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Write a College Essay Hero
March 31, 2021 | Read Time: 8.5 Minutes

How to Write a College Essay: the Personal Statement and Writing Supplement

Rachel Blakley

How to Write a College Essay

Whether you are applying to college through The Common Application or directly from the college’s website, you will be asked to write a college essay, sometimes called the personal statement. Here, we will explore how to write a college admission essay you feel proud of by exploring tips from college admissions counselors and looking at college essay examples for admission.

The Basics: How to Write a College Essay

Before we talk about how to write a college admission essay, let’s take a step back and talk about the process and how to set yourself up for success.

Start early

It may be intimidating to sit in front of a blank computer page and start writing, so think about gathering your thoughts in a different format. Before you sit down to write, consider taking notes on your phone or on sticky notes around your room as ideas come to you. When you do sit down to write, try laying out your ideas in an outline first and then draft it into complete sentences later. Breaking down the process in this way can be less daunting and will allow you to focus on the topic and the most important part of the essay—YOU!

Schedule Time to Write

No matter how hard you try, there will always be something that seems more pressing than sitting down to write your essay. As you prepare for your college application process, schedule time into your day to write. Find a quiet, distraction-free space, and write your thoughts down. Whether you just work on a few sentences or you’re able to write the bulk of your essay, you’ll be glad you set time aside once it comes time to submit your applications.

Read the Instructions

This is the most simple yet possibly the most important part of the essay-writing process. You want to read each part of your application carefully, including the essay prompt. If you submit something that doesn’t follow directions, the admissions counselors may assume you won’t know how to follow directions, and it could affect your chances of getting into your desired school.

The Common Application

The Common Application, known as Common App, is accepted by more than 900 schools, and helps streamline the tedious process of applying for colleges. Information, including your name, address, grades, extracurriculars, and parental employment, will just be entered one time so you don’t have to spend extra time inputting this in multiple applications.

It’s a good idea to start your Common Application around August 1, when applications open up. This will give you enough time to get all of your background information in and explore any questions you have before you get ready to start your senior year. The essay you will write in the Common App will be used by all colleges you choose to apply to, so it’s important to keep your essay broad but specific to yourself.

When you apply via the Common Application you will be asked to write an essay responding to one of seven prompts. Be sure to read each prompt carefully and choose the one that speaks to you the most or the one you feel you have the most to write about.

Editing the College Essay: Dos and Don’ts

Before we get into tips for college application essays, we want to make sure we don’t skip over an important step in the writing process. It is essential that you go into your essay-writing process with the expectation that you will write multiple drafts of your essay. Admissions counselors are expecting your best work, so you don’t want to submit a first draft.

There are many options when it comes to editing your essay. You can have a parent or guardian read your essay if you feel they are capable of giving good feedback, you could seek outside help from a paid service, and you can ask peers or teachers to help edit your essay. Any of these choices can be a good option, but just be sure to not let anyone overedit your essay. You still want it to sound like yourself.

Things to look for when editing your essay

Edits can be done in a couple of rounds, and while you want to make sure your essay is perfect, that doesn’t mean each draft needs to be perfect. Your first draft should get all of your ideas onto paper. Your second draft should sharpen up your ideas and focus on your content. Show, don't tell. Your third and final draft should be checked for grammatical errors, spelling, and punctuation.

When you receive feedback from someone editing your essay, take each suggestion for what it is—a suggestion. The important things to remember are to keep the essay in your voice, the way you would say it, and not to let someone rewrite your essay for you.

College Essay Tips from Admissions Counselors

When you’re learning how to write a college essay, it can be helpful to hear directly from the source who will be reading your work. We talked to two Babson College Admissions Counselors: Jared Pierce, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions, and Eric Laboissonniere, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions. Here are their top tips for college admissions essays.

