College essay support

Let’s tell your story.

What is a college essay?

A college essay is an opportunity for an admissions or scholarship committee to learn more about an applicant, and how they think and express themselves through writing. It’s not always required for admission, but is often required for specific scholarships or academic programs. The average essay is approximately 400-600 words and can be on a specific topic or prompt, or a personal statement.

Why write a college essay?

Your transcript and test scores show a college or university what you have accomplished, but not much more about who you are beyond your grades and academic achievements. A college essay gives you the opportunity to tell colleges about your life and differentiate you from hundreds or thousands of applicants. It can tell the story of your past and provide a vision of what you want to do with your future.

College essays are not required to be admitted into an undergraduate program at ASU, NAU and Arizona. However, essays may be required for certain scholarships, honors programs and graduate degree programs.

What makes a memorable college essay?

A good college essay is personal and authentic.

Rather than thinking about what a college or university wants to hear, spend time reflecting on experiences from your personal life that make you who you are.

Did an event in your life inspire you to pursue a specific field? Do you have a particular talent or passion that you’ve pursued outside of school? Do you have a vision for the future? These approaches make memorable essays because no one else has exactly the same experiences as you.

A memorable college essay tells a story rather than summarizing.

Most applicants take similar tests and courses and participate in many of the same clubs and organizations.

Don’t summarize accomplishments that can be found on other parts of your application. Pull the reader into a story; don’t run them through a narrative list of what you’ve done.

Top 5 tips for writing college essays


Answer the prompt.

If the application poses a specific question or prompt, be sure to answer it directly.


Avoid common themes.

Learning a life lesson from a high school sport or volunteering. Overcoming common obstacles. These are themes that many students use when writing college essays. Instead, reflect on what is unique about your story. Be specific.


Stick to the word count.

Writing more than is required is not recommended. Show that you can follow directions and tell a compelling story with the allotted word count.


Share your work.

Ask a teacher and guidance counselor to serve as your editors. Getting the perspective of someone outside of your experience can help ensure you are communicating it well. Share drafts with them and ask for honest feedback. Give yourself and your supporters enough time to refine the essay.


Proofread, proofread, proofread.

Colleges and universities want to get to know you through your college essay, but they are also assessing your writing ability. Mistakes in grammar, punctuation and sentence structure are errors that will draw a reader’s attention away from the story and reflect poorly on you. Ask a few teachers, friends or your parents — anyone who is particularly strong in grammar — to do a final review of your essay before you submit.

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