How to Write a College Application Essay: Basic Student’s Goals

How to Write a College Application Essay: Basic Student’s Goals

Any admissions officer is interested in something more than student's writing skills, high school achievements, and pure interest in the target institution. The best way to show your personality is a well-written story. You can find it in numerous college application essay samples.

In his application essay, a student must:

  • Prove he is the best candidate
  • Involve a success story
  • Briefly, state his work experience (if any) and skills
  • Show his interest by introducing reasons to apply
  • Stress that his intellectual property is worth of officer's attention
  • Include a powerful hook or call-to-action to engage the reader
College Application Essays That Worked

What is Your Essay Mission?

A student does not write admission essay to get a high grade. His biggest reward is college permission to study. You need to find corresponding words for this high mission. Thus, it is important to look at excellent application essay examples. Find them on the web or in college/university archives to read carefully. There is no need to read just every paper you find. You may focus only on one successful example, but it has to be brilliant.

Ready to read one?


When I started to write this essay, one question which came to my mind was "What kind of college is just the right place?" My choice stopped at my favorite meal, sushi. That moment I realized that my university has to be 'delicious' and successful like this dish. Perhaps, this is not the most relevant topic for the application essay, but I decided to stay maximum creative.

I did not want to attend a regular public college: I wanted Johns Hopkins University staff to teach me the program of the future. Sushi major ingredients are culture and taste. This school has its own voice, culture, and even taste. When I visited its educational center to find an idea to write my admission essay, I was impressed by the amount of its literature. It would be spice. College campus seems sugar to every new student. Finally, the opportunity to join LGBT community and represent the needs of the modern student is everything nice. If you've ever seen "The Powerpuff Girls" you know what I mean.

I want to help each applicant or active student to express his or her unique personality by sharing the experience. Writing a college admissions essay is only half the battle. A lucky boy or girl should use all ways to prove how society can benefit from their knowledge and skills. My mission is to serve younger generation with a warm sushi.

Just like sushi and spices serve to help with obesity and proper nutrition, Hopkin’s academic diversity speeds up the process of self-development. After leaving your home, you won’t feel lonely in this place. It is the best place to study culture, history, and literature. Humanitarian subjects from curriculum are like a fresh salad: they are light and clear, and other subjects seem more complex. They are like heavy food compared to a bottle of water.

Every morning I wake up with the idea to begin my own set of lectures; there is no better place to educate students than Latin Literature beyond Hermeneutics class of Professor Butler. That is why I decided to write this essay for your college. I was impressed by the question he recalled during one of his free open lectures. Instead of simply discussing science and its progress, he used to focus more on social elements as our community has an opportunity to change future. I believe in the same values your college does: love, passion, and friendship.

It makes sense to improve my English with the help of literature lessons; it is the international communication language. I would like to help every freshman whose admission essay was successful. I do need some practice in the field of human resources, so I believe that Hopkin's is the best place to achieve my goal.

Sushi with its hot wasabi sauce describes the features of a culture different from American or English. I always wanted to explore and understand Asian society. I need to become a volunteer in some hospital or attend another country with a health-related mission. The purpose of this college essay is not to describe my favorite food or value of education. I have chosen Johns Hopkins University as a target college to develop American culture by using personal success story someday to inspire a younger generation.

"This is an effective college admission essay example. The applicant provided something more than a list of common reasons to obtain higher education. She managed to find a complicated way to connect academic goals and personal interests with Hopkin's program and curriculum using food industry, social aspects, her favorite Asian culture, and a bit of medicine.- Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Admissions Committee.

What Is an Application Essay?

What to write about in a college application essay? It is impossible to respond to this question without understanding the meaning and purpose of admissions paper. An application essay is a type of intellectual property. It represents the personal story, experience, and life/professional goals of the applicant.

An admissions essay is an academic document which serves just like a job resume. It is something every admissions officer wants to see. Then, he makes a final decision regarding who will join the university in the following academic year.
  1. The introduction is the most critical part of the admissions essay. In this section, introduce yourself and explain why out of all available US or UK higher educational institutions you decided to apply for the target university.
  2. The body paragraphs. Stick to the chronological order while preparing a list of events, experiences, and activities related to your target educational program. Don't worry about the order of the paragraphs: application essay can have a random order. You should show how one story is connected with another story through finding things these different points have in common, and build a logical chain.
  3. Before concluding your paper with a summary and conclusion, share some other important details every admission officer wants to see. Go on with descriptions and examples of different academic and life achievements. If you want to include something related to your hobby, make sure it is related to your target college or university as well.
  4. Conclude your text by thanking the admissions officer for his or her patience, interest, dedication, and time.

Find out an example of good application essay structure, like this one:


This essay describes one day from my high school life. There is always a place to develop a beautiful idea in my mind. I found my inspiration for this college application as an ordinary student. Growing plants or vegetables is a separate craft which can positively influence education as it requires passion, patience, and solid knowledge. Biology was my favorite subject at school. The idea to grow strawberries quickly and secretly inside my school locker seemed pretty cool.

This process requires advanced skills in the area of biology, so being successful could help to bring me the highest grade and a good topic for any further college admission essay. My mother told me that strawberries would be the best choice. The problem was that a plant could not receive all necessities in a locker, so I had to find a strong source of water. I had a purpose, and no obstacles could stop me. My friends and teacher were a bit skeptical about this project just like my family members and relatives.

