8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Writing Your First College Essay

Looking at a blank page is intimidating, but before you panic or start writing your essay, be sure to ask yourself these eight questions.

College essays are tough, but they’re not as menacing as you might think. Too many prospective college students get the false idea that their college essays need to be perfect, polished masterpieces if they’re going to stand any chance of getting accepted. That’s simply not true.

College essays are a tool for colleges to get to know their candidates. It’s true that structure, content, and grammar are all important factors you’ll be judged on, but it’s more important to show off who you are and why you’re a good fit for the university.

Before you start writing your college essay, ask yourself these eight questions:

1.       Who am I? This is a huge question, but it’s tougher than it first appears. How do you define yourself? What do you associate yourself with? Who is the person you want to become? Have a good understanding of your true identity before you start writing.

2.       What do I want in life? This is more than just a career. What are your absolute long-term goals? What do you need to be happy?

3.       What are my career goals? Loosely tied with question two, this will help you determine what major you want—and it can help you select a program in addition to writing your essay.

4.       What are my greatest achievements? Think back to everything you’ve done in your life. What are you most proud of? These can be grades, sports achievements, community leadership—anything.

5.       Why is college important to me? Don’t think of this as “why is college important?” Instead, figure out why it’s important to you. And be honest!

6.       Why is this the college for me? Show that you know the university. Figure out why you’re a perfect fit for the university you’re applying to.

7.       What am I going to do in college? This one might be easier for you. Are you there to be a part of the community, or are you just there to go to class?

8.       How will college change you? This is another big question, but it’s important to think about now. How is college going to change your identity, beyond new knowledge?

If you can answer these questions with confidence, you’ll be well on your way to writing a solid, personal college essay.