.” “ Show ” in writing means to use details, examples, and vivid imagery to help the reader easily visualize your memory: “My heart races as I set up to shoot一two seconds, one second一and score a three-pointer!”

First, reflect on every detail of a specific image or scene to recall the most memorable aspects.

  • What are the most prominent images?
  • Are there any particular sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this memory?
  • What emotion or physical feeling did you have at that time?

Be vulnerable to create an emotional response

You don’t have to share a huge secret or traumatic story, but you should dig deep to express your honest feelings, thoughts, and experiences to evoke an emotional response. Showing vulnerability demonstrates humility and maturity. However, don’t exaggerate to gain sympathy.

Use appropriate style and tone

Make sure your essay has the right style and tone by following these guidelines:

  • Use a conversational yet respectful tone: less formal than academic writing, but more formal than texting your friends.
  • Prioritize using “I” statements to highlight your perspective.
  • Write within your vocabulary range to maintain an authentic voice.
  • Write concisely, and use the active voice to keep a fast pace.
  • Follow grammar rules (unless you have valid stylistic reasons for breaking them).

You should end your college essay with a deep insight or creative ending to leave the reader with a strong final impression. Your college admissions essay should avoid the following:

  • Summarizing what you already wrote
  • Stating your hope of being accepted to the school
  • Mentioning character traits that should have been illustrated in the essay, such as “I’m a hard worker”

Here are two strategies to craft a strong conclusion.

Option 1: Full circle, sandwich structure

The full circle, or sandwich, structure concludes the essay with an image, idea, or story mentioned in the introduction. This strategy gives the reader a strong sense of closure.

In the example below, the essay concludes by returning to the “museum” metaphor that the writer opened with.

Option 2: Revealing your insight

You can use the conclusion to show the insight you gained as a result of the experiences you’ve described. Revealing your main message at the end creates suspense and keeps the takeaway at the forefront of your reader’s mind.

Revise your essay before submitting it to check its content, style, and grammar. Get feedback from no more than two or three people.

It’s normal to go through several rounds of revision, but take breaks between each editing stage.

Also check out our college essay examples to see what does and doesn’t work in an essay and the kinds of changes you can make to improve yours.

Respect the word count

Most schools specify a word count for each essay , and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit.

Remain under the specified word count limit to show you can write concisely and follow directions. However, don’t write too little, which may imply that you are unwilling or unable to write a thoughtful and developed essay.

Check your content, style, and grammar

  • First, check big-picture issues of message, flow, and clarity.
  • Then, check for style and tone issues.
  • Finally, focus on eliminating grammar and punctuation errors.

Get feedback

Get feedback from 2–3 people who know you well, have good writing skills, and are familiar with college essays.

  • Teachers and guidance counselors can help you check your content, language, and tone.
  • Friends and family can check for authenticity.
  • An essay coach or editor has specialized knowledge of college admissions essays and can give objective expert feedback.

The checklist below helps you make sure your essay ticks all the boxes.

College admissions essay checklist

I’ve organized my essay prompts and created an essay writing schedule.

I’ve done a comprehensive brainstorm for essay topics.

I’ve selected a topic that’s meaningful to me and reveals something different from the rest of my application.

I’ve created an outline to guide my structure.

I’ve crafted an introduction containing vivid imagery or an intriguing hook that grabs the reader’s attention.

I’ve written my essay in a way that shows instead of telling.

I’ve shown positive traits and values in my essay.

I’ve demonstrated self-reflection and insight in my essay.

I’ve used appropriate style and tone .

I’ve concluded with an insight or a creative ending.

I’ve revised my essay , checking my overall message, flow, clarity, and grammar.

I’ve respected the word count , remaining within 10% of the upper word limit.

Congratulations!

It looks like your essay ticks all the boxes. A second pair of eyes can help you take it to the next level – Scribbr's essay coaches can help.

Colleges want to be able to differentiate students who seem similar on paper. In the college application essay , they’re looking for a way to understand each applicant’s unique personality and experiences.

