Tag Archives: Write Essay

Choosing a Topic: I created a common app account, now what?

Hello Class of 2015! Even though you might not want to hear it, now is the time to start thinking about applying to college, and there’s no better place to start than the essay. Not only can a top-tier Common App essay be your college application’s eye-catching masterpiece, it can also be recycled and used as the backbone of scholarship apps.

            So, how do you start the college essay? You start it the same way you’d start any other essay: by picking a topic. At first, this task can seem overwhelming. You’ll be devoting a month or more to building the essay, and you don’t want to waste your time pursuing a topic that you’ll later scrap. However, with a few simple tips, you’ll be able to pick a topic resting assured that it’s right for you.

‘What is a topic?’

            This ostensibly simple question is actually one of the most complex beasts you’ll have to tackle in the writing process. Sure, you know what you want to say: ‘I’m smart,’ ‘I have emotions,’ ‘I’m unique,’ etc.. But none of these are topics; these are the things that you use to build-out your topic.

            The topic is the story. It’s what makes a reader want to read. Imagine your favorite book; would it still be your favorite if the author had blatantly spelled-out his point rather than spinning it into a story? Probably not, and the same is true for your essay. Use the app itself to tell the reviewer about your accomplishments. The essay should be a story in which you are one of the main characters. It should be engaging and easy to read, not a snooze-fest of your achievements, and it should be written in a much lighter tone than a book report or science paper. Keep these things at forefront of your mind when picking a topic.

‘Ok, so what story should I use?’

            First and foremost, pick something that actually happened to you. Although some universities may allow you to submit a completely fictional work as long as you portray it as such, it’s just easier to figure-out how to tell the reader about yourself if you’re describing your actual emotions/feelings/actions toward a real event.

            The story should be something substantive. Even though the vacation to Elitch Gardens you took three years ago might have been fun, it’s not an essay-worthy topic unless either a.) something happened to you that made it a deeply impactful learning experience or b.) you can relate it to one of your core ideals or principles. This is not to say that your essay needs to be a grandiose life-story. In fact, one of the best admission essays I’ve ever read was set in a train station, but it was a good essay because it linked directly to the student’s core ideals.

            The underlying implication of all this is that you need to (gasp!) actually figure-out what’s important to you and what type of person you are. Don’t just use your essay to tell admissions officers ‘what they want to hear’ because a.) your essay will be boring and b.) it won’t work. You need to convey the real you, and to do that, you’ll need to figure out what the real you is.

‘Ok, I just finished a trippy, metaphysical journey to find the real me. Is there anything else?’

            Why yes, there is; thanks for asking. The main things to worry about now are offensiveness and negative energy. Make sure that you’re not openly disparaging, and focus on the positive rather than the negative. For instance, say that you want to talk about how an eye-opening vacation made you realize that you needed to go to a school that’s far from home. ‘How junior year of high school made me realize that I hate the Rust Belt’ would be a terrible way to express that. It’s openly disparaging and full of negativity.  You could say the exact same things in a positive light: ‘How my trip abroad made me realize I needed to expand my horizons.’ You’d be expressing the same ideas but in a positive way.

‘So… now what?’

What do you mean ‘now what?’ Get writing! You don’t need to spend 24-hours-a-day on your essay, but put a draft on paper this month. Print it out, put it in a manilla file folder, and, if you want to, forget about it until next month. Choosing a topic is one of the hardest parts of the essay. If you pick one now and write-out your ideas, you’ll have a Shakespearean work come October of next year.

 Visit next month and we’ll figure-out what you need to do in your first revision.

 Dakota J. Meyers is a Yale Alumnus, Corporate Strategy Analyst, and Freelance Essay Adviser based in Wash Park, Denver, CO.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing the College Admission Essay

The college admission essay can be the most important piece of high school writing.  For some students, it can make the difference between the thin envelope and the thick envelope.  Knowing that it is far too important to wait until the last minute to write this essay, we thought we would give you a list of do’s and don’ts for writing that perfect college essay that you can use to get started over the summer.


  • Be yourself
    The best essay is intensely personal and is something that only you could have written.  When reading the essay, the college admission officer wants to answer the question, “What makes this student tick?  Why does he or she get out of bed in the morning?”  They want to learn about what motivates you and ultimately why they should accept you to their school.
  • Write with passion
    Many colleges are looking to craft a well-rounded freshmen class.  That doesn’t mean they want well rounded students.  Quite the opposite, they are looking for students who bring a particular skill or talent to their campus.  They want angular students.  So, write about the things that you are most passionate about.  That will help them to learn what you will add to the college campus.
  • Have someone else read the essay
    The best essay is one that someone who doesn’t know you reads and then gets a sense that they know you as a person, and even better, that they would want to be friends with you.  It is also important to remember, that while spell check may tell you if a word is spelled incorrectly, it can’t tell you if it is the right word.  Almost 20 years later, my father still maintains that the reason my brother was wait listed at Notre Dame was because he wrote, “…and that is why I want to go to your collage.”
  • Tell how you have grown and what you have learned
    It is important to remember, that ultimately, your college essay isn’t about an event, it is about you.  So, don’t just describe an obstacle, tell how you overcame it and what you learned from it.  If you made a mistake, admit it, and take ownership.  Colleges are looking to see growth.


  • Write about an overdone essay topic
    Often students want to write about how they won the big game, or how their summer travel changed their outlook on the world.  These essay topics have become trite.  Unless you can write about them in a fresh way that brings the essay to life for the admission officer, you may want to avoid these topics.
  • Use overly flowery language
    You only get 250 to 500 words to present your case to the admissions office as to why you should be accepted into their incoming freshmen class, so don’t waste any of them.  The best writing for a college admission essay is journalistic.  That is crisp and concise.  It is ok to be descriptive in the opening paragraph to try and grab the readers attention, however, after the introduction, you should be overly descriptive of things, instead you should describe your feelings, emotions, and motivation.
  • Tell them what you think they want to hear
    Too often students tell admissions officers what the student thinks the admission officer wants to hear.  However, that often leads to an essay that isn’t authentic.  Instead, you should focus on what you want the college to know about you that they won’t be able to find anywhere else except in your essay.
  • Be afraid to take risks
    One admission officer told me that not enough students take risks. While you shouldn’t write anything that is too crazy, you do want to take calculated risks.  Don’t be afraid to tell a story that will reveal some of your personality and allow the admission officer to learn what motivates you, even if the story may seem to be a little unusual.
  • Write like you speak
    The college admission essay is a formal essay, it shouldn’t include slang, colloquialisms, or cliches.

Many Eyes, But Only One Voice

Recently I was asked to answer a question as part of the Unigo Experts Network.

AdmissionHook.com Advice for How to Write the Best College Admission Essay

AdmissionHook.com Advice on How To Write The Best College Admission Essay

In this video James Maroney and Guy Milone discuss what makes a good college admission essay. Guy gives tips on telling the story and some examples of essays he has read in the past that truly resonated with him.

Spotlight Essay Advice with Paul Brower, Associate Director of Admission at Nichols College

In this video, James Maroney of www.admissionhook.com interviews Paul Brower, Associate Director of Admission at Nichols College, about the personal statement.