Essentially, good college essay writing is no different than essays you’ve written in high school. Begin writing your college personal statement by composing an outline. An outline is your roadmap of where your college personal statement needs to go, and how you’re going to get there through skillful, eloquent argumentation. Even if your “evidence” is your own life experience, you must argue, cite and analyze as you would with any term paper.

Your first step is selecting a topic and deciding upon your subject matter or “thesis statement,” if you will. To help you decide what to write about for your college personal statment, be sure to read our detailed analysis of College Essay Topics.

The five-paragraph essay form has served you well throughout high school, no need to abandon it on your college admission essay. No, five paragraphs aren’t a must, and you should feel free to change as needed. But do keep in mind that breaking up your college personal statement into paragraphs is a subtle demonstration of your ability to organize your thoughts.

Your essay for college now has a topic, a thesis. When you write your outline, analyze the beats – think of the arguments you will make in a mounting fashion, as good college essay writing will always have a dramatic build to its structure. Don’t let your personal essay sag in the middle, and especially not at the end.

Throughout high school, the vast majority of students use the Conclusion paragraph as a throwaway bit of fluff in which you merely recycle what you’ve already said. Here, leaving a lasting impression has never been so important, so critical to your success in getting into an Ivy League school.

To be on the safe side, utterly avoid words and phrases like “And so,” “In summary,” “In conclusion,” “Therefore,” “And that’s why I,” etc. You need to learn how to sum up without sounding like you’re summing up, if that makes any sense.

college application essays

Remember: it’s not about wrapping it up in a nice little package. It’s about demonstrating the connections you were able to make between seemingly disparate things, and the depth you were able to mine out of something apparently shallow or trivial or ephemeral.

And so, you should therefore track the progression of your arguments and examples in your outline, and finish off with a conclusion that is, above all, bordering on the revelatory – as if you’ve just come to this realization yourself.

(And yes, the use of “And so” and “therefore” in that last paragraph was completely intentional and done tongue-in-cheek. After all, we’re not the ones writing college application essays! You are!)