9 Tips for College Application Essay Writing
As a high school teacher, you’re looking to make the biggest educational impact on your students before they complete their formal K-12 education. So, it’s no wonder that you’re always looking for new and better ways to prepare them for college and give them every chance to succeed once they get there. But then you realize that while your students have plenty of opportunities to hone their reading and writing skills as part of your normal curriculum, what’s really lacking is how to transition from being a high school student into being a college student. The first step in going to college is navigating your way through the lengthy college admissions process. And unless all your students have the financial resources to pay for a private admissions consultant, they’re really going to be left on their own for this.
Fortunately, you understand that each of your students deserves the chance to attend the college of their dreams. Your mission to help them master the skills they need to write the very best college admissions essays they’re capable of. To get you started, we’re sharing our favorite tips on developing a creative writing unit that incorporates college application essays. That way, the students in your class can watch the acceptance letters start rolling in.
1. As a class, look at both Common App prompts and Coalition App prompts that are provided online. Familiarizing your students with these popular essay prompts ahead of time will help them feel more comfortable and give them more time to plan out their responses than if they wait until it’s actually time to start applying to colleges. Many of the applications they fill out in the future will have these same (or very similar) college essay topics to choose from. You can find these college essay prompts by looking at the following websites:
2. Of course, each college or university will also include supplemental essay prompts that your students should gain familiarity with. To identify some of these, look at the applications for popular colleges and universities in your area and have your students share schools they’re interested in applying to. Once you have a good list, you can walk through these supplemental essay prompts with your class, discussing what it is that each prompt is trying to elicit in a response. The following websites can help you with this step:
3. Discuss the different styles of essays and which of these styles are best suited for each type of essay prompt. The styles you want to focus on in particular are narrative, descriptive, expository, compare and contrast, and persuasive or argumentative essays. It’s important that they gain practice using each of these styles while still having their personal voice come across to the college admissions team.
4. Have your class read great college essay examples as a group. While doing so identify which style was used, which features worked, what traps the writers avoided, and how your students might apply these techniques to their own writing.
5. Ask your students to select an essay prompt then guide them through the entire brainstorming process. Consider doing this in peer groups so that each student has a team of individuals to give them new ideas and help them whenever they get stuck.
6. Once the brainstorming process is complete, it’s time for your students to actually start writing their college admissions essays. In doing so, they will be able to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, get assistance from the teacher and their peers, and eliminate a lot of the anxiety that comes from completing an unfamiliar task.
7. The writing process is the perfect opportunity for you to address some of the formatting issues that may come up for your students as well. Never assume that your students will automatically know the college essay format.
8. Typing is a critical skill, so the faster and more accurate your students type, the better. While you can certainly allow outlines, rough drafts, and editing to be written by hand, the final draft of a college essay should always be typed up because that is what colleges and universities will expect.
9. Lastly, students should take everything they’ve learned during the peer review process and the recommendations you’ve provided to strengthen their essays before submitting them. While grammar and spelling issues are certainly important here, just as important is including personal details that will allow the college admissions team to really understand who each of your students are, how their backgrounds have prepared them for college, what personal aspirations they have, and what unique attributes they will bring to the campus environment.
Teaching your students how to write the best college essays they can is no easy task. It simply can’t be a one-and-done type of activity. You will need to put a lot of effort into developing a creative writing unit that focuses on learning all of the important skills needed to write great college essays. Be sure to break down each step of the college essay writing process into multiple different lessons. Some activities may last a day while others may last a week or more. For example, you should be prepared to address things like how to start a college essay and answer questions like: How long should a college essay be?
It’s important to show your students that the college admissions process should not be rushed and that they should take their time to get it right, especially when it comes to writing college admissions essays that get noticed. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to find the resources you need to get started. Our list above is only the first step. Next, you’ll want to check the curriculum you’re already using as many textbook companies include entire essay writing sections in your printed books and workbooks and online. Then, check out some of the resources provided by EdTech companies and Teachers Pay Teachers sellers online.
Typing up that college essay is easier and faster with good typing skills. Give your students time to practice their typing skills with these free custom activities from Typing.com.
Grades 1 & 2