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Bringing It Home – The Saint Rose Blog

Tips for Writing a College Admissions Essay

College essays can be tricky to get just right. But if you go in with a game plan, you’re going to come out with something that shows your intelligence, your strength, and, best of all, your personality.

At Saint Rose, the college essay (or a graded paper) is optional. Whether you should skip it altogether depends on the rest of your transcript, but even if you’re rocking a 4.0 GPA and mindblowing SAT scores, the essay is still a great way to let a college know who you are. (Trust us – we want to know who you are!)

So here’s a worksheet to get you going on your amazing college paper.


1. What is the essay prompt? (If no essay prompt, go to question 3.) ________________________________________

1a. What are three ideas you have that address the prompt? For example, if the prompt is “What was your most challenging moment?” write down the FIRST thing you remember as challenging. (Then the second and third.) Try to thing of topics or memories that make you think, “Oh, I could talk FOREVER about that.”

2. No essay prompt? OK. Then what we have here is a real blank-slate situation. A blessing and a curse. No problem.

What’s one thing you really love? (For example: fashion, movies, or running.) _________________________
Think of a time in your life when you felt you had really changed or grown or learned something world-changing. What was it? _________________________________
What’s one thing about you that’s different from the people around you? (Maybe you’re the only one in school with Haitian parents, or you’re the only gay person on your street, or you’re the only plus-size person you know who loves sports — anything that makes you stand out.) What’s the thing? ____________________________.

3. For each of your three ideas, write out five ideas related to them that would fill out your essay. For example, if you’re writing about your love of running, what are five moments in your life that prove your devotion? Did you run a marathon, get up every day at dawn to train, get your little brother into running, too?) Go for the juicy details and jot them down.

4. OK, now’s the fun part. Which idea did you have the easiest time thinking of details for? Which came most naturally to think about, what idea made you feel like you had the most to say? If one stood out, there’s your big idea. If more than one idea stood out, well, aren’t you lucky? Take your pick!

5. Start your draft. Make sure everything you share includes vivid details. Instead of saying, “I love fashion,” say you love sleeves, you love pulling apart seams and resewing them with different colors of thread. Talk about the moment you first realized you loved the thing you love — and talk honestly about how the thing makes you feel. Don’t worry about using formal language. Just be yourself and talk to the admissions counselor like you’re talking to a friend.

6. Once your draft is written, set it aside and leave it for a few days. Then come back to it and edit it. Be sure to ask a friend or a teacher to have a look, too. Even the best writers need a second (or third or fourth) pair of eyes.

Good luck! We can’t wait to see what you’ve got. And when you get here, be sure to check out Saint Rose’s Writing Center.

What do you think?

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