There perhaps is no greater essay you will write than the one that gets you into your dream college. In high school classes, you may have been able to scribble out an essay at the last moment and still have your teacher give you a good grade on it. However, college is an entirely different beast. And with your college entrance essay that is required by most colleges and universities for acceptance, this one could decide your future. It is best not to try “winging it”. Here are five tips on how to construct a winning college entrance essay.

“Who Are You to Instruct Me on How to Write the Essay?”

This is a good question that deserves an answer. There are way too many so-called experts online that will provide their view and advice on every topic under the sun without having a credential to their name.

For starters, I was a journalist/editor for nearly a decade. I have written on just about every subject you can think of. There are tricks to keep the reader’s attention that you should know about when trying to convince the acceptance board to take a chance on you.

Plus, I have been in Education going on 15 years now at the elementary, high school, and college levels. I have literally taught it all. In fact, I have probably assisted a thousand students (both high school and junior college) with writing the perfect college entrance essay over the years. So far, the acceptance rate is pretty high.

Tip 1: Start with an Outline

In life, if you are going to write anything of importance, start with an outline to keep yourself on track. This outline does not have to be all professional with roman numerals either. Just something that will guide you from the beginning, to the middle, and to the end. When it comes time to actually write the paper, you can still change things up here and there as this outline is not etched in stone. Use it as a map so you know where you are heading in your essay.

Tip 2: Don’t Wait Too Long to Grab the Reader’s Attention

Whether in person or on paper, you only have a few seconds to make a strong first impression. On your college application essay, if you don’t grab the reader’s attention almost immediately, you may be placed in the “Pass” pile before they even get to the end of your essay.

Tip 3: Make Them Sit Up and Take Notice

How do you reach someone in an essay in the first few paragraphs? Try to use your sense of humor. You don’t have to be the funniest comedian in the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be self-deprecating. For instance, this may be something I would have written back in the day on my college entrance essay.

I’ve heard just about every Brady Bunch joke possible growing up. Born the middle child of a family of eleven, my siblings and I have all experienced large family problems. Back in the day, my problems were much simpler as I had to figure out which hand me down clothes could still fit me (both my brothers’ and my sisters’) and not be worn out in all the wrong places. Now I have a much bigger problem on my hands (and this is where you come in): What college would I like to attend and why?

If using a little humor is not your strong suit, try to grab ahold of the reader’s emotions with a quick little story about some hardship you have experienced and how attending their college will make all the difference in the world to you.

Tip 4: Stay Humble When Listing Your High School Accomplishments

There is a fine line between listing your accomplishments from high school and flat out bragging about yourself. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t sure where that line is. Most adults don’t either. Try to make sure you stay humble throughout your essay and name the people who have helped you achieve all of your accomplishments. In addition, mention the impressive things you have done outside of high school as well. For example, perhaps you volunteer often or are active in your church. The application board wants to know more about you than just your high school grades.

Tip 5: Put the Thesaurus Down and Write What Is in Your Heart

Have you ever heard of a ten-dollar word before? This is a fancy word you might hear just a few times in your life and is used in place of more common words that everyone has heard and know the meaning of. Don’t use your essay as a chance to throw out rare words that will have people reaching for a dictionary. Speak from the heart and get your point across. That does not mean you should go with a junior high vocabulary when writing your essay either. Do your best to come off intelligent without being arrogant. After all, you are just a high school senior trying your best to get accepted into the college of your choice. You aren’t writing the thesis for your doctorate… yet.

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