Your college essay accounts for about 25% of your application’s weight. It may be the deciding factor in whether you’re accepted, especially for competitive schools where most applicants have exceptional grades, test scores, and extracurricular track records.

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:

  • A unique, personally meaningful topic
  • A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook
  • Specific stories and language that show instead of telling
  • Vulnerability that’s authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy
  • Clear writing in an appropriate style and tone
  • A conclusion that offers deep insight or a creative ending

While timelines will differ depending on the student, plan on spending at least 1–3 weeks brainstorming and writing the first draft of your college admissions essay , and at least 2–4 weeks revising across multiple drafts. Don’t forget to save enough time for breaks between each writing and editing stage.

You should already begin thinking about your essay the summer before your senior year so that you have plenty of time to try out different topics and get feedback on what works.

Most college application portals specify a word count range for your essay, and you should stay within 10% of the upper limit to write a developed and thoughtful essay.

You should aim to stay under the specified word count limit to show you can follow directions and write concisely. However, don’t write too little, as it may seem like you are unwilling or unable to write a detailed and insightful narrative about yourself.

If no word count is specified, we advise keeping your essay between 400 and 600 words.

Is this article helpful?

Other students also liked.

  • What Do Colleges Look For in an Essay? | Examples & Tips
  • College Essay Format & Structure | Example Outlines
  • How to Revise Your College Admissions Essay | Examples

More interesting articles

  • Choosing Your College Essay Topic | Ideas & Examples
  • College Essay Examples | What Works and What Doesn't
  • Common App Essays | 7 Strong Examples with Commentary
  • How Long Should a College Essay Be? | Word Count Tips
  • How to Apply for College | Timeline, Templates & Checklist
  • How to End a College Admissions Essay | 4 Winning Strategies
  • How to Make Your College Essay Stand Out | Tips & Examples
  • How to Research and Write a "Why This College?" Essay
  • How to Write a College Essay Fast | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Diversity Essay | Tips & Examples
  • How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction | Examples
  • How to Write a Scholarship Essay | Template & Example
  • How to Write About Yourself in a College Essay | Examples
  • Style and Tone Tips for Your College Essay | Examples
  • US College Essay Tips for International Students

Use the active voice

Generally, try to use the active voice whenever possible. Passive voice sentences often use more words, can be vague, and can lead to a tangle of prepositional phrases.

Active vs. passive voice

In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action. In a sentence written in the passive voice, the subject receives the action.

Active: The candidate believes that Congress must place a ceiling on the budget. Passive: It is believed by the candidate that a ceiling must be placed on the budget by Congress. Active: Researchers earlier showed that high stress can cause heart attacks. Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that heart attacks can be caused by high stress. Active: The dog bit the man. Passive: The man was bitten by the dog.

Converting sentences to active voice

Here are some tips and strategies for converting sentences from the passive to the active voice.

  • Look for a “by” phrase (e.g., “by the dog” in the last example above). If you find one, the sentence may be in the passive voice. Rewrite the sentence so that the subject buried in the “by” clause is closer to the beginning of the sentence.
  • If the subject of the sentence is somewhat anonymous, see if you can use a general term, such as “researchers,” or “the study,” or “experts in this field.”

When to use passive voice

There are sometimes good reasons to use the passive voice.

To emphasize the action rather than the actor

After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by the long-range planning committee.

To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage

The data processing department recently presented what proved to be a controversial proposal to expand its staff. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by . . . .

To be tactful by not naming the actor

The procedures were somehow misinterpreted.

To describe a condition in which the actor is unknown or unimportant

Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed as having cancer.

To create an authoritative tone

Visitors are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.

how to write good university essays

Improving Your Writing Style

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

Clear, Concise Sentences

Put the action in the verb

Tidy up wordy phrases

Reduce wordy verbs

Reduce prepositional phrases

Reduce expletive constructions

Avoid using vague nouns

Avoid unneccessarily inflated words

Avoid noun strings

Transitional Words and Phrases

Connecting Ideas Through Transitions

Using Transitional Words and Phrases

Humanities Grant Writing Camp gives graduate students a head start on funding applications

A group of 16 people poses for a photo.

