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Essential Strategies for Writing a Great Essay
By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

Demand 100% from every sentence.

Here is a simple test. As you read your work, ask yourself if each sentence makes you want to read the next one. You can take this even further by being just as strict with every word. Is each word used purposefully and correctly? Do not just rely on your opinion. Seek the opinions of others. If your essay does not compel the reader to finish reading your paper, it still needs work.

Force yourself to analyze your motivations.

When you are writing about your motivations, probe deeply into yourself for the answer. For example, if you say that watching a certain concert as a child inspired you to become a musician, identify exactly what it was about the concert that motivated you. Was it the performer's command of the audience? Was it the emotion that the music raised in you? If you are showing cause and effect, carefully and fully explain the cause.

Use original language.

Try to describe people, places and events in a unique—but not awkward—style. Think of language as a toy and play with it. Experiment with dialogue, vary the length of sentences and pose questions. If you use unfamiliar words, make sure that you use them correctly. It is better to use ordinary language correctly than to use roller coaster exciting language incorrectly.

Final Thoughts ...

It is our belief that the college admissions essay can make or break an applicant's chances of getting into a selective college. This theory has also been supported by admissions officers with whom we've talked. And through years of working with students who were both successful and unsuccessful at getting into their top-choice colleges, we have gained real-world experience in analyzing student essays. While each student essay that we read was different in tone, style and language, the successful ones all shared the ten traits described above. As you sit down to write your masterpiece, keep these points in mind and use them to guide you through the writing process. We wish you the best of luck!

About the Author

Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

Accepted! 50 Successful College Admission Essays

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Learn how to write the essay that will get you into your dream college with this step-by-step guide that includes writing strategies from top students and admission officers. Read over 50 successful essays, and learn the 25 essay mistakes you must avoid.

Learn More

Get Into Any College

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
The only how-to book which shows all students how to get into the school of their dreams. Based on the experiences of dozens of successful students and authored by two graduates of Harvard, this book shows you how to ace the application, essay, interview, and standardized tests.

Learn More