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ACE Your College Admissions Essay
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ACE Your College Admissions Essay

ACE Your College Admissions Essay

College essays are the bane of basically all of our students’ existence for the entirety of their senior year. Honestly, I can relate. I felt the same way not too long ago. I’ve realized though, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Here are some tips and tricks that we use to help our students write the best college essays.

How to write an admission essay

Somewhere in your many, many years of schooling, you must have heard of themes and topics. You may also remember that they are not the same. Make sure your essay has a theme and not just a topic. For example, a topic can be about “War”. A theme based around that topic could be “War does not solve problems”. That distinction is key to making sure your essay doesn’t get forgotten.

The best way to accomplish this is by NOT writing a Wikipedia article. (They always need a lot of help, by the way, so take your awesome technical writing skills and give them a hand.) Most essays have one serious problem: there’s too much what and not enough why. This is your story, write it like one.

What you write doesn’t matter! It’s why it matters to you that’s most important.

Admissions essay tips

There are many aspects of a successful story. The most important one for your essays is the main character. Guess who that should be? That’s right, it’s you!

Here’s how to check if you are truly the main character of your story. Do a word count check and see what percentage of sentences talk about you and what percentages of sentences talk about someone else. As you can expect, most of the sentences should be talking about you!

How to start an admissions essay? Know the W’s

  • Who was involved ?
  • When ?
  • Where ?
  • What happened and how did you overcome it ?
  • Why does it matter ?

You might notice that the What is missing. This is intentional because it’s already so emphasized, we don’t want to emphasize it more on a college admissions essay.

Well balanced W’s help even out your essay and convert it from that dreaded Wikipedia article into YOUR story. It also helps illustrate why your story matters. At the end of the day, the admission counselors want to know why they should read your essay. If you’re able to communicate that, then you’re already ahead of most of the submissions.

Additional admissions essay tips: Humanize Your Essay.

Use names — not pronouns

Don’t use words like “(s)he” or “they”. These are words that are used by everyone in almost every essay. It makes your essay seem less unique. If you’re worried about privacy, don’t be. You can always change the first name, without compromising the integrity of your story.

Clarify your setting

Too many times, people start in one place and time in their essay and move to another without updating the reader. If you start in 8th grade and move to the 10th grade, use a transition: “In 10th grade, …”. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

What vs Why on an admissions essay

We already discussed the importance of the well balanced W’s. In addition, I also want to talk a little bit more about the ratio between the What and the Why. It’s important to explain what your story is about, but it’s even more important to outline why the story matters and why someone should read it. Here’s a graphic outlining different qualities of essays based on the What vs Why ratio. This ratio is easily calculated by using the word count feature. Just see how many sentences are discussing your What and how many are discussing the Why. 

What vs Why ratio breakdown

That’s mostly it for the basics. Here are some final pointers to round out what we’ve discussed so far.

Some final admissions essay tips and pointers

First, always start your drafting without a word count. It’s easier to remove words and content than it is to add it back. When you have to add more, you generally have to force it to line up with ideas that you already have, making your essay unbalanced.

Next, follow the 2-sentence rule. Don’t go more than 2 sentences without using the words “I” or “Me”. Remember, the story is about you, you, and you.

Finally, please read it out loud. I know that it can sometimes be cringey to read out your own work. This is exactly the feeling that you want to get comfortable with. Once you read it out loud, you can feel what your essay is saying and how that’s going to make the readers feel.

Conclusion

I therefore hope that this has helped you start, edit, or even polish your essays. If you want some more advanced techniques, check out our YouTube video here, where we give in depth examples of all of the concepts discussed here and more.

We specialize in youth mentorship and college counseling. From 8th grade to 12th, so we have you covered for any stage in your high school career. Schedule a free consultation with our college admissions essay consultant here.

In conclusion, we are always posting more helpful tips and tricks to help reduce the stress of college application season. Or feel free to schedule a free consultation with

Similarly, you can also get additional information by following us on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and LinkedIn.

See you soon!

