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High School Writing Prompts – Nailing Your College Admission Essay

by Jessica Parnell | May 03, 2016 | 3 min read

It’s been a long 3 years, but all of the hard work, studying and effort has led you to this point: your senior year of high school. You’ve done your research, toured your favorite schools, and have your list narrowed down to a few top choices. You’re so close to the finish line that you can see yourself in the lecture hall and almost taste the cafeteria food. There’s just one more mountain to climb before you’re off to the college of your dreams, getting accepted. And, that can be the biggest climb of all. Filling out the application is just one piece of this puzzle, the writing prompt is the other. But, these aren’t your typical high school writing prompts. It’s a whole different animal.

So, what makes a good college admission essay and how can you nail each of the high school writing prompts to cement your acceptance? Here are the 4 keys to writing a successful college admission essay.

High School Writing Prompts – How to Nail a College Admission Essay

  1. Be Personal. College admissions representatives read hundreds of essays a day. So, how are you going to stand out? The answer is to make your essay about you! You’re thinking “of course it should be about me!” But, you’d be surprised how many applicants don’t put themselves, their personal experiences and voice into their writing prompts. What makes you unique? What experiences set you apart from your peers? What vision, dream, drive compels you to attend college? Write about a topic that is narrow and personal, something that allows you to write with passion and detail from a personal perspective. Make sure to be honest and resist the urge to exaggerate. And be specific! Use details that prove you’re experiences are real and give depth to your writing. Consider the following questions: What makes me unique? What have I seen, done, accomplished, etc. that stands out? Why would this school be blessed to have me? What life changing event has led me to my future plan?
  2. Be Correct. Your answer to admission writing prompts could be the most compelling and inspiring essay read all day, but you’ll disqualify yourself if it’s full of errors. Nothing says “not college material” like spelling and grammar errors. Don’t just use spell check, have two (yes two) adults who are familiar with your writing to proof read your essay before submitting it to a college. But, it’s not just spelling, grammar, and punctuation that matter. Use proper form and mechanics. An essay should be simple to follow with one clear theme and a thesis statement. Your points should support your thesis statement and your conclusion should sum up your essay in a meaningful way. The best way to go about answering a college writing prompt in a killer way is to follow the writing process. Organize your thoughts, plan your essay, outline, draft, proof, etc. You’ve worked on these skills for years, now put them to use!
  3. Be Concise. Remember, the person reading your essay has likely read hundreds before yours and has hundreds more to read after. So, don’t drag on and on and on…be concise! Choose your words carefully, get to the point, and be specific. Don’t try to cover too much or put too many facts into your essay. Choose a narrow topic so that you can stay on track and then be careful to prove your point without going overboard. The sweet spot is 500-600 words, no more, no less.
  4. Be Smart. Let’s face it, college is a place to learn, and it’s full of intellectual people that love to…learn! So, show what you’ve learned. Write about a personal topic that allows you to show off not just your personality, but your intellect as well. Be witty and engaging, but make sure your facts are correct. Colleges want students that will add to their intellectual culture and can handle the demands of collegiate academics. Don’t be afraid to take a stand and be a little controversial, just be sure you have the facts to back up your position. This is your one shot, so show them your smarts!

Need some high school writing prompts to practice these 4 tips?

Put these strategies into action with the following writing prompts. Remember to take your time, follow the formal writing process you’ve learned, and use the tips above when answering these writing prompts:

  • Describe one personal quality that sets you apart.
  • What are your goals for the future? What experience most impacted this goal?
  • Explain a challenge you have had to overcome in your life and how it changed you.
  • Pick a controversial issue related to high school life and suggest a solution.
  • Who do you admire most and why? How does their life inspire yours?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years? What will it take to reach that goal?

Want some more college essay writing prompts?  Check out this site for more!

Don’t be afraid of high school writing prompts for college. Instead, put your best foot forward with these 4 tips for college entrance essays. Then take a breath and enjoy your last few months of high school; you’ve earned it!

Jessica Parnell
Hello everyone! I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and CEO of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers that take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. The one constant that always remains true is that there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter child.” Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and as a result, learns and functions differently. It’s our job to ensure that we’re raising each child to fulfill their individual purpose and when we can teach in a way that inspires them, we are on our way to homeschool success. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
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