The 4 Cs of College Essay Writing

Your college essay may be just one part of your application packet, but it’s an important one. Feeling anxious about showing admissions officers who are you on the page?

The four Cs of college essay right can help you tell an engaging story that captures the reader’s interest and makes them want to know more.


What’s the point of your essay? Is it clear to the reader from the very beginning? This is key since this is one of the main ways that admissions officers can see beyond your test scores. If you’re feeling like your essay lacks clarity, try reviewing it and marking out the clichés.


How you tell your story is just as important as which story you decide to tell. For some inspiration, take a look at this Stanford Alumni article that collects first lines from application essays of the school’s 2008 class. As you can see, using a creative introduction is a great way to catch your reader’s attention.


Write so that the reader wants to keep reading. Aim for telling a good story, as if you are introducing yourself to someone through your favorite story about yourself. Use specific, descriptive language. Show, don’t tell. Instead of “I’m an extrovert,” go with “I’m the kind of person who will talk to the person next to me on the bus.” Use active words rather than passive ones. “I caught the pass as the crowd rose from their seats” is more compelling than “The pass was thrown to me as the crowd rose from their seats.”


Your college essay is not the time to try to give Tolstoy a run for his money. Use as few words as possible and make sure each word is the right one for the job. Using more than one adjective is a good example of when you need to carefully edit. Maybe that dark and stormy night should be either dark or stormy but not both. In fact, maybe it’s a pretty good bet that if it was night, it was dark.


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