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How to write a college application essay fast

How to write college personal statement

A college application essay (personal statement) plays a critical part in determining whether or not you get to join your favorite college.

It may be your only chance to impress the admissions board so you have to come up with the best possible draft. For this reason, you need to take time to write and rewrite until you find the perfect copy.

But what if you want to one-shot it or for some reason you left it till the last minute to draft your college essay?

You can still write a perfect copy of your college essay with limited time by following the tips below.

10 stages of writing a college admission essay

#1. Read the questions on the essay carefully

This is the first and most critical step! Misinterpret a word or sentence and you’ll fail flat. Study this part of the essay slowly and carefully before you start writing.

Once you have an answer or answers, you will have an idea of what you are supposed to write. If you are having a hard time starting, note down every idea that comes to your mind.

When you are done, pick the idea that best fits your story and scribble it on your notebook or type it out on your PC. 

#2. Set a deadline

Before getting started with your first draft, confirm the amount of time you have left before the submission deadline.

For instance, if you have three days left, then day one should be used for brainstorming and outlining. The second day should be for writing the essay and the third day should be for revising and submitting the essay.

The idea here is to have a working plan that you can follow. With a plan in place, the chances of things going wrong are minimal and you’ll have your work ready at the desired time.

Remember to allocate some time for emergencies that may derail your progress – you only have one chance with your application.

#3. Do in-depth research

If your college essay needs a bit of research, look for the specific information highlighted on the question(s).

Collect all the key information you will need to use in your essay. Don’t be in a rush lest you miss something important. 

This is where you find your thesis. Pick what you’ve written and come up with a hook.

  • What’s the most interesting part of your story?
  • At what point in the story does the reader get the meaning?
  • What do you want the admission officer to pick from your story?

#4. Decide on the structure to use in your application essay

Depending on the questions on the essay, you can pick a narrative or a montage essay structure.

If the requirement was for you to showcase your personal growth or how you overcame a hurdle, then the narrative structure is your best bet.

In this essay structure, you tell a story in chronological order. This is the best and the easiest structure if you are time-barred. 

If you have several stories that have a common theme, use a montage structure. This essay structure brings together all the little stories inside your big story.

The montage structure brings out the different aspects of your life or identity. A montage structure would be the best approach if you have ample time to compose your college application essay. 

#5. Make an outline of your college essay

The outline should divide your essay into five parts which you can designate as paragraphs. Two of these paragraphs will be your introduction and conclusion – the other three will be your body paragraph.

Your introduction should start with a hook to captivate the reader as soon as they start reading and a thesis statement.

Think of the thesis statement as all your ideas condensed into a sentence or two.

The three body paragraphs should have a main point, evidence supporting the main point, summary sentences as well as transitions into the following paragraph.

Each of the paragraphs’ main points should have an obvious connection to the thesis statement. Once you come up with all these elements, your outline is ready to move on to the next phase.

#6. Write each paragraph’s key sentences

Now that you’ve already drafted your outline, write strong and precise sentences that won’t need any more editing. This should take less than an hour.

#7. Write the introduction and the conclusion

From step #5, use the hook and thesis statement to build your introduction. Your hook could be statistical information related to your topic, it could be a relevant anecdote or a quote.

Add a sentence or two into it before outlining your thesis statement that’ll set the basis of your body paragraphs.

As usual, the conclusion is for re-summarizing your thesis statement while still linking it to the body’s paragraphs. Have a conclusive sentence that captures everything in your paper.

Notice how we’ve covered the conclusion before talking about the body paragraphs? It’s deliberate.

Since you already know the story to give in your essay – you know the ending already. For this reason, you can easily come up with a conclusion before writing the whole story.

Writing the conclusion first will make it easier to compose your body paragraphs. In some cases, you can start with the conclusion, go to the body paragraphs and then finish with the introduction.

#8. Compose your body paragraphs

Introduce and summarize the paragraphs that you had outlined. This time you write from the start to the end. Be personal and unique in your writing.

Zoom in on special moments rather than having a summary of your life. Write as if you’re talking to a friend – remember the person reading is also human and you want them to be you’d want them to be your friend.

Share your thoughts and feelings; be vulnerable. Let the focus of the essay be on you and not any other person. 

#9. Proofread your essay

You need to have left ample time to go through your essay to ensure everything is correct.

Check if the thesis statement and each key sentences in the paragraphs are alright. Make sure there’s a logical connection between each part of the application essay. 

Every sentence should make sense – get rid of any that you feel doesn’t add any kind of value to your composition.

Check for grammatical errors and improper sentence structure. You can use tools like Grammarly and Hemmingway to help you catch all the errors.

After doing all these, you can ask a friend, family, or your tutor to read through your draft and give any recommendations.

#10. Write the final draft 

Write the final version of your essay and ensure you meet the word count.

Follow the institution’s word count. Reread it to ensure everything is ok. The essay is now ready for submission!

How to choose a college admission essay topic

The most difficult part when writing a college admission essay is picking the topic. Sometimes you are given open-ended questions which give you the freedom to write about pretty much anything.

We recommend you narrow your focus to a specific hobby or an experience that changed you. You can also write about something personal like how you think, your strengths, your values, or something that brings out an aspect of your background.

You don’t have to discuss a major milestone in your life. Even the mundane stuff like a student’s commute to and from school can make a great college essay if well thought out.

The most important when writing a college essay is to ensure the essay tells a story and it shows who you are as a person.

What makes a good essay?

A good essay should;

  • Be interesting
  • Explain who you are as a person and the things you care about
  • Give a story in detail complete with verbs and adjectives
  • Show that you are a good person and that you’ll come out of college an improved person

What is a bad college essay?

When writing your essay, avoid the following;

  • Telling more than necessary; stick to one theme
  • Being repetitive
  • Sounding controversial or too intellectual
  • Bringing out a persona that isn’t you

Wrapping it up

You have only one shot to impress with your college application essay. Take your time with each step in this guide.

It might surprise you how convincing you’ll sound if you pay attention to every detail we’ve outlined above.

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