  • Keep it simple. My favorite essays have consistently been those essays that are about the seemingly most mundane and ordinary aspects of an applicant’s life—it is these topics that often showcase a student in the best light.”
  • Don’t write what you think we want to hear, write about YOU—your passions, what excites you, life experiences that have shaped you into the young adult you’ve become.”
  • Use the essays as an opportunity to share something about yourself that you may not already have shared in the rest of your application.”
  • It’s all about the hook! A catchy opening line, when used properly, can do wonders for an essay, baiting the reader to hang on the edge of every sentence.”
  • “Don’t restrict yourself with the traditional three- or five-paragraph essay. This is a great opportunity to express yourself creatively and take some risks. Structure your essay in the way that you feel will best tell your story!”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • “Choose a topic that might not be as easy to see in your application.” Maybe you have a hobby that doesn’t show up on your transcript. Your essay is the place to talk about that passion and show your authentic self.
  • “Don’t stress.”

Babson College Essay Examples for Admission

If you’ve read all you can about how to write a college essay but you still can’t seem to get your writing juices flowing, check out some college essay examples for admission from our recent graduates.

“When it comes to defining yourself, no one knows you better than yourself, so don’t be afraid. You don’t have to package yourself into an ideal student, because there isn’t one; you just have to tell them who you are.”​

Read Demi’s essay »

“More often than not, seemingly insignificant events or experiences can best exemplify your passions and personality. Instead of just asking ‘how’ an event has shaped your life, try asking ‘why’ you have become the person you are today.”

Read Angellica’s essay »

“If your essay is taking you awhile to write: stop. Your brain is letting you know that you have selected the wrong topic to write about. The essay should flow, from your mind to your fingertips, with ease.”

Read Oussama’s essay »

“My advice to prospective students is to really think about what your application is missing—​what you can write about that brings personality to all the parts the evaluators have in front of them. The essay is your chance to give evaluators some insight of who you are, not only as a student, but as a person.”

Read Zachary’s essay »​

The Babson Writing Supplement

Whether you apply to Babson with The Common Application or the Babson Application, you will be asked to submit a writing supplement in response to the following prompt:

Your moment has arrived. Share with us the moments or experiences that have led you to apply to Babson College.

You are invited to respond to the writing supplement with either a traditional essay (500 words maximum) OR a one-minute video. Whichever you choose, no preference is given to either format in admission decisions.

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Babson College Supplement Examples for Admission

We asked the admission staff to select some of their favorite essays. We hope they will provide inspiration as you craft your stories.

“It is so important to be true to yourself and speak from your heart. The admissions officers don't want to hear y​our resume, but what makes up YOU.”

Watch Gabrielle’s video »

“Your vision defines you. Make sure you share your own voice and your own personal vision. Your supplement is not about creating the most interesting story. It’s about voicing your own.”

Read Ralph’s writing supplement »

“Remember the moment when you knew Babson was your perfect fit. Write enthusiastically, share your ideas confidently, and imagine yourself on campus. Show Babson who you strive to be.”

Read Bessie’s writing supplement »​

“Tell a story. In doing so, show who you are, what you want, and why you want it.”

Read Amy’s writing supplement »

Good Communication Skills Are Critical to Your Success

Whether you’ve come here to learn about how to write a college essay or to learn more about Babson College’s admissions process, we encourage you to check out Babson’s one-of-a-kind education that balances action, experimentation, and creativity. From day one, students learn by doing through immersive, hands-on experiences that complement our innovative, rigorous academic curriculum.

Effective communication is critical in business. Babson offers highly regarded courses in writing and public speaking to prepare our students for the challenges of the business world so that they are best equipped to lead.

Learn more about Babson College admission requirements.

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About the Author

Rachel Blakley is a copywriter and digital marketing professional. An alumna of Purdue University, she has worked with startups, associations, direct-to-consumer businesses, and B2B brands across the country to improve their content strategy.

Like this undergraduate school advice article? Have a suggestion? To contact our team with comments or article ideas, send us a note at news@babson.edu.