As the summer is quickly coming to a close with school just around the corner (yikes!), our rising senior clients are beginning to dive into their college essays. This blank document to showcase who you are leaves most students feeling simultaneously excited and stressed.

By the time you’ve reached senior year, most of your application profile is complete – your grades, test scores and resume are all set. But the essay is still 100% in your control. As an ACC client, we want you to take ownership of the essay process and embrace the opportunity to not only learn more about who you are, but also to positively impact your admissions decisions through your own writing.

While you can’t necessarily write your way into college, essays are a crucial tip factor in making admissions decisions, with as much as 50% to 70% of the decision based on essays. We’ve put together this collection of resources and information below to help you develop high-quality college essays that can tip the admissions scales in your favor.

The Coach’s Top 5 College Essay Tips

(1) Work Smarter, Not Harder – Start the essay process with a game plan. As a first step, map out all of your prompts and look for overlapping topics/themes to focus your drafts on. Also, spend the most amount of time on the essays that matter most: your Common App Personal Statement & the supplemental essays for target schools at the top of your list.

(2) Keep an extremely narrow focus – Each of your essays should have a singular main idea, a “thesis statement” of what you want the admissions counselor to learn about you. In 650 words or less, you’re not expected to tell your life story – just focus on a slice of it.

(3) Draft, draft & draft again – Developing high-quality college essays is a process, with a lot of brainstorming and editing along the way. By starting early, you’ll give yourself enough time to work through multiple drafts and revisions without feeling rushed to meet application deadlines.

(4) Write about what you know – Yourself and your own personal experiences. Don’t feel pressured to write about an extraordinary life event and try not to focus on what you think admissions counselors want to read. Maintain focus on your own unique experiences and perspectives.

(5) Get feedback – From The Coach and other trusted adults. You don’t have to do this by yourself, lean on the support team that is around you.

“We look for some originality because nine out of ten essays leave you with a big yawn. “I like science, I like to help people and that’s why I want to be a doctor.” The common, uninteresting, and unoriginal statement is one that recounts the applicant’s academic pursuits and basically repeats what is elsewhere in the application. You look for something different, something that will pique your interest and provide some very unique insight that will make you pay some notice to this person who is among so many other qualified applicants. If you’re screening 5,500 applications over a four- or six-month period, you want to see something that’s really interesting.”

Dr. Daniel R. Alonso

Associate Dean for Admissions , Cornell University Medical College

Coach’s Playbook: Essays/Personal Statement

As you’ve hopefully discovered within our website, The Coach’s College Planning Playbook has an extensive amount of tools, resources and information on admissions and applications. We recently updated the Essays/Personal Statement section to provide you with additional guidance and support on essays.

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The Coach’s Go-To College Essay Resource: Escape Essay Hell