Graduate students at UW–Madison are getting a jump start on funding their humanities work through the Humanities Grant Writing Camp , a partnership between the Graduate School and the Writing Center.

The four-day event provides participants with a structured introduction to the nuts and bolts of writing funding proposals to support a wide range of humanities work, from research travel and dissertation writing to public humanities projects. Graduate students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences are eligible to participate with advisor approval.

Diego Alegria, a PhD candidate in English who participated in the 2023 Humanities Grant Writing Camp, said that the camp impacted how he approaches the “stakes” of his research project and its potential.

“I was particularly impressed by how the Camp not only allowed us to put the generic conventions of grant applications into practice, but also to reflect on the histories and methods of our disciplines in the present state of the humanities,” he said, noting that other participants he talked to during the camp felt similarly.

“The Camp gave me the space, the time, and the resources needed to distill the description of my creative and scholarly work, and to think critically about its relationship with the current landscape of the arts and the humanities,” Alegria said.

During the camp, participants learn how to develop compelling, readable project descriptions that can help them secure funding. They learn how to draft and revise grant proposals, timelines, and budgets, with help along the way from peers who review their work.

By the end of the camp, participants can make substantial progress on writing a grant application to support their current work. Students who submit a grant proposal within a year of completing camp also receive a $250 stipend to encourage and motivate them to carry forward what they learned.

Humanities Grant Writing Camp began as a pilot program in spring 2022, inspired by a larger initiative by the Council of Graduate Schools called The Humanities Coalition . The Humanities Coalition and related project like UW–Madison’s Humanities Grant Writing Camp leverage information about PhD career outcomes for alumni in the humanities across dozens of institutions to target skills that can help students thrive in diverse humanities careers, secure resources for their work, and build professional relationships.

Compared to UW–Madison graduate alumni overall, arts and humanities alumni are more likely to have careers in academia and non-profit institutions than in the industry or government sectors, making it important for alumni to have strong skills in obtaining resources and funding for their work.

A group of four people sits around a table with laptops open in front of them.

The Graduate School partnered with the Writing Center to offer the camp, based on a similar and successful partnership running the annual Dissertation Writing Camp . Both camps allow graduate students to set aside focused time to work on their projects with support from professional writing staff and with camaraderie from peers.

In addition to providing a high-level view of how to approach talking about humanities work, Humanities Grant Writing Camp also teaches logistics such as how to find grants, analyzing calls for proposals, considerations for international travel and fieldwork, writing for public humanities work, and writing for grants from nonprofits.

PhD student Pearly Wong said that her biggest takeaway from participating in the Humanities Grant Writing Camp was knowing the different types of reviewers involved in a grant proposal review, and what she should include in the grant to meet their expectations.

“It really helps me look at my proposal from a different lens,” said Wong, who is in a joint PhD program of Cultural Anthropology and Environment and Resources with the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

The camp takes place in person at the Institute for Research on the Humanities, located in the University Club building. Breakfast and lunch are provided each day to allow participants to focus on learning from the daily workshops and drafting their grant proposals.

Wong said she enjoyed the day-to-day camp experience. “I like that we have different formats throughout these days, so it is not repetitive,” she said. “I appreciate input from the many invited panelists and speakers.”

How to participate in Humanities Grant Writing Camp

Applications are currently open for the 2024 Humanities Grant Writing Camp , taking place May 20 through 23. Interested graduate students must apply by Monday, April 1.

  • Facebook Logo
  • Twitter Logo
  • Linkedin Logo

Greater Good Science Center • Magazine • In Action • In Education

PODCAST Happiness Break

Happiness Break: Where Did You Come From? Guided Writing With Lyla June

  • Apple Podcasts
  • Google Podcasts
  • Amazon Music

Happiness Break: Where Did You Come From? Guided Writing With Lyla June

Indigenous artist Lyla June leads a 5-minute freewriting exercise about our personal journeys. Autobiographical writing has been shown to help do better in relationships and feel more satisfied in life.

