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Are My Admission Essays Done? 5-Step Checklist

by Carol Barash, PhD, on Jul 21, 2021 8:41:42 PM


Your college admission essays are an essential part of your applications. But how do you actually know when your Common App and other college application essays are ready to submit? Trust your gut, but first, work through this 5-step checklist:

1. Do I draw the reader in from the first sentence?

Don’t start your essay by stating the obvious: “Hi, I’m a senior in High School, and I’m writing this essay so I can get into college.” The first sentence of your essay should draw the reader into your story like a MAGNET. Jump right in, like this: “I woke up to a splash of water on my face. ‘Get up,’ Juan said to me, ‘We’re moving.’”

2.  Do I show how I learned, grew, or made a difference?

This is the PIVOT—a turn in the action when you risk something, learn something, or try something new. It’s where you change or take action in some way. The PIVOT shifts the direction of your story and keeps the reader engaged.

3. Do I end in the action?

Your ending should not summarize what you’ve already told the reader. Instead your final sentence, the GLOW, should end in the action, creating a lasting impression and leaving the reader wanting to know more about you. Here is an example from one of our students: “And though it was no masterpiece of genius, it was a working robot.”

4. Have I replaced general things that many people can say with specific Details, Dialogue and Description from my own experience?

You can make every sentence of your essay more powerful by replacing general ideas, as well as thoughts and interpretations that happen in your own mind, with actions that take place in the world of shared human experience. Sensory details, dialogue (what people said), and physical description (such as where you are and who else is there) make your essay uniquely your own, while drawing the reader into your unique experience.

5. If it’s a supplemental essay for a specific college, have I done the research to show how I would take advantage of their people and programs?

In supplemental essays, colleges want to see your interest in their community specifically and why you would fit in. Before you write the essay, make sure you understand the values of the college—talk to current students and do research. Think about relevant activities you’re involved in now, and then build a bridge to show what you will do in college and beyond.

Don't Over-Edit!

Too many students over-edit their essays. They take writing that is fresh and energetic and grind it down to big, general ideas that many people can say.

Think about the stories that only you can tell. StoryBuilder helps you find your unique moments, and turn those moments into powerful personal essays. You’ll start by telling your story out loud to activate your creativity and memory. When you tell your story out loud, you’ll find specific details without even trying.

In working through StoryBuilder, you’ll move from general ideas that many people can say to a story that reflects your unique character and point of view. Revealing your character is your best bet for winning admissions and scholarships at the most selective colleges.

Go to College Admission Essays Made Easy.

For more info about college admission and scholarship essays and interviews, sign up for self-paced courses and our award-winning StoryBuilder writing platform FREE. Want to stay up to date on the latest tips and resources? Follow us @story2 on Instagram!

Carol Barash, PhD, is founder + CEO of Story2, a community of over a quarter-million storytellers across 4 continents. Carol innovates at the intersection of education, technology + community. A graduate of Yale, UVA, Princeton, Goldman Sachs 10KSB + Techstars, Carol created the Moments Method® and built Story2 to empower people to share bold, authentic stories in safe, intersectional communities.

Topics:college admissionscollege essaysessay writing tips