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Liz Robles

Major Advisor - Art, Multimedia, Design

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love to motivate students to find their true passion. It’s so rewarding to see students succeed in a field they enjoy.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I enjoy arts and crafts, doing outdoorsy things such as hiking or picnics and the nightlife with friends.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Time management is key. Have a healthy balance between your work/school and social life.

Justin Siu

Major Advisor - Premed

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 3 years.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Every student is so unique, with their own story, skills, strengths, and personality. I love embarking on that journey with them, albeit temporarily, in helping them envision and execute their own vision for their life.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love spending the little free time I have exploring new foods with friends and family. If I'm lucky, I spend it trying to build my sketching/design/sewing skills in hopes of building my second dream career as a runway couture designer.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: When envisioning a life career, utilize the Japanese philosophy of ikigai (translated as 'reason for being'). An ideal career meets at the intersection of passion, mission, profession, and vocation. Evaluate each of these components when envisioning yourself in a life path/career.

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Pranshul Goel

Major Advisor - Premed, Biology, Chemistry

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 1

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: The ability to help students find their passion for their lifelong careers.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I am an avid hiker/backpacker, musician, and love to learn about medical breakthroughs

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Take time for yourself and enjoy life, so that when you are in school, it does not feel like a chore.

Xenia Bremseth

Major Advisor - Business

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 14

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: When they have the lightbulb moment and everything clicks into place for them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Travel, yoga, run, hike, eat lots of good food

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Enjoy life as it today; don’t be in such a rush to be an adult because most of life is being an adult.

Bridgette Well

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: In writing, editing, tutoring, and college support, I have a combined 9.5 years of experience

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I like getting to know students as individuals, holding space to help them connect more deeply with themselves, witnessing “green light” moments when new ideas or perspectives create a positive shift, and learning what feels important to them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I enjoy spending time with friends, meditation and yoga, listening to music, being in nature, making/consuming art (painting, singing, poetry, performance), and learning about the world and universe we live in.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Be kind to yourself.

Ariana Lee

Admissions Advisor, Apps Advisor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 12

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing their stories. There's so much to discover about a person. It's very rewarding when my students get comfortable and know that I'm there for them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Swim, read, write, sing, enjoy nature, and play with my two crazy boys.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do what you love, and everything else will fall into place.

Tam Minton

Apps Advisor, Major Advisor - Social Sciences

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 16

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love getting to know them and helping them know themselves!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Scuba dive, write, travel.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't worry about everyone else's opinion, be your authentic self!

Julian Hoffman

Admissions Advisor, Apps Advisor, Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 5

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Hearing each student's unique stories, guiding them in discovering their passions, and helping find their voice!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I am a figure skater, world traveler, dessert aficionado, and devotee of the Pioneer Woman, the Barefoot Contessa, and Maneet Chauhan!

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Work hard now -- procrastinate later!

Sarah Gooch

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: I have five years' experience in coaching student writing, but this is my first year with ReadyEdgeGo.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love helping students find depth and meaning in their own stories—but I also just love it when they make me laugh!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In theory, I enjoy painting and writing poetry, but these days I actually spend most of my free time socializing or watching movies with my husband.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't just focus on achieving top grades and credentials because they look good on applications, or your education will be meaningless. The numbers and awards have their place, but stay connected to your sense of curiosity, discovery, excitement, and wonder so that the content you're learning is constantly transforming you—it's something you care about, something you remember after the final exam. Work on the aspects of yourself no one can measure, like integrity, wisdom, kindness, and compassion, so that you're not only developing your academic and career potential but also investing in the type of adult you're going to be, the person you'll have to live with after you clock out every day for the rest of your life. Doing the hard inner work of building your character and learning deeply instead of just earning grades will set you up for a satisfying, well-rounded life. Strange as it sounds, it will also put you ahead in your academic and career goals, because colleges and hiring managers aren't looking for an empty set of data on a spreadsheet; they want a fully fleshed-out person marked by passion, creativity, and a story no one else has lived. So go on studying hard for tests, but also spend some time asking yourself what matters in life and who your role models are. Read up on topics that amaze you, and build something incredible just for fun. Cultivate that spark of joy you feel when you're immersed in a subject that fascinates you. If you can hit that balancing act of doing your homework and meeting deadlines but also investing in the kind of person you want to be, then trust that all the rest will follow: schools will recognize you as a dynamic, all-star person, and you will also build a life of happiness, close relationships, and peace.

