College Admissions Essay Guide

Unigo College Essay Guide

By Unigo Editors
05/06/2015
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Unigo’s Guide to the College Admissions Essay

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Step 1: Brainstorming
The first step of writing any essay is deciding on a topic. This brainstorming activity is designed to help you list out some of the most important aspects of your life – events, people, hobbies, subjects, extracurricular activities, etc., and help you begin the process of finding the topic that’s right for you.

If a movie was made about your life to date, which ten events would definitely be included:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

List five subjects on which you consider yourself very knowledgeable/passionate (anything from birds to German silent-era film to kayaking):

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

List five activities outside of the classroom that are important to you:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

List five people (real or fictional, dead or alive) who have impacted your life in a significant way:

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2.
3.
4.
5.

List what you consider to be your three greatest successes to date?

1.
2.
3.

List three times in your life when you have failed at something:

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2.
3.

List five ways that you have changed since entering high school:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Favorite:

Book:

Movie:

Musician:

Place:

Teacher:

Step 2: Evaluating Your Ideas

You should now have about 30 potential subjects that could eventually lead to an essay topic, so the next step is to figure out which ones reveal the most interesting and unique characteristics about you and your life. By answering the following questions, you should be able to get a better sense of what each subject means to you. As you go through the next section, have the answers to the brainstorming questions handy.

For each of the events in your “movie:”

-Why is this event significant?

-What does this event reveal about my personality?

For each of the five subjects:

-What about this subject do you find particularly interesting?

-How has your involvement with this subject affected your personality and/or life?

For each of the five activities:

-Why did you join this activity?

-Why do you continue to pursue this activity?

For each of the five people:

-How has this person impacted your life?

-Is there one particular memory involving this person that stands out?

For each of the successes:

-What factors led to your success?

-Did you learn anything from this success?

For each of the failures:

-Why do you think you failed in this particular instance?

-What did you learn from this failure?

For each of the ways that you’ve changed:

-Has this change had a positive effect on your life? If so, how? If not, why?

-What factors led to this change?

For each of your favorites:

-What makes this a favorite?

-Has this had a meaningful impact in your life? If so, how?

Step #3: Narrow Down Your List

The brainstorming activity helped you generate a long list of potential ideas, and the Q&A allowed you to dig a little deeper to figure out the significance of those listed subjects. In order to make the final choice a little bit easier, start by picking out the five best ideas from your current list. These five topics should be the ones that best define a certain characteristic about yourself that you want to portray to the reader.

List your top five ideas here:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Step #4: Choosing Your Essay Topic

Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of potential essay topics to the five best possibilities, it’s up to you to make that final decision. Which of these final five topics best represents a unique aspect of your personality, and will catch the attention of somebody reading hundreds or thousands of similar essays?

Step #5: Do’s and Don’ts

Now that you have your idea, you should just be about ready to start writing. Before you dive in, take a look at our list of tips on what to do and, more importantly, what not to do on your essay.

DO:

-Use personal detail and examples (show, don’t tell)

-Write in your own voice. This isn’t an academic essay.

-Humor is good…in moderation

-Start your essay with an attention-grabbing introduction

-Have someone you trust (parent, teacher) proofread your essay

-Triple check the essay for small grammatical and spelling errors

-Read the essay aloud to avoid awkward sentence structure

DON’T:

-Don’t wait until the last minute. A successful essay will take preparation and multiple drafts

-Don’t try and say too much. You only have limited space, so be specific

-Don’t try and impress the reader with big words you found in the thesaurus

-Don’t rely on spell check to catch every mistake. Proofread several times

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