Do’s and Don’ts of Great College Essays
www.collegetoolkit.com– This is used in conjunction with College Life Planning’s College Prep Packet.
We’ve all been there—sitting in front of a computer, staring at a blank screen. The cursor
blinks, waiting for you to type something brilliant. The more you think about it, the more
your brain seems to freeze up. Relax. Writing a college essay can actually be fun. It’s a
chance for you to show an admissions committee who you are and what you have to offer. Be
funny, sad, abstract or literal, but, above all, be creative and be yourself! Here are a few tips
to help you through the process:
1. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself
Writing your college essay is an important task to be taken seriously, but have some
fun. Start early and think of it as an opportunity to strut your stuff, not as a chore to
get over with.
2. Don’t tell – show
An essay with lots of description is more interesting and will hold a reader’s attention
longer. Writing about wrestling an alligator is pretty interesting—throw in some
descriptive phrases about what the experience looked, felt and sounded like to make it
stand out that much more.
3. Don’t write an essay on something you think an admissions committee would want
It’s important to the college folks that you write a thoughtfully prepared essay. It’s
very clear who believes in what they’re writing and who doesn’t.
4. Don’t submit your essay until you have had someone else (or several someone
elses) proofread it
Having a few extra pairs of eyes looking over both your essay and your application
can help catch those little mistakes that you might miss (like misspelling your name
or sending your “Why I Love the University of X” essay to College Y – you’d be
surprised how many times that happens!).
1. Do brainstorm
When settling on an essay topic, sit down with a piece of paper and write down every
idea that comes to mind, no matter what it is. One of the items might trigger a
brilliant idea for your essay.
2. Do bring your unique perspective and qualities to the essay
Show multiple sides of yourself. If you’re very active in your school’s marching band
and your talent for playing the trombone is mentioned throughout your application,
write your essay on your butterfly collection. Let the admissions committee know
what makes you different.
3. Do stay true to yourself
Everyone has his or her own writing style – what’s yours? Follow basic rules of
grammar, etc., but let the voice be your own. Have someone else read your essay and
ask them if it sounds like something you’d write or say. If not, go back to the drawing
board. This particular piece needs to be about you, written by you. Let your voice be
4. Do spend time on your essay
It’s a very important component of your application and taking the time to do a good
job and write a strong essay will pay off in the end.
By Heather Graber Stinson
Media Officer, St. Lawrence University
St. Lawrence University is a private, independent, four-year, liberal arts and sciences university located in Canton, NY with an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 2,100 students. Because of its close proximity to both the Adirondack Mountains and to the Canadian border, St. Lawrence’s location plays a large role in the education of its students. St. Lawrence offers a wide range of interdisciplinary courses and encourages students to take advantage of its diverse curriculum and co-curricular offerings. Do visit http://www.stlawu.edu for more information!