© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

Writing the College Application Essay

Ace the app.

Writing a college entrance essay is intimidating, and it frequently rates a seven on most students' lists of "Ten things that are only slightly better than getting a root canal in a gas station bathroom." You probably feel like your essay can make the difference between a ticket to a top-rated university and a diploma from Jim Bob's BBQ and Technical College. And while it's true that there's a lot riding on your 500-650 word response, we don't think writing this essay has to suck as much as you might think it will. In fact, we believe that writing a college entrance essay can actually be (wait for it) fun. Okay, maybe not fun, but certainly a lot less horrendously craptastic than you thought it would be. And definitely easier.

Make no mistake, when we say easy, we don't mean sit back and watch the essay magically type itself as you eat Hot Pockets and Instagram pictures of said Hot Pockets. But we do mean that once you focus in on a few key components of the essay writing process, it might just feel like your essay wrote itself.

We took a cue from New Kids on the Block when we designed this course. No, we didn't whip out our acid washed jeans (circa 1984), but we did discover that breaking the writing process down step by step ("ooh, baby"), would make composing a stellar application essay so much easier than trying to bang it out all in one sitting. When you take it slow (and also take it seriously), you'll end up with an essay you'll be proud to submit, and maybe even one that will win you a spot at your favorite university. And guess what? We can help you. Ready to get started? Let's go.

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. Writing the College Application Essay

Designed to take students from muddled, confused thoughts to complete, polished essay.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 1: A Few Things You Should Know About College Application Essays (and a Couple That Might Surprise You)

Chances are good that you already know a few things about application essays, including the fact that if you want to go to college, you're going to have to write one. If you don't know this, well, surprise!

This is not your college admissions reader, so please don't try to impress her.

But there are a couple of things you may not have considered. For example, would it surprise you to learn that a number of college application readers are younger than your parents? They may even wear skinny jeans to work. And that they listen to the same music you do? We met an admissions officer once with "I'm a Belieber" tattooed on her wrist. How about the fact that in 2012, UCLA received more than 90,000 applications? (That means 90,000 essays that have to be read...and 90,000 essays that can be balled up to make an impromptu ball pit.)

When you write your college application essay, it's important to keep your audience in mind. So today, we'll introduce you to a real, live admissions reader to help you put a face to one member of the often nameless, blood-sucking hordes, we mean, committees, who may be reading your essay this fall. We have a feeling she's going to look a lot different from the bespectacled senior citizen you might picture in your mind when you hear the intimidating words "Admissions Officer." She may still suck blood though. That's debatable.

We'll also talk a little bit about the important role your essay plays in your admissions package. Just how important is it? Funny you should ask. We're about to tell you.

  • Course Length: 3 weeks
  • Grade Levels: 11, 12
  • Course Type: Short Course
  • Category:
    • College Prep
    • Writing
    • High School

Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?

Courses Tutorial