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College application time can be rough for high school students. When a student is focusing on getting one of the competitive college spots, they can end up getting stuck in every part of the process out of fear alone. They focus on perfecting every aspect of their application to the point where just getting started can seem like a major challenge. These tips for your college essay can help you get started.

1. Don’t Expect To Land It

The sad truth about most of education (and virtually all of the college application process) is the inevitably subjective administrators. There is no way to predict whether or not you’ll end up in any particular school (short of bribery or good friends. And even they’re not guarantees.) College application essays are almost completely subjective. No college essay tips can change that depressing truth.

The person that reads your essay might not like you. You may write an awesome essay that 9 out of 10 people would love but you could hit that 1 in 10 that thinks you are just a pretentious butt nugget. It happens and you shouldn’t expect to be able to prevent it.

Some college essay tips you hear might suggest pushing to get 10 out of 10 people to not be annoyed by your essay. The problem is that writing to be likable to everyone is a sure sign that no one will find you interesting. That may land you in the school but you definitely won’t be a shoo in.

2. Be Likable

Yes. Since most of this process is subjective, you can embrace that subjectivity. You should find a story or topic that makes you sound like a likable person. (It doesn’t matter if you’re actually a tool.) That means you should generally avoid the devil’s advocate positions and focus on topics that most people agree on (even if there is some internal debate on the details.)

When you take up these topics you risk sounding like a thousand other essays. To correct that, you may want to focus on finding some internal and relatively meaningless factor that you can inflate into a more important issue than it actually is. Then argue that point as if it’s notably controversial. That’s one way to make your essay sound more interesting. (It’s actually how most political shows make their arguments.)

There are plenty of other strategies to increase your likability without reducing your notability. This is one of the most important concepts to understand from these college essay tips. You want to avoid offending most people while still being more interesting than the average sea of boring college application essays.

3. Don’t Be Perfect!

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One of the quickest ways to not be likable is to toot your own horn in your essay in an obvious way.

People that brag about their accomplishments are not at all likable. To some extent you need to select your topic based on this information.

If you had a completely true story about how you singlehandedly saved the world from nuclear war through your own cunning compassion then I’d tell you not to tell that story in the essay. It’s too much. Any attempt to tell that story would make you sound arrogant.

If, however, you almost accidentally caused a nuclear war but then help avert the catastrophe then it would be a story worth telling. That’s because you’re at fault for a major problem and you solved it. That makes you much more likable than someone without any fault in the matter.

These are, of course, ridiculous examples but they can help illustrate the point. Don’t make yourself sound too good in your essay. You need to sound more like a work in progress. Naturally, you want to try and make yourself sound good but try to at least sound humble about it.

4. Truth Doesn’t Matter But Believability Does

I’m not going to encourage you to lie. That being said, unless you say something absolutely outlandish, no one even cares. If you say something that’s easily verifiable online then you might also get in trouble. If you happen to talk about something very personal that would require actual detective work to disprove then no one will ever know.

The way you remember your life is wrong. Memories are not accurate. In fact, studies show that the more you think about a memory, the more of that memory gets corrupted. No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to be able to tell a perfectly accurate story. Instead of focusing on perfectly accurate, try to focus on making your point in a compelling way. Many of the students that tell these stories don’t even know how much they made up. Don’t be scared to add small flavor to what you write.

That being said, if you’re suddenly back on the topic about how you saved the earth from nuclear war, you’ll likely be assumed to be full of crap. In general, don’t say anything that sounds unbelievable (even if it’s true.) The only time you should say something unbelievable is when it was already huge news on the media, you’ve literally included some kind of proof, or you somehow know the person reading your essay knows it’s true. Otherwise, you risk getting your essays thrown out.

5. Write For The Wastebasket

College Essay Tips
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Writer’s block often comes down to a fear of failure. This is one of the most powerful college essay tips to focus on. Instead of fearing failure, embrace it.

Write your essay fast. The more you let the essay flow out of you, the better your essay is going to sound in the long run. You can worry about prettying it up later. That is, you can worry about prettying it up if it’s worth prettying up to begin with.

Using this strategy, you should expect to write bad essays every once in awhile. In fact, if you’re particularly bad at writing essays then you may write 50% good ones and 50% bad ones. That’s not horrible. In fact, even if you throw out half of the essays you write, you’ll often end up saving a significant amount of time and stress by writing for the wastebasket. You don’t waste hours thinking about your essay and you just get in on paper fast.

Don’t worry about perfecting your essays until you’ve completed a first draft of the essay worth worrying about. Most people invest so much stress and energy into their first draft that they hardly invest any energy in their later drafts. That just leads to a worse essay overall. It’s much better to save the stress for the later drafts.

6. Get It Checked

College essay tips like this one should be blatantly obvious but so many students end up just ignoring them.

After you write an essay that you’re satisfied with, you need to get someone else to check that essay. Ideally, you want a teacher checking the essay. That way you know they’re at least reasonably qualified to check your information. That being said, if you’re squeamish then getting someone else to read your essay is the minimum.

