Most university applications require a student to write at least one essay so that the admissions committee can get to know the student beyond just grades and test scores. It gives the university an opportunity to “hear” your voice, especially about your personality, leadership experience, interests, and how you will contribute to the school and/or community to assess if you are a good fit for their school or not.


A 2014 study from the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC),  found that while grades, strength of curriculum and admission test scores are the top factors in the college admission decision, a majority of colleges and universities believe the essay to be of considerable or moderate importance in determining which academically qualified students they would choose.


Admissions Offices will give a student various essay prompts and will typically ask a student to choose among them.  The Common Application typically announces the annual prompts . Students can access applications, short answer questions, and essay prompts for Texas schools on ApplyTexas.


Here are some tips for writing an essay that will leave an impression on the admissions committee:

  • Approach essays as a “why we are perfect for each other” assignment- colleges want to see that you would be a good match for their school
  • Don’t be afraid to express your opinion/view point- the committee is looking for your ability to write and your personality, not whether or not they agree with you
  • Don’t write about a cliché topics, like sports as a metaphor for life—the purpose of the essay is to stand out!
  • Have an introduction and conclusion, no matter what structure/format you use
  • Avoid using emotional words and phrases like “It is my destiny to attend this school” because it comes off as cheesy
  • Focus on the positive, even when talking about a seemingly negative experience— reframe and discuss what you have learned, how the experience changed you, etc.
  • Research and discuss how you will contribute to the school and community- mention clubs, classes, professors, and activities you are actually excited about or something you would like to start there
  • It is expected that you will use the same essay for multiple schools so make sure you change the college name and other identifying characteristics for each school


Examples of successful college essays can be found here: