Ten Steps to an Ace Essay

Don't let the prospect of writing your college entrance essay stress you out. You know you deserve to get in, so let your essay prove to the admissions board that you've got what it takes! Be yourself and let your personality shine through your words. You're just ten steps away from making a great impression.

1. Start early.

The earlier you start, the more time you'll have to spend on revising and rewriting your essay. You can write it, put it away for a few days, then take a fresh look at it later. You'll be able to look at your essay more critically if you have time to let it sit and think about what you want it to convey. Starting early lets you complete this process without the pressure and stress that come with a time crunch.

2. Choose a specific topic.

Colleges may ask you to describe a special interest, an experience that changed your life or a person who influenced you. List a bunch of topics you might like to write about and then think of some key points for each one. Decide which topic has the most potential to be interesting. If it's something you feel strongly about, it will come alive when you write about it.

3. Outline what you want to cover.

Brainstorm a list of ideas you could include in your essay. Don't rule anything out at first. When you can't think of anything to add, go back over the list and choose the major points you want to cover. Work them into an outline for your essay.

4. Work on the opening paragraph.

Think about how you want to begin your essay. Use an opener that draws the reader in with something that's unusual, funny or thought provoking. It could be a rhetorical question, a surprising statement or a detailed description of the setting of an important experience. Grab readers in the first paragraph so they'll want to keep reading!

5. Compose a rough draft.

Write a rough draft using the outline you created. Write as though you're having a conversation with a good friend so the real you shines through. Try to be personal and, if it comes naturally, add humor. Concentrate on conveying your key points, use descriptive language and give clear examples. Remember, a rough draft doesn't have to be perfect. Get your thoughts down on paper and you can fix the details later.

6. Review what you've written.

Once you've completed your rough draft, read what you've written with a more critical eye. Is your essay interesting and well organized? Does it give a good picture of who you are? If it isn't as interesting as you'd like, add more examples and details. Read your essay out loud to see if it flows.

7. Rewrite your essay.

Writing the essay the first time is hard enough, but writing another draft is well worth the effort. Use your second draft to fix anything you feel needs improvement. Show your essay to your school counselor, an English teacher, an outside professional or anyone who can give you honest feedback. Read your essay to your. Ask for an objective critique and be open to suggestions.

8. Edit your final draft.

During the final editing process, pay close attention to the mechanics of the essay. Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, style and tone are very important. Make sure that everything is perfect so that nothing detracts from the content of your essay.

9. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!

When the time comes to proofread your essay, you will have read it so many times that you may not be able to see any errors that still exist. Don't rely on computer spell check programs to find everything. Ask at least one person that you trust to proofread your essay very carefully.

10. Take a last look for details.

Is the essay clean? Are the printing and/or handwriting clear? Make sure your name and social security number are on the essay so that if it's separated from the application, it can be quickly matched up again. Pretend that you are reading the essay for the first time. Does it make the impression that you want it to? You worked hard on this essay. Make sure it's as good as it can be before submitting it.