How to Write an Essay for College – Do’s and Don’ts

Okay, so you are a high school senior and for the first time you are faced with going through the application process. Part of that process involves writing your first college essay. You have no idea how to proceed. You’re sitting their thinking to yourself… What in the world do I do? How should I proceed?

I’d like to let you in on a little secret; most colleges aren’t looking for you to write a perfect essay. They are more likely to be impressed by someone who sounds like a real person and has the ability to get through four years of college. Most colleges would rather have a duller student who will pay tuition for 4 years than a brilliant one who drops out after one semester.

Listed below are some tips and a few things to watch out for as you begin writing your college essays. I have decided to call them “Do’s and Don’ts”, I hope they help.


* Do talk to an adult – Talk to your high school English or writing teacher, guidance counselor and yes… even parents for some advice. They may be able to provide some tips and insight on how you might proceed. In addition, your English teacher may be able to help you edit your essay prior to submitting it to your prospective colleges.

* Do visit your public library – Spend some time at your public library doing some research about college essays. Your library may even have some samples that you can look at, but remember… beware of samples. Also, check with your school, especially your English teacher to see if any kind of college essay writing class is available during lunch breaks or after school.

* Do get a book about writing essays – There are several books that you can buy or rent from the library on the subject of college essay writing. A book I highly recommend is called “Accepted! 50 Successful College Admission EssaysHow to Write an Essay for College - Do's and Don'ts 1
, by Gen and Kelly Tanabe. If you do a search at, I’m sure it would come up. Or you can ask your librarian.

* Do Write your own essay – As crazy as this might sound with so much available out on the internet there is a tendency to take the easy route and either borrow (plagiarize) from samples essays or pay someone else to write your essay. Remember plagiarism is stealing and while this may be convenient, college admissions staffs are pretty smart people and have seen it all. Chances are they can usually spot a copied or canned essay a mile away. Plus the colleges want to know the real you. Why take the risk of screwing up your college career before it even gets started?


* Don’t panic – First of all relax you can do this! All the college is trying to do is determine if having you as a student will be good for their college. The core question they are trying have answered is “how will your presence enrich our college community?”

* Don’t make things up – Don’t be afraid to write about the real you if the topic calls for it, you will realize that you are not as boring as you thought. Also when you fabricate (okay lie) you have to continue to carry that fabrication on throughout the essay. Be yourself, be original, doing this will allow you to fully express yourself than you would have imagined.

* Don’t rely too heavily on Sample essays – While they may be good for getting ideas and reviewing structure , spending too much time looking at samples may cause you to lose a little of your original thought. There is also a risk that you may be tempted to borrow or use parts of the sample if you become stuck or start to suffer writers block.

* Don’t wait until the last minute to start working on your college essay — When I wait to the last minute to work on something the finished product usually looks rushed and not very well thought out. Keep in mind when you’re rushed you can’t think as well and risk making careless errors.

More Resources on Writing College Essays

How to Write an Awesome College Essay

Writing Winning Essays for College Applications

Writing the Successful College Application Essay: Tips for Success

Essay Edge – Essay editing services

Was this Useful for You?

If so, subscribe to our mailing list and get regular updates from us!

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

One Response

Leave a Reply