3 Tips to Writing an Unforgettable College Application Essay

The Common Application is live! The Common Application is an undergraduate admissions application for 800+ universities in the United States, available in both English and Spanish. To learn more about the colleges that accept the Common Application, check out their website here! Transcend Academy wants to help you kick off writing an unforgettable college essay for the Common App. Here are 3 tips to get you started:

1. Review everything you have done in high school

The college application essay is a chance to share what makes you YOU. Admissions committees want to know what motivates you and what makes you wake up each morning and sing the "Happy" song. If you don't know right away (and most don't), then begin to write down all the things you have done in high school. After that, ask your parents and relatives to remind you of more to add to the list. Be sure to include all academic classes, school activities, outside school events, jobs, volunteer work, and anything else. Then, you will have a basis to review what you have done.

BONUS: Put this same information into a resume template, and you can submit it with your university applications!

2. Reflect on a common thread

Now that you have everything written down, review everything you have done to find the common thread over your high school career. If you have multiple English classes, then maybe you love writing! If you have traveled to Asia many times, maybe learning about new cultures lights your fire! If it's hard to tell, ask a parent or teacher to help you discover that thread. Everyone has a story, so now find yours. If you don't have enough material to work with, go back to step 1.

BONUS: Find several common themes, and those could be the basis of multiple college essays required for your applications. Some colleges and universities require multiple essays, so it’s always best to be prepared.

3. Find your defining example

Now that you have a better sense of your motivation, find the one time that best exemplifies this common thread. If you love traveling, maybe it's the time when a planned road trip with your family took an unexpected turn, and you were forced to suddenly change your plans. You were upset at first, but upon reflection you realized it was an opportunity to explore new things, and you’ve kept that mindset as your mantra ever since. Thus begins your journey of exploring the world that will continue in college.

BONUS: Remember as many details as possible from that one example, and you could have the first paragraph of your college essay. Write down everything you remember, even if it seems like too much information. It can always be edited down with the help of a Transcend Academy adviser, parent, teacher, or another mentor.


There you have it! 3 steps to get you started on your college application. You may think, “It’s only August, why do I need to start thinking about this now?” There are two major reasons you want to start considering these steps.

The first is that these kinds of essays take longer to write than you may think. Most college application essays have a maximum word count of 500 words, and that isn’t very much space for telling a stranger about your best characteristics. Some students write and rewrite their college essay until they finally hit upon the best way to frame their story. Plus, once you’ve figured out your common thread and how to best showcase it, you have to worry about grammar and word choice. While sites like Grammarly (a free writing app) are useful for catching mistakes, it’s always best to have someone else look over it. You probably don’t want to frantically email them the night before your essay is due, begging for revisions, so you should schedule plenty of time for their edits.

The second reason you want to start thinking about your college application essay now is that you may realize that you don’t have a strong common thread or an excellent story to exemplify your best traits. If you realize this fact in August, it gives you enough time to do something about the situation. If you really enjoy English, but haven’t done much besides taking extra classes at your school, you can take this time to get a previously-written work published. Submit a short story from your creative writing class to magazines, local and national, in print and online, so you can have a clear moment to highlight your love of English. Besides getting something published, you could volunteer as a tutor at your local library or middle school or ask to intern at a local publishing company, newspaper, etc. The opportunities are endless, as long as you start investigating sooner rather than later.


Still nervous about your college application essay? Still have unanswered questions? Send Transcend Academy a note, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible to help you out!


What are you going to be writing your college application essay about? Let us know!       

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