Writing Tips for College & Scholarship Essays

writing-college-essaysBelieve it or not, college application deadlines are coming up fast and students are under a great deal of pressure to make that perfect score on the SAT or ACT.  No one envies the amount of pressure placed on a high school Senior to succeed in order to ensure the course of their future.  That’s why SAT Preparation Group is here to help!  We want to answer all of your questions and put that high anxiety to rest for high school students and their parents.  That’s why this week we are going to talk about college and scholarship essays.

“What Do Admissions Officers Look For On My College Application Essay?

This is a great question, and a question that many students ask.  To get a favorable reaction from admissions officers, your college application and essay should demonstrate these key points:

  • Serious intent to pursue a college-level education – How will an education help you?
  • Genuine desire to attend the particular college – Why do you want to attend this school above any other school?
  • Correlation between your abilities and interests and what the school needs and has to offer – Why should the college want you as a student? What will you be able to do for the college?
  • Ability to think clearly, logically, and creatively
  • Ability to write interesting, thoughtful essays that keep your reader’s attention and make you stand out from other applicants

Whether the college or university you apply to has just one admissions officer or a panel of admissions advisers to read your college applicaton and essay, each of these professionals is looking to get to know YOU – the person behind the GPA, test scores, and extracurricular activities.

Who are you?  What have you done that is above the rest? What do you plan to do?  How do you view life and value your experiences? Consider your college application and essay a chance to shine!

Surprise your admissions officer(s)!  Throw in an unexpected angle on your topic, even if the experience you’re writing about seems ordinary to you.  However, always keep your topic positive!  If you are going to bring up a difficult experience in your life, spend the majority of your essay expressing how you overcame this difficult time, how it has molded you as a person, and how it has motivated you towards your future.  Touch on the key points above and include why you want to attend this particular school and how an education will help you.  Wrap your story together with a neat, precise bow and you will have shown your ability to think clearly, logically, and creatively while capturing the interest of your reader(s).

Be Genuine.  Writing as yourself, without taking yourself too seriously is key.  Rely on your own sense of vocabulary rather than using a thesaurus or words your parents think you should use.  You want to show who you really are and be natural.  Admissions officers can see right through a student’s desire to try too hard and trying too hard usually displays a lack in confidence.  Be confident in who you really are, how you speak, and what you know!  Whatever you do, do not lie!  Lying can provide grounds for automatic rejection.  No matter how confident you are that you won’t get caught, never skew the facts of your essay to make yourself seem like a bigger, better individual.  The same goes for the rest of your college application.

Be Thoughtful.  Consideration of your experiences and their meanings, both to yourself and to others, and showing through your reflection that nothing is lost on you is a big winner with college application essays.

Don’t forget!  When writing for a specific school or scholarship be sure to talk about the school or scholarship specifically.  Address it as it is what you are focusing on in your essay.  Let the reader know you’ve seriously considered the school/the scholarship and what about that makes you want to apply.  This should be included in the intro of your college or scholarship essay.

College & Scholarship Essay Do’s and Don’ts


  • Write about subjects you feel strongly about
  • Write about something that you are an expert in
  • Think about who your audience is
  • Start with a compelling sentence to grab attention
  • Let your personality shine through your writing
  • Follow the instructions carefully
  • Stay on subject
  • Proof Read!
  • Proof Read!


  • Pick a top that is too broad and cannot be answered in 3 to 5 complete points (remember most of these applications are now online and won’t allow you to go over a certain word count)
  • Use a lot of big words or words that you wouldn’t typically use in your writing
  • Ramble or get off subject
  • Try to be excessively funny
  • Cross the line between creativity and absurdity
  • Over quote or write in too many clichés
  • Write your essay like a Hallmark card
  • Focus on the negative

For an up to date list of scholarship links and writing tools, be sure to bookmark these important links.

For students that need help with their college application essay, SAT Preparation Group offers a College Essay Writing Series!  Join us today and we’ll help you write a winning essay!

bbadf6bb-5e64-4cca-b0da-fc566cb1d55aSAT Preparation Group advises in test prep, college planning, and success strategies for teens. Call Us Today at 877-672-8773 or click here for a free consultation.

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