Happiness Break: Where Did You Come From? Guided Writing With Lyla June

Scroll down for a transcription of this episode.

How to Do This Practice:

You will need writing utensils for this practice.

  • Find a comfortable place to start this writing practice, taking a few moments to ground yourself.
  • Write the prompt, “I come from a place where…” 
  • For the next 5 minutes (or more), write whatever comes to mind, allowing your thoughts and ideas to flow freely, without judgment or filters. Trying keeping your pen to the paper the whole time. 
  • Take some time afterward to read and reflect on what you wrote. 
  • Consider repeating this exercise every few weeks or months to reflect on your past and prospective future. 

Today’s Happiness Break host:

Lyla June is an Indigenous artist and scholar from the Diné Nation.

Learn about Lyla June’s work:  https://www.lylajune.com/ Watch Lyla June’s videos:  https://tinyurl.com/bdhbwyru Follow Lyla June on Twitter:  https://tinyurl.com/4pj565d6 Follow Lyla June on Instagram:  https://tinyurl.com/4pj565d6

More resources from The Greater Good Science Center:

The Power of Expressing Your Deepest Emotions (The Science of Happiness Podcast):  https://tinyurl.com/2uzh3r67 How to Journal Through Your Struggles:  https://tinyurl.com/yua6wkwd How Journaling Can Help You in Hard Times:  https://tinyurl.com/3zv3hunw How Creative Writing Can Increase Students’ Resilience:  https://tinyurl.com/4xw8xuff

How was your experience with this freewriting exercise? Email us at [email protected] or use the hashtag #happinesspod.

Find us on Spotify:  https://tinyurl.com/ycukc4za

Help us share Happiness Break!  Leave us a 5-star review and copy and share this link:  https://tinyurl.com/2p9h5aap

We're living through a mental health crisis. Between the stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, burnout — we all could use a break to feel better. That's where Happiness Break comes in. In each biweekly podcast episode, instructors guide you through research-backed practices and meditations that you can do in real-time. These relaxing and uplifting practices have been shown in a lab to help you cultivate calm, compassion, connection, mindfulness, and more — what the latest science says will directly support your well-being. All in less than ten minutes. A little break in your day. 

Transcript to come.

Other Episodes

Happiness break: a meditation on playfulness, with dacher keltner.

We all have a playful side, and research shows acting on it can help us when we need to move through…

Happiness Break: A Meditation on Playfulness, With Dacher Keltner

Happiness Break: Wrap Yourself in Kindness, With Jack Kornfield

When we treat ourselves with kindness and gratitude, research shows we feel more motivated and less…

Happiness Break: Wrap Yourself in Kindness, With Jack Kornfield

Happiness Break: Radical Acceptance, With Tara Brach

A meditation in meeting our most difficult emotions—like anger, disappointment, or fear—with…

Happiness Break: Radical Acceptance, With Tara Brach

Happiness Break: A Meditation to Find Grounding in the New Year, With Spring Washam

Research shows feeling connected with nature can lower our stress response. This visualization…

Happiness Break: A Meditation to Find Grounding in the New Year, With Spring Washam

Happiness Break: Visualizing Your Best Self in Relationships, With Dacher Keltner

When we imagine our best possible selves in our relationships, we feel more motivated to achieve our…

Happiness Break: Visualizing Your Best Self in Relationships, With Dacher Keltner

Happiness Break: A Meditation for Seeking Forgiveness, With Shelly Tygielski

When we practice forgiveness, studies show we can have healthier relationships, higher self-esteem,…

Happiness Break: A Meditation for Seeking Forgiveness, With Shelly Tygielski

Happiness Break: A Visualization to Connect With Your Heritage, With Bryant Terry

Chef and author Bryant Terry leads us through a visualization to connect with our ancestors by…

Happiness Break: A Visualization to Connect With Your Heritage, With Bryant Terry

Happiness Break: Feel More Gratitude, With Eve Ekman

Renew your sense of gratitude by remembering acts of kindness, with social scientist and meditation…

Happiness Break: Feel More Gratitude, With Eve Ekman

This article — and everything on this site — is funded by readers like you.

