Final Exam. Check. SAT. Check. Subject to major in. Check. You think you have it all figured out, but wait. There’s more. No matter how well you’ve scored, or how excellent a student you are, it boils down to this – the University essay. This is the only place where you can tell your story, and that’s what the college wants to hear. Tests are generic – they question your capacity to think. But your essay represents you – as a person – a living, breathing, passion-filled, person. Let’s look at some tips on how to write a winning university essay.

And now that many colleges have become test-optional, the pressure is even more, because you cannot lean on your excellent abilities to study.

Consider this as your business pitch with you as the product – why should you be one of the chosen ones? What’s your unique selling point? This is where the challenge begins.

Focus on these tips below to help you come up with a killer University essay for admission to your dream college.

Read the instructions

In all the excitement and overwhelm, you might easily skip through this part. Just as unique as every student is, so is the college that you’re applying to. Different institutions will have different expectations from you, so please read the instructions provided before you begin working on your essay. Often overlooked, this is the most important aspect of your Common App essay.

How many words/characters to write, what’s the purpose of your essay, whom you are writing to, and the title. Give the instructions a thorough read before hitting the keyboard. Failure to adhere to the word limit will raise a red flag and have the admissions officer question if the student’s inability to follow instructions makes them fit for the program at all.

Know the university and course requirements 

Research the university and the college that you’re applying to – set the foundation before you build a house. You’ll get a much clearer idea about what to write and what to include in your essay.

What is the university’s culture like, their alumni, and their specialties? What are the skills required for the course you’re keen on? 

List down the core competencies of the course, and address them meticulously in your essay. Additionally, be it the skill of written communication, or critical thinking, show that you know how to apply these by using them to attract the reader.

Plan your essay

Once you know what you want to say, make an essay plan! In the sea of information, you may not have a clue about where to start, which essays to look at, and how to formulate your ideas. No one wants to read an unplanned ‘Eton mess’.

Having a skeletal structure of the main points of focus will help you form a cohesive plan and give you direction. Sticking to an essay plan will help you arrange your thoughts and ideas logically, and keep you on track, especially with a limited word count.


  • – You address but do not need to actually answer the prompt – it’s not a question
  • – You start with an interesting hook, that makes the application officer want to know about you 
  • – You lead the essay through genuine experiences and illustrate that your essay is specifically targeted at the college/course of interest
  • – You do not write a rigid 3 body paragraph essay
  • – The essay should flow to demonstrate how you have evolved and will seamlessly continue to do so at the university of your choice  
  • – You do not conclude just by repeating the introduction of your essay. Add something thoughtful showing that university life is the next natural step in your progress. 
  • – To only brief through everything you’ve mentioned in the essay

Be authentic 

Look to express yourself and who you really are. You want to show you are the best fit for what the university is looking for. You may read sample essays written by others – but they are not YOU! Read essays, articles, and blogs to add depth to your perspectives but do not lose your own voice when you write. The college you’ve applied to isn’t interested to see what other people have written in your essay. They’re looking for well-rounded individuals who are ready for the experience that their university can provide. Make sure your essay has you as the narrator, with your opinions and experiences are woven into it. Express your thoughts, beliefs, passion, and how this program would help you reach your goals as well as how you can contribute to the faculty in return.

Come up with an interesting introduction

Remember, you’re one among thousands of applicants. Make yourself stand out. The admissions officers will go through your essay very briefly because they’ve got so many to read! One way to catch their attention is to write a compelling introduction.

Use an anecdote, a story – an opening hook – that will keep them hooked for the next few hundred words of your essay. Choose an anecdote, viewpoint, or perspective that brings out your personality showing just how unique you are.

Having said that, don’t spend too much time perfecting your intro right at the get-go. Often, you may not know what to write until after you’ve finished the essay and will come up with a much better intro once you have written the whole essay. Your main focus should be the core of the title.

Read – Review – Revise – Repeat 

You may feel you have written your life’s masterpiece, but don’t take your own word for it. Have it read by a range of people including parents, university counselors, and other unrelated adults. Having varied perspectives through fresh pairs of eyes helps you to iron out illogical flow and add details to make your essay complete. Make those much-needed revisions and edits.

Once you’ve finished your essay, have it proofread by an educator or mentor for grammar, word count, and final technical revision. At Young Scholarz, we can help you to improve your writing skills and help submit that killer essay that stands out above the rest!

The takeaway

The university essay is a preview of your personality, and a great opportunity to showcase your talents and achievements. Don’t rely on anyone else to direct your essay – you must be you! Admission officers will very easily see through a fake persona. Good research is at the core of a good essay, showing a genuine passion for the course and university. Take guidance on essay writing techniques and brainstorming of ideas but don’t let anyone else tell you who you need to be.