MORE! College Application Essay Writing Tips

Here are two more guidelines that will help you write the best college application essay you can possibly write.

Answer the Prompt

While this may seem obvious, many students veer away from fully answering the essay prompt, and wind up hurting their chances for acceptance. Admissions Directors are expecting all aspects of an essay prompt to be addressed and anything less will be considered an inability to follow directions. Even if your essay is perceptive and well written, you can’t answer your own version of a prompt. If the prompt consists of several questions, you need to answer them all.

To assure that you are fully addressing what is being asked, cut and paste the prompt at the top of your essays drafts and refer to it frequently. No one wants to delete a well turned phrase or brilliant insight they’ve written, but as William Faulkner said, “Writers must learn to kill their children.”

Brainstorm, Freewrite, Outline, Draft, Revise, Polish

These basic rules of good writing must be applied scrupulously to your essays.

Brainstorm: People do this in different ways and I encourage you to find the one that works best for you, or refer to my previous blog at: The key here is to relax and let ideas emerge.

Freewrite: Once you’ve brainstormed, write down your ideas as quickly as possible, in any form. Ideally, this process will not only get your writing muscles warmed up…

… it will also stimulate more ideas.

Outline: Whether you outline formally or simply jot down words and phrases that provide a structure for your essay, this step cannot be skipped. It’s also important to revise the outline several times before you start writing. Making changes at this stage is a whole lot easier than after you’ve written a draft.

Draft: Rather than get hung up on first draft, second, etc., call your first three drafts a “rough draft.” This will reduce the pressure and keep you from pushing too hard for the finish line. Once you think you’ve written a good essay, call that your first draft.

Revise: Reread critically, get feedback from knowledgeable readers, and continue to improve the essay through subsequent drafts.


 To take your writing to a higher level, comb through the essay for ways to further improve it. These can include elevating vocabulary, tweaking a simile or metaphor, removing a phrase that slows your pace, sharpening or adding a description, capturing or recasting an emotional moment. Wherever you can make your essay even one syllable better, do it. (

The abridged version…

Answering the prompt fully is an important part of writing an effective college application essay. In creating your essay, don’t skip the basic steps of writing. Commit to these steps and write the best essay you can possibly write.

For more personal help with your college application essay or personal statement, contact Craig Heller directly at [email protected] or 818-445-4697.

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