Become a subscribing member today. Help us continue to bring “the science of a meaningful life” to you and to millions around the globe.

Where will Nikki Haley’s supporters go now that she dropped out?

We talked to nearly 40 haley voters in four super tuesday states about how they would vote in a biden-trump rematch.

Going into Super Tuesday, many Nikki Haley supporters saw her campaign as their last hope — excited by her pitch to be a new generational leader for the Republican Party and sold on her argument that she would easily defeat President Biden in a general election.

But after a final round of crushing defeats on Tuesday — this time in 14 states, only winning Vermont — Haley dropped out , raising the question of where her supporters will turn now that former president Donald Trump has no major opponents left on his path to becoming the Republican nominee.

Recent polling from Quinnipiac University found that about half of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters who supported Haley would vote for Trump, while 37 percent would vote for Biden. Twelve percent said they would abstain, vote for someone else or hadn’t yet decided what to do.

Haley ran as Trump’s loudest and most visible Republican antagonist, and it was a core part of the former U.N. ambassador’s appeal among many of her supporters. But even some of her most enthusiastic fans said they will vote for the Republican nominee no matter what. Others, though, are wrestling with how to vote this fall and wondering whether there’s a place for them in Trump’s GOP.

The Washington Post spoke to nearly 40 Haley voters in four Super Tuesday states about how they would vote in a Biden-Trump rematch, a prospect that often elicited groans or hands thrown up in disappointment. Here’s what they said about why they backed her and how they plan to vote in the general election.

how to write good university essays

Trump has “worn me out, frankly. I’m tired of everything becoming about him. … Really, I think the turning point was January 6 and the lead-up to that, and he lost me then and I’ve never looked back.”

— tom kim, 61, centennial, colo., voted for trump in 2016 and 2020 but isn’t sure whom he would support in a biden-trump rematch..

Confronted by an unwanted Biden-Trump rematch, some Haley supporters are still weighing whether to break ranks with the GOP, write in Haley’s name, or sit out the election entirely. Several said they’re holding out hope that an independent candidate — perhaps even a rebranded Haley — will swoop into the race and give them an alternative to channel their frustrations with both major-party candidates, or that a legal or health problem for either nominee will result in a last-minute opening.

how to write good university essays

“I really think we can’t afford to have Biden or Trump. ... If Trump gets elected, he’s going to do what he said he was going to do — go after everybody. It will paralyze the government.”

— ann trudeau, 84, aurora, colo., voted for trump in 2016 and 2020 and would consider a third-party candidate like robert f. kennedy jr..

how to write good university essays

“I voted for Trump, and I stand by my vote in the last two elections. But I wouldn’t be proud to tell someone that I voted for him, whereas I would be very proud to stand up and say that I voted for Haley.”

— lacey copitzky, 25, provo, utah, voted for trump in 2016 and 2020 and is torn on voting for trump or writing in haley in 2024..

how to write good university essays

“If the Republican Party is going towards Donald Trump, I will never vote Republican again in my life.”

— garrett helgesen, 31, centerville, utah, voted for independent candidate evan mcmullin in 2016 and biden in 2020. plans to vote for haley in the general unless there’s a viable third-party candidate., voting for trump.

how to write good university essays

“I was a supporter of Donald Trump, but the reason I switched … he sticks his foot in his mouth too much. ... I think we need a change. We need something different, something fresh. ... I will support the Republican nominee. No way I can have Biden in there again. I just can’t.”

— shona lasalle, 55, burnsville, minn..

