How to Make Your College Application Essay the Best Writing You’ve Ever Done (#2 of 25)

Here’s #2 of the twenty five ways to make your college application essay the finest writing you’ve ever done.

#2: Write Something Only You Can Write

With the number of college applications increasing each year, there is, unavoidably, a great deal of repetition when it comes to the subject matter of essays. That’s why students need to distinguish themselves with the topics they choose, and write something only they can write. This does not mean they can’t write about universal experiences like “making the team” or “not making the team.” It only means they have to make the experience a highly personal reflection of themselves.

An example of this comes from a student I worked with several years ago. His hearing was severely compromised and he had undergone several operations on his ears. He wanted to play high school football, tried out for the team, and made it as a wide receiver. His story displayed courage, determination, the ability to set goals and reach them, a sterling character and more. It was an essay about making the team, but only this young man could have written it.

Of course, getting completely away from these familiar themes can be even better. When conceiving their essay topics, therefore, students need to go deep into their experiences and find something that is specific to them. This could be a family situation (standing up to an older brother who refused to accept dad’s new wife), an activity (early morning rock climbing with a close group of friends), or an unexpected encounter (teaching a mentally challenged child to play Bingo, when everyone else had given up on her). These singular experiences exist for everyone; the trick is identifying them, and then shaping them into a powerful essay.

Writing something only you can write will naturally lead to an original essay that will stand out with Admissions Directors. Keep in mind that although you are applying to UPenn or Seattle University or wherever, it is a person, not “the school,” who will be reading your essays. And Admissions Directors, like everyone else, enjoy being surprised, stimulated and entertained.

For more personal help with the Common Application essay, supplemental or any other college application essays, please contact Craig Heller at, or 818-340-1276.

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