Strategies to Write an Engaging College Admissions Essay

woman writing in paper
Lana Tanich
Lana Tanich

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Most college applications require some form of an essay response to specific questions. These questions can range from very specific to something along the lines of “why should we choose you?” Whenever answering these types of questions it is crucial to stand out. A good college admissions essay need to start off on the right foot.

The college admissions office reads loads of these essays and it may be very difficult to explain “why you?” You need to elaborate on what you will bring to the table and show them a piece of who you are. So, for starters…


Pick the right topic.

One tip is to focus on a specific topic. Pick a thought you want to concentrate on or a single point that you want to get across. If you start jumping back and forth, the reader of your college admissions essay may lose interest or become too distracted. This can oftentimes be extremely tough because you may have a multitude of items you want to mention, but it’s best to narrow this down to the item that is most important to you and that directly answers the question at hand with the best possible example.


While writing:

It’s also vital to make sure that your personal college admissions essay doesn’t sound like you’re just writing this because you need to complete the application. So what are some approaches you can use to steer clear of that? Here are some tips:

Employ storytelling.

When you tell a story you keep your reader engaged. They want to know what will happen next and what is the ultimate point you are making with the story. It keeps your audience glued to the page.

Be unique.

With all the applications that come across the desks of the college admissions office, it’s probably refreshing to read something unusual. If you have a story or an experience that not many people have on the tip of their tongue, don’t be scared to use that to your advantage. Especially if this is something that made you grow as person or changed your perspective on life.

Use imagery.

Do you remember reading that special book and becoming totally engulfed in its pages because you were picturing everything around you as if you traveled to a different dimension? If that was ever the case with you, you probably still remember the name of that book to this day. Well if you can do that in your college essay, that will surely get you noticed. Appeal to the visual sense in your essay. This will engage your reader thus allowing them to enjoy your work. This in turn carries with it positive emotions that can become that tipping point on the final decision.

Convey emotion.

The key is often to appeal to a multiple senses. Why are movies so successful? They utilize many senses and often engage our emotions (if they don’t, it’s likely the movie won’t be a big hit). You can do the same in your essay by using imagery and storytelling. Make your audience “feel” something, take them on a journey, appeal to the “human factor.” And using emotion does not necessarily mean a heartbreaking story. It can be a story of love, friendship, kindness, or something funny, surprising, fearful, etc. Even the emotion of anticipation throughout your story can be a great strategy.

Keep your audience entertained.

Before writing your college essays, remember that your end recipient is a human. Your job is to make them understand the real you. But for your story to be heard your viewer needs to be engaged. Reading some marketing material can be a great strategy in helping you accomplish that. For example, art of storytelling as it applies in marketing can be instrumental in helping you structure your essay and find the key points to focus on. Although some marketing strategies can be very useful it is always vital to tell a genuine story in order to get your message across.


These are just some of the tips on keeping those in the college admissions engaged and standing out among your peers. We highly recommend this updated guide for tips on writing your essay, from start to finish. If you’d like to learn more about how Empowerly helps our students succeed, book your consult to learn more.

Questions? Let us know!