Plenty of Haley supporters are resolute Republicans who are disenchanted with Trump, but not enough to defect to Biden. In November, they intend to vote Republican down the ticket, even though all said they would prefer Haley over Trump, and many voiced serious concerns about Trump’s character, mental fitness and indictments.

how to write good university essays

“It’s the greater of two evils. You’ve got Biden who physically cannot speak. … He’s not mentally there, whereas Trump is at least able to function.”

— joe young, 26, provo, utah, voted for trump in 2016 and 2020..

how to write good university essays

“I think [Trump is] so irrational and, really, very frightening. I think that if he allowed this January 6 thing to take place, he could try to take over the next time if he doesn’t win this one. I just think he’s dishonest and I don’t want that — but I think Biden is, too. … I definitely won’t vote for Biden. I will have to vote for Trump.”

— micki stout, 80, richmond.

how to write good university essays

“I’m 100 percent Republican. I have to vote for the package of issues that I believe in strongly.”

— connie schlundt, 60, eden prairie, minn., voting for biden.

how to write good university essays

“I worked in Congress when Jan. 6 happened. … That was a bad day and I’d already been really upset with [Trump] before that, but that kind of sealed the deal. … I wouldn’t say I’m excited about [Biden], just because I’m a little worried about his health. I believe he’s a good man, and that means a lot.”

— elizabeth rasmussen, 29, lehi, utah, voted for mcmullin in 2016 and biden in 2020..

Some Haley voters said they’re ready to cast a ballot for Biden, including several who voted for Trump in the past two presidential races. They include lifelong Republicans who were appalled by Trump’s behavior in office and his role in the Capitol riot, as well as never-Trump independents who admired Haley’s gubernatorial and foreign policy experience. None expressed excitement for Biden, with a majority citing his age as a top concern, but they said that they were willing to back him to try to prevent a second Trump term.

how to write good university essays

“I voted for Biden last time because I was sick of Trump. But I’ve been disappointed in him with how he’s handling the economy and the border. But if Trump’s got all this baggage and all these legal issues, how is he going to be able to do the job when he’s got all that going on?”

— cindy siler, 66, smith mountain lake, va., voted for biden in 2020 and would vote for biden again in 2024..

how to write good university essays

“I don’t know if I can identify as a Republican if or when Trump is the nominee. I have no intention of voting for him if he’s the nominee. … I’d vote for [Biden] begrudgingly. I don’t want to have to do it but if I have to, I will — just to send a message that Trump’s bad. He can’t be anywhere near the White House again.”

— nick gambill, 21, chester, va., will be voting in a presidential election for the first time., about this story.

Design and development by Talia Trackim. Design editing by Betty Chavarria. Photo editing by Natalia Jimenez and Christine Nguyen. Editing by Sarah Frostenson, Brianna Tucker and Sean Sullivan.

Election 2024

Nikki Haley is preparing to end her presidential campaign after Trump and Biden dominated Super Tuesday contests . Follow live updates on the 2024 election from our reporters on the campaign trail and in Washington. Get live-updating Super Tuesday election results , the latest on exit polls , and where things stand with the Republican delegate count .

Who is running? The top contenders for the GOP nomination are former president Donald Trump and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley . For the Democrats, President Biden is running for reelection in 2024 .

Republican delegate count: GOP candidates for president compete to earn enough delegates to secure their party’s nomination. We’re tracking the Republican 2024 delegate count .

More key races on Super Tuesday: A special primary for a California U.S. Senate seat is being held to replace the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The race for North Carolina governor is expected to be one of the most competitive state office elections this year.

Key issues: Compare where the candidates stand on such issues as abortion, climate and the economy.

Key dates and events: From January to June, voters in all states and U.S. territories will pick their party’s nominee for president ahead of the summer conventions. Here are key dates and events on the 2024 election calendar .