Sherrie Malleis

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: I have more than 15 years experience teaching writing to all ages.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love assisting students to achieve their educational goals.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love to go hiking on the trails around the dunes of Lake Michigan.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Use a calendar to help you meet your deadlines and to stay stay organized.

Bernie Nguyen

Major Advisor - STEM

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 5 years high school mentoring experience. I was heavily involved in it all throughout college and after graduating.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing about their passions and what they genuinely love to do. It also makes me extremely happy to.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I recently picked up the electric guitar! I also have multiple aquariums, and founded a company that built body armor.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't go down a path just because you think that's "what you're supposed to do." Life is more diverse and unexpected than any of us could ever know.

Maxx Mueller

Major Advisor - Engineering

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 1

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Getting to know student's interests and seeing their growth as students and people.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Ice Hockey, Snowboarding.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: You are more than your list of accomplishments. The growth and learning about yourself and others, and the hard work, failures, and lessons that lead to those accomplishments make you who you are.

Joanna Yang Yowler

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 15

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing students' stories and seeing their faces light up when they talk about their passions and dreams.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Cook, write, draw, save Azeroth .

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Pursue dreams that matter to you and don't be afraid of forging your own path to where you want to go.

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Aaron Togelang

Major Advisor - Engineering

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: It's amazing getting to know the unique and diverse passions that drive each student

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Sleep, but also video games, climb, scuba dive, and ride my motorcycle

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do things. Just get out there and try as many cool new things you can! You never know what you'll love until you give it a shot.

readyedgego

Tylar Pendgraft

Senior Essay Editor

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 9

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love how open students are to learning and trying new things. As mentors, we get to see so much growth simply because our students are so open to new experiences and are looking forward to applying their learning and other skills.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In my free time I like to read and write. I also spend a lot of time just watching--my dogs, birds, trees. I also enjoy baking and cooking (even though I'm terrible at baking).

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: It's never too early or late to start practicing self-care. Build moments of joy and celebration into your week. Give yourself a treat for working hard. It's important to have things to look forward to. If you can get into the habit now, you'll have a much more balanced college experience.

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Miguel Barranco

Major Advisor - Premed, Biology, Chemistry

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: Three years

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I enjoy getting to know them on a personal level and helping them see that their life story/experiences are unique and matter.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I coach wrestling at the high school level. Enjoy spending time with my husky, Lucy, on runs or hikes. Dancing mainly bachata and salsa. Collecting retro video games and playing them from time to time.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Make time to do things you love outside of academics. Whether that is clubs, music, art, sports, etc.

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Anika Sherma

Major Advisor - Health Sciences, Social Sciences

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: As a major advisor for students interested in the humanities, I’ve found it immensely rewarding to offer an outlet for students to explore ideas that they often don’t get to delve into at school. Watching a student light up when they realize that there is in fact a community around their specific interests is easily the best part of the job.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In my free time, I love to be outdoors - I've been hiking around the Bay Area and recently started biking again. I also volunteer at community gardens and trail restoration projects in San Francisco. When I'm not outside, you can find me reading visionary fiction, practicing yoga and qigong, or cooking.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: My advice for high school students is to focus on the present! Use this time to learn more about yourself and the world around you. Solid values and a sense of self will allow you to make challenging decisions for the future and create the life you want.

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Tushar Singla

Chief Technology Officer

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 4

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Watching them accomplish great things.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Watch Formula 1, play ice hockey, and watch TV.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Spend time exploring different things -- you have a long time to become an expert.

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Dan Zhou

Chief Executive Officer

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 16

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Inspiring a student towards self discovery, and wanting to learn about everything there is in the world. Reaching this moment can take time, but it's what makes it worth it every time.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Outdoors hiking, photography, gardening, and reading.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do the thing that moves you, or be moved by forces not your own. The choice is yours.

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