Final deadlines are fast approaching. It’s time to ask yourself—have you written your best college essay yet? And, how would you know if you have or haven’t?

Odds are, you haven’t. Now, we don’t mean anything personal. You’ve probably done a great job, worked hard. People may have given you great feedback and support.

But the reality is, the vast majority of college essays aren’t what college admissions officers are looking for.

Don’t worry. You still have time to write a great essay (and supplementals) for the regular admission deadlines! But first, you need to know what makes a really great essay.


Here’s the problem

Colleges want essays that are engaging and entertaining short stories, stories that paint such a good picture of who you are that it’s as though you’re standing right there. In a good essay, they can see you. They have a sense of what it would be like to have you as a friend, a roommate, or a classmate.

But, you probably never learned how to write like that. If you’re like most of the teens we work with, you’ve likely not explored deeply who you are. And, if you want to give a picture of who you are, that’s a must.

This kind of writing is just not part of the American high school English curriculum for the most part.

We’ve talked with English teachers coast-to-coast. They wish they could spend much more time on writing personal narratives (aka, short stories about you!), but they have to teach the curriculum they’re given.


The top 3 reasons why you probably haven’t written your best college essay—yet.

  1. Chances are, you don’t know yourself as deeply as you could. Not many teenagers do. (Not many grown ups either for that matter.) Why is this important? Because unless you slow waaaay down and understand your strengths and how they play out in your life, how will you know if you’ve actually painted a powerful picture of yourself?
  2. If you’re a straight-A honors English student, you’ve probably mastered high school level academic writing. That’s going to be very important when you get to college. But…when was the last time you sat around a campfire telling English papers? Yes, great college essays are made of great storytelling, and that’s very different than the academic writing you’ve been perfecting.
  3. You’ve probably never had an incentive to be efficient with your writing. When you have a three-page paper due in the morning, you’re probably not going to prune out every unneeded idea, concept, sentence, phrase or word to make the paper as concise as possible. In fact, you’ve probably gotten really good at adding extra words to make sure you hit the minimum word or page count.

    That’s exactly opposite of college essay writing. Now, you have only 600 words to convey who you are as a person. Most people can’t do that in a two-hour conversation, let alone 600 words. Because of that, most college essays of applicants you are competing against (and by most, we mean 90%+) could lose half the words and say the same thing, and say it better. When you cut out unneeded words and concepts, you create clear and meaningful content.

Now is a great time to look at what you’ve written and ask:

  • Have I done the thinking and introspection required for a powerful essay?
  • Have I told a story that’s engaging, entertaining, and meaningful?
  • Have I written it powerfully, efficiently and gracefully?

And the most important question…will an overworked, bored, frustrated admissions officer 1500 essays into the season jump up and down for joy because they know who I am and I’ve made their day with my story?

If not, you can write a better essay!


How do I do that?

It’s fairly simple, but it does take a different mindset and some writing tools you possibly haven’t had much experience with in English classes.

A good way to start is to read some fantastic college essays. We know these are great, because these students got into their best schools.

If you want some help, you can get an in-depth review of your essay, with a personalized feedback form and a personality strengths survey to create a personal rubric for success, for just $195.

And, if you want to ensure you write the very best essay you can (or effective supplementals) for your January deadlines, we can help. We have program options starting at $325.

We mentor students in-person in the Seattle area, and by phone or Skype nationwide. Call us today at 206-696-2448 or email