Some of the most common mistakes that people make are some of the most obvious. Often these mistakes just come down to the writer being too invested in the paper to notice. The mistakes are often stupid spelling mistakes or incorrect words that the writer just glazes over. These mistakes need to be taken seriously.

One single stupid error risks getting your essay thrown out. It doesn’t matter how well you wrote the rest of the essay. That single mistake shows the school that you don’t care enough to check your work.

7. Don’t Use College Essay Tips To Procrastinate!

Yes. You can search for college essay tips all day long and keep looking for more information that could improve your final essay. Odds are though, you don’t need more advice. If a student is seeking guidance for their essay then they’re usually intelligent enough to write a quality essay without any guidance at all.

College essay tips aren’t what you need. What you need is to buckle down and do the work that you need to do for that college essay. Some of the most common problems students have are not all that difficult to solve but are just the natural human tendency to procrastinate kicking in.

Can’t think of a good topic? Write using a bad topic. This may become the good topic once you start digging into it.

Can’t think of a good first line? Start a second line.

Don’t think you know what you need to? You do.

Do you want to know how to study in less than 15 minutes a night? That is what this blog is all about. Be sure to follow and check out the archives for all the details. Also, be sure to check out the ebooks in the sidebar.

7 College Essay Tips That Will Land You The Spot

A B&C Students Guide To Mercilessly Crushing A Students At Their Own Game (While Laughing Your Way Towards The Ivy-League)

Are you smart but getting meh grades?

The smartest students are often the ones the school system leaves behind. It’s easy to motivate a half-wit (or even almost-wit – like a horse with a carrot dangled in it’s face to get it running. Giddy-up horsey!

You would never fall for that, right? Then this is for you.

It’s easy to procrastinate when you’re getting a raw deal. That’s the smart thing to do.

Academics is a game – and its prizes are good. Really good! There is more to the story than that though. What do you have to do to get that prize? And that matters even more than the prize. Study 18 hours a day for straight-A’s and a high-paying job someday in the distant future? Ughhh… Not me. That’s for sure.

I scored near the top of my college Engineering class while studying less than 15 minutes a morning. And seriously, I don’t sound like a super genius, do I?

Hint: I had barely scraped a 1.0 GPA in high school and I wasn’t skipping and having fun with friends either – I was… dare I say… trying my best.

Big Tip: trying doesn’t matter unless you’re experimenting or already using an effective strategy. Trying without an effective strategies is a waste that can plop your grades in the stinker. First step – STOP TRYING with ineffective strategies.

You got that?

Look… I’m a bit crazy. I get it. I’ve read hundreds of books on grades, learning, and memory. I spent sleepless nights studying obscure academic journals. I swear, I even read the book “How To Read A Book” and didn’t have to drink alcohol to do it!


You wanna’ know why?

Don’t tell anyone but… I care. I was emotionally crippled by the school system. I had heartless, lazy, and downright mean teachers (and a couple good ones that couldn’t help.) It took years for me to untangle their mess…

And I went to college and beat them at their own wretched game. Top scores. Easy studying. Time to make friends and impress the ladies. (You know… the important stuff!)

But I know… I wasn’t alone and I know there are others facing similar and worse challenges than I did. And I may be out of the warzone now but I can’t in good conscience leave you behind without my arsenal.

That’s why a decade ago I founded Smart Student Secrets and got link backs from LifeHack, HuffPo, and good college professors with names I can’t pronounce from all over the world that see these strategies crushing every day. But forget about them… the emails I get from grateful students… that’s the stuff a good life is made of.

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4 thoughts on “7 College Essay Tips That Will Land You The Spot

  • March 20, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

  • January 23, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    From experience, when writing college essays for admission it is important to brainstorm, research, and search your heart and mind. A wonderful essay comes from the heart and is backed up by facts, opinions and all that in between. Don’t get overwhelmed or intimidated. Just do your best and plan out what you want to say, how you want others to understand what you have written, and where you are coming from in the essay. Take your time and do your best, make sure you space out enough time to complete it and not be rushed or stressed while putting this important essay together.

  • December 11, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    I’d say the most important factor in writing a college essay is simply being yourself. When I wrote my essays for UW-Madison, I didn’t pretend to be anyone I am not. I was honest, humble, and yet I still accurately described my high school accomplishments, my desire to attend the school, and my devotion to a good education.

    I would imagine that college admissions officers have read thousands and thousands of “cookie cutter” essays… you definitely do not want that. Paint a picture of yourself! Who are you, really? What sets you apart from a series of GPA, ACT, SAT numbers?

    The essay is probably the most important part of the admissions process. It’s regarded very heavily for the above reason: colleges need a brief way to know exactly what it is that separates YOU from the other applicants, and what makes YOU more than just some test scores on a paper.

  • December 4, 2015 at 7:44 am

    I really enjoyed your points – not only in the light of college, but also as a writer in general.
    When working on my novel, I run into most of the issues that you have presented here. I like the advice, especially what to do when you get hang on trying to come up with the perfect first line.
    The thing about procrastination is also very true… I guess all writers hunt for advice and information in order not to write!


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