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5 Steps to Writing a Great College Essay

Find the Right College for Your Student Athlete

5 Steps to Writing a Great College Essay

STUDENT Athletes Corner –

Helpful tips for parents on supporting a successful student and swimmer

A column by Monica E. Randall, PhD.

Let me share a little known secret with you.  In recent years, college admissions officials have placed more weight on college essays when making admission decisions than they do on test scores or grade point averages.   In short, your kid MUST write a great college essay.

Why this change? First, many colleges no longer require students to submit standardized test scores. And second, grade inflation has made it nearly impossible to determine which students are truly college ready.  So, a great college essay is one way for students to set themselves apart from other students and demonstrate that they are ready for college success.

So, what makes a great college essay?  Here are 5 things that scholar-athletes must do in order to create a great college essay.

  • Students Should Write the Essay Themselves: Students must write their own essays.  Parents, I recommend that you support your teen by helping them brainstorm and identify possible essay topics but the bottom line is that these essays must be the student’s work.  College admissions officers can tell when an essay doesn’t have that ‘authentic voice of a seventeen-year-old’.  So, students, make sure that the writing is your own.
  • Remember that the college essay isn’t an English assignment: Your teen should realize that her college essay is not an English assignment that will be graded by her teacher.  She may have mastered the ‘summary statement’ to kick off her term paper, but she should save that for her SAT writing test.  A great college essay draws the reader into the essay and allows the story to unfold.
  • Act like a lens and focus: How does your teen get a focused message across to an admissions officer? Remind her to put herself in the reader’s chair for a moment.  Most admissions officers read hundreds of essays over a period of two to three months. This may get a bit tedious, so it’s okay if she considers something unique or unusual to write about.  Remind her to feel free to entertain, educate, or persuade as she develops a focused message. Descriptive words, powerful verbs, and lots of details paint a picture that makes the reader feel like he is right there with the writer. Remember that her goal is to get the reader to know her.
  • Be real: Be sure your teen uses her voice, explaining any slang or technical jargon. Remember she shouldn’t make things up or exaggerate.  She should be real – this is her chance for admissions officers to get to know her! A great college essay should complete her application and convey something key about her as a person.
  • Get the easy stuff right: Encourage your teen to review her essay for grammar, spelling, and for the overall flow of the essay. She should use transition words, statements or sentences to make sure the ideas are connected in a logical flow.  As a parent, you shouldn’t be involved in writing your child’s essays. However, every writer needs a good editor. Have someone proofread your student’s essays. Make sure that she sticks to the word limit, turns everything in on time and answers the essay prompt!


Frustrated because your teen still hasn’t finished her college essays? Don’t worry. There is still time to get them done.  Contact me at monica@bridge2colleges.com and schedule a complimentary phone call.


Happy writing!


Dr. Monica E. Randall is a college admissions expert and swim mom. Each year she helps thousands of students and parents through her online webinars, blogs, articles, workshops and working privately with students and their families. If you need help brainstorming topics, editing essays, coming up with your college list, or anything relating to the college process, please do not hesitate to contact her at monica@bridge2colleges.com.

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