I had to learn a lot of nuances before getting to the action. This unforgettable experience will remain in my heart forever: I read useful tips that helped me to find the way. I decided to use a solar panel to support my plant with a strong, blue LED light. My close friend assisted me with developing the solar panel setup, which switched to the blue light only when it was dark outside. Some may call it a huge mistake. Well, for me it was a significant experience worthy of being mentioned in detail; that is why I write about it in my college admission essay now.

After dealing with light and water, I had to focus on the need to circulate air. Several designs were found which allowed my friends to create 3D printed prototype in the school lab. That place provided us with an idea to build latching mechanism to boost airflow by having the door to remain ajar about two inches. The strawberry plants are still growing in my partially open high school locker. It is a great topic for conversation and excellent college application essay, I believe.

This life experience started as a crazy idea led by a passion for creative thinking, my mother, and biology. That lesson made it possible for me to apply narrow academic principles I had studied before. Besides, college community may find a valuable input provided by my essay. My goal is to go on observing and inventing things to change this world for a better and contribute to your college community and rest of our society.

"Except for background on personal, academic interest, this student points to the importance of experiments and risky projects in his admission essay. We find this essay example very valuable for everyone on campus. Such success factors as successfully grown strawberries in his high school locker, sense of humor, and, creative work have made this essay a winner. - Johns Hopkins Undergraduate Admissions Committee

How to Write an Application Essay: Recommended Format

Students often wonder, "What should a college application essay look like?" Even though there is no universal structure for the entrance essay, you can use the suggested template. Don't forget to work on your outline! Another question you may have is whether the application paper has a specific format like other academic papers.

The good news is that you don't have to worry about formatting elements (font, size, margins) when writing an entrance essay. The only thing to consider is how long the paper is. The document should not be longer than 1-2 pages; 500-800 words is the most recommended application essay's length. There are some more tips we would like to share.

  • It is not a common deal to come up with a title for application essay; skip this step unless it is required by the target college/university.
  • Find out whether you must provide answers or write a story. Some instructions give a list of questions to answer; most of the time, students can write their personal story without consulting the guidelines. Each question requires a clear answer.
  • Delineate your paragraphs.
  • Remember the major formatting components: 1-inch margins, A4 blank page in Word, single-spaced text, and proper font.
  • Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, and Cambria would do.

The student does not write admission essay to get a high grade; his biggest reward is college permission to study. You need to find corresponding words to achieve this high mission. It is important to find several application excellent essay examples which you can find on the web or in college/university archives to read carefully. They are usually free or cheap. There is no need to read every paper you find - focus only on one successful example, but it should be brilliant academic work.

Please read one of the most successful common app essay examples below.

Common App Essay Examples and Valuable Tips

  1. Your topic should highlight your intellectual level, talents, and related experience, so a personal story with a creative approach to writing and expressing yourself is the key to success.
  2. You want to show your interest in college or university campus life instead of writing how much you want to become independent. Include specific examples like a short story to prove that you are ready. List different activities you took part in when studying in high school to show you appreciate community activities.
  3. To learn how to write a good application essay, a student must understand its mission. Assure the admission officer that you understand how you can contribute to the chosen college instead of simply listing the intellectual benefits you get.
  4. Please use English words you know the meaning of. Reading makes your vocabulary complete, so it is a good idea to read different types of literature before writing your paper. If any word is a challenge, look for its definition in a dictionary.
  5. Don't lie about your intellectual opportunities or past experience; sooner or later, the university will find out you were not honest enough; it will lead to poor performance.
  6. Do some research before you start writing your college essay. Think about the chosen field and explain why the selected academic field is interesting to you, and what educational background you expect to obtain to succeed in professional development.
  7. Write about the program you like. There are many different majors in the world, and it is difficult to choose the university program which meets all expectations. Describe why you want to be enrolled in the chosen program.
  8. After these two important points, the writer can move on to the part describing himself.
  9. Choose English writing style & voice which will present you as a highly intellectual, hard-working student who knows what he wants.
  10. Always revise the final draft before submitting it in person/online!

Read the example of Yale's University student's papers to understand how to write a college application essay.

Expert Advice from Admission Officer

We share this advice from an expert to make you understand the importance of proofreading & editing.

"Never turn in your college application essay without checking it for mistakes from cover to cover. Computer software is not the most reliable way out; ask your educators to help. Special spell-check tools tend to miss small typos; every error counts when it comes to college application essay. Ask surrounding community whether the admissions paper represents you fairly and honestly."

Jeff Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Yale University

Major Types of Academic Application Essays

Want to know, "What should a college application essay look like?" Three questions reflect the different types of writing pieces: "you," "why us," and "creative" question.

"You" question

The reader wants to learn about the applying student. To let the admissions officer recognize you. Write something like:

"The University of Yale values original approaches to conducting research and innovative ideas. Think about what you can invest in the development of local university's research community?"

It is a direct question which allows each potential student to write a few words about his intellectual and creative contribution.

"Why Us" question

Write about choices and desired career. In this part, an admissions officer wants to read a detailed resume with all student's goals, experience, skills, and commitment to the chosen college.

Example: "How comes you are interested in joining Yale?"

The main idea of "why us" the question is to define the focus and major goal of the paper. Find out points in your career which would best explain your choice.

The "creative" question

Creative writing is the process which reflects the writer's ability to think and come up with original ideas. The best idea is to write a short story from personal life or somehow relate your application work to the story of famous people. Students can recall specific challenge and provide solutions to it.

Example: "Share your intellectual interests with our university. Write about the experience you believe is intellectually breathtaking."

This question allows revealing personal traits and points of view in the application essay; however, don't make your work overloaded with the creative story - the required word count limits it. Stay disciplined in your writing.

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