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What are the Different Types of College Admission Essays?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Most colleges or universities across the world require applicants to submit at least one essay with their application packet. There are three main kinds of college admission essays: essays about the applicant, essays about why the applicant is applying to a specific college or university, and creative writing essays. Regardless of the kind of essay a college might require, all essays submitted should be well-researched and well-thought-out. In addition, the essays should be checked for proper grammar and spelling.

Among the more popular types of college admission essays are essays about the applicant. Usually, an essay will cover a unique achievement or experience. Typically, the applicant will be asked to describe how she changed or grew as a person because of the experience or achievement. In most cases, admission committees are looking for applicants who are genuine and who can communicate their thoughts effectively through their writing. In addition, these kinds of essays give applicants an opportunity to reveal something unique about themselves, aside from grades and standardized test scores.

When college admission essays are centered on achievements or experiences of the applicants, it is important that they do not come across as self-absorbed or conceited. In addition, many applicants may try to lightly touch on many experiences, but it may be better to focus on a single experience. The essay also should grab the readers’ attention and be well-organized.

Many colleges or universities like to read essays on why an applicant wants to attend that particular school. Again, the essay must be well-researched and give specific, accurate reasons why the school is a good fit for the applicant. In addition, these kinds of college admission essays should be sincere, but not overly flattering. It is important that the applicant use this kind of essay to help her stand-out.

Some college admission essays are more creative in nature. For example, an essay question may ask the applicant to research and write creatively about a topic, such as a local issue, a national controversy, or even a character in a book or play. The goal is to allow admissions officers to see the applicant’s knowledge base. These college admission essays must be accurate. For example, there should not be any factual mistakes regarding the controversy or book character.

Some colleges allow the applicants to select a general essay topic to write about for their college admission essays. Given free range, an applicant is better able to provide individual information about themselves, what they feel is important, and demonstrate an ability to tell a story or to express an opinion. As a result, the committee may use that information to help them decide whether the applicant should be granted acceptance to the school. Other colleges give students a specific topic and encourage them to write about that topic to the best of their ability. In those cases, the schools are looking for students who can research topics as well as write well.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
Discussion Comments
By Columurne — On Feb 21, 2014
I'm a former college admissions officer. The essays are a very important piece of this process and a chance for the student to truly have a voice. The committee looks at a number of different metrics to assess fit and the essays are a chance to really hear that student's voice. Typically schools want to know three things (and these questions may be answered across a number of essays): who are you (the student), do you know who we are (the school), and do you believe there is a fit between us both.

The student should be able to honestly answer these questions and if there is much struggle in attempting to do so a student should ask him/herself, "Is this school truly a good fit for me?" No lip-service in these essays; we can see right through that. Be sincere and passionate.

Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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