IMAGES

  1. College Essay Format: Simple Steps to Be Followed

    how to write good university essays

  2. College Essay Examples

    how to write good university essays

  3. 💣 College essay introduction examples. How to Write an Essay

    how to write good university essays

  4. Good words to start an essay. 13 Engaging Ways to Begin an Essay. 2022

    how to write good university essays

  5. How To Write A Introduction To An Essay

    how to write good university essays

  6. College Essay Examples

    how to write good university essays

VIDEO

  1. How to write university application essays: writing tips and techniques

  2. How to write a First Class University Essay in 3 HOURS

  3. College Essay Tips + Writing your Best College Essay

  4. College Essay Tips: How to Write the Best College Essay to Get Accepted

  5. How to write a good essay

  6. How to write a good essay: Paraphrasing the question

COMMENTS

  1. Essay and dissertation writing skills

    A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.. Short videos to support your essay writing skills. There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing ...

  2. The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay

    The essay writing process consists of three main stages: Preparation: Decide on your topic, do your research, and create an essay outline. Writing: Set out your argument in the introduction, develop it with evidence in the main body, and wrap it up with a conclusion. Revision: Check your essay on the content, organization, grammar, spelling ...

  3. Writing a great essay

    2. Define your argument. As you plan and prepare to write the essay, you must consider what your argument is going to be. This means taking an informed position or point of view on the topic presented in the question, then defining and presenting a specific argument. Consider these two argument statements:

  4. How to Write the Perfect Essay

    Start with the basics: it is best to choose a few major points which will become your main paragraphs. Three main paragraphs is a good number for an exam essay, since you will be under time pressure. Organise your points in a pattern of YES (agreement with the question) - AND (another 'YES' point) - BUT (disagreement or complication) if ...

  5. How to Structure an Essay

    The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay. General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body. The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis.

  6. How to Write Your College Essay: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

    Next, let's make sure you understand the different types of college essays. You'll most likely be writing a Common App or Coalition App essay, and you can also be asked to write supplemental essays for each school. Each essay has a prompt asking a specific question. Each of these prompts falls into one of a few different types.

  7. Example of a Great Essay

    An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates. In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills. Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence ...

  8. 12 Strategies to Writing the Perfect College Essay

    Don't Repeat. If you've mentioned an activity, story, or anecdote in some other part of your application, don't repeat it again in your essay. Your essay should tell college admissions officers something new. Whatever you write in your essay should be in philosophical alignment with the rest of your application.

  9. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Harvard College Writing Center 5 Asking Analytical Questions When you write an essay for a course you are taking, you are being asked not only to create a product (the essay) but, more importantly, to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a

  10. PDF HOW TO WRITE AN ACADEMIC ESSAY

    constructing an academic essay: the construction of a building: LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS: CONSTRUCTING YOUR ESSAY'S ARGUMENT The main point of the essay, called an ARGUMENT or THESIS, is the foundation on which the entire essay lies. It is more than just the subject of the essay; it is the specific point you wish to make about the essay's ...

  11. Strategies for Essay Writing

    Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt. Asking Analytical Questions. Thesis. Introductions. What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common? Anatomy of a Body Paragraph. Transitions. Tips for Organizing Your Essay. Counterargument.

  12. Ultimate Guide to Writing Your College Essay

    Sample College Essay 2 with Feedback. This content is licensed by Khan Academy and is available for free at www.khanacademy.org. College essays are an important part of your college application and give you the chance to show colleges and universities your personality. This guide will give you tips on how to write an effective college essay.

  13. Great essay writing in 8 steps

    6. Quoting, paraphrasing and plagiarism. Academic writing requires a careful balance between novel argument, and drawing on arguments presented by others. Writing a completely 'novel' essay, without drawing on a single source, indicates that you haven't made yourself familiar with what has already been published.

  14. How to write an essay

    Here we'll cover the seven main points of planning and executing a well-written essay: understanding the question. researching and gathering helpful resources. putting together an essay plan. writing the essay. tackling the introduction and conclusion. reviewing what you've written.

