5 Steps to the Perfect College Admissions Essay

college essay writing
Madeleine Karydes
Madeleine Karydes

Madeleine attended UC Berkeley and double-majored in English and Media Studies. She is now an integral part of the Empowerly team.

One lesson drilled in during college admission counseling is to never procrastinate, especially with your college admissions essays. While it may seem obvious or even redundant, high school counselors are on to something!

When they tell you not to wait until the last minute, it’s because your college admission essay is extremely important. It’s one way that colleges get to know you and what you are capable of as a student; so it is crucial to spend enough time preparing and writing your essay. Here are five useful steps when it comes to crafting a seamless college essay:

Step 1:

Understand the prompt and instructions. This step is very important because colleges are looking for students that can follow directions. One of the best ways to understand the prompts and instructions? Break them down. Remember, take it one step at a time, and address every part of the prompt clearly.

Step 2:

Create an outline. Yes, an outline, the same thing that your elementary school teachers taught you to do before every essay. Outlines can actually be very helpful, especially when it comes to following instructions and keeping you on topic. Let your outline guide your essay’s direction, to ensure good flow and avoid rambling.

Step 3:

Write a bad first draft. Especially if you’re struggling to get started, a bad first draft is the way to go. Don’t worry about grammar, sentence syntax, or commas. Sometimes the fear of wanting to be perfect makes it extremely hard to start writing. You can always go back and polish this draft again and again, but you need to start somewhere. The more ideas you jot down, the more you have to work with and narrow down. Remember: the primary goal is just to get your thoughts down on paper.

Step 4:

Edit your rough draft. Wait a while; in fact, make sure that you have at least given yourself 24 hours after you wrote the essay before you start the editing process. The longer you wait, the better! The additional time allows you to breathe and go into the editing process with a clear head. Start editing your draft by rereading what you wrote, and picking out the best ideas. Then edit for grammar, making sure that it flows and tells a good, clear story. Once you edit it this time, take another 24 hours, if not more. After your break, come back and edit it one more time. The more times that you can self-edit your essay, the better. 

Step 5:

Have your college counselor edit your essay. There is nothing better than having another set of eyes read your essay. The best part about having your college counselor review your work? They have extensive knowledge of the college admission application process, and they’ve probably read hundreds of essays before yours. Our college counselors and our Empowerly team specialize in editing and helping you write the best college essay possible.


The college admission process can be complicated and stressful, especially when it comes to writing your essays. That is why having a trusted college counselor can help alleviate some of the unknown stress. So follow these five steps, especially the last one, to ease your application and essay process.

Questions? Let us know!