  15. How To Write An Essay: Beginner Tips And Tricks

    Use transitions between paragraphs. In order to improve the readability of your essay, try and make clear transitions between paragraphs. This means trying to relate the end of one paragraph to the beginning of the next one so the shift doesn't seem random. Integrate your research thoughtfully.

  16. 14 College Essay Examples From Top-25 Universities (2023-2024

    College essay example #1. This is a college essay that worked for Harvard University. (Suggested reading: How to Get Into Harvard Undergrad) This past summer, I had the privilege of participating in the University of Notre Dame's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program .

  17. 177 College Essay Examples for 11 Schools + Expert Analysis

    Technique #1: humor. Notice Renner's gentle and relaxed humor that lightly mocks their younger self's grand ambitions (this is different from the more sarcastic kind of humor used by Stephen in the first essay—you could never mistake one writer for the other). My first dream job was to be a pickle truck driver.

  18. How to Write a Personal Essay for Your College Application

    Here are some tips to get you started. Start early. Do not leave it until the last minute. Give yourself time when you don't have other homework or extracurriculars hanging over your head to ...

  19. How to Write the American University Essays 2023-2024

    In June 2023, the United States Supreme Court struck down the use of affirmative action in college admissions. Nevertheless, the ruling allows colleges to consider race on an individual basis, which is one reason many schools are now including diversity prompts as one of their supplemental essay prompts.

  20. Introductions

    Gordon Taylor, A Student's Writing Guide. Your introduction is the first thing your marker will read and should be approximately 10% of your word count. Within the first minute they should know if your essay is going to be a good one or not. An introduction has several components but the most important of these are the last two we give here.

  21. How to Write the University of Washington Essays 2023-2024

    All Applicants. Prompt 1: Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words) Prompt 2: Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school ...

  22. Thesis and Purpose Statements

    Use the guidelines below to learn the differences between thesis and purpose statements In the first stages of writing, thesis or purpose statements are usually rough or ill-formed and are useful primarily as planning tools. A thesis statement or purpose statement will emerge as you think and write about a topic. The statement can be…

  23. How to Write a College Essay

    Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement. Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying "no" to other interests. Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness. Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself.

  24. Twelve Common Errors

    Download this Handout PDF This list includes only brief examples and explanations intended for you to use as reminders while you are editing your papers. If you would like to learn more, consider the following options: Take one of the free grammar, style, and punctuation classes offered by the Writing Center. Set up an appointment…

  25. How to Write a Concept Paper in 7 Steps

    Write to your audience. A concept paper is a piece of academic writing, so use a professional tone. Avoid colloquialisms, slang, and other conversational language. Your concept paper should use the same tone and style as your accompanying research paper. Write according to your reader's familiarity with the subject of your concept paper.

  26. Use the active voice

    Generally, try to use the active voice whenever possible. Passive voice sentences often use more words, can be vague, and can lead to a tangle of prepositional phrases. Active vs. passive voice In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action. In a sentence written in the passive voice…

  27. Humanities Grant Writing Camp gives graduate students a head start on

    Humanities Grant Writing Camp participants work together during a small group session. Photo courtesy of the Writing Center. The Graduate School partnered with the Writing Center to offer the camp, based on a similar and successful partnership running the annual Dissertation Writing Camp. Both camps allow graduate students to set aside focused ...

  28. Happiness Break: Where Did You Come From? Guided…

    You will need writing utensils for this practice. Find a comfortable place to start this writing practice, taking a few moments to ground yourself. Write the prompt, "I come from a place where…" For the next 5 minutes (or more), write whatever comes to mind, allowing your thoughts and ideas to flow freely, without judgment or filters.

  29. Where will Nikki Haley's supporters go now that she dropped out?

    Confronted by an unwanted Biden-Trump rematch, some Haley supporters are still weighing whether to break ranks with the GOP, write in Haley's name, or sit out the election entirely.

  30. What Not to Write About in a College Essay

    A good essay demonstrates this through vivid storytelling that illustrates your points rather than simply telling the reader what you want them to think and how you want them to feel. 💡 Quick Tip : You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.