How To Start a College Essay

How To Start A College Essay


Picking That Pen Up……

When it comes to any writing assignments, most students switch their brains to procrastination mode. I think that every once in a while, we all need that Sponge Bob enthusiasm when writing papers, even if our work is complete crap. An English teacher once advised, “You have to dare to be awful.” Only then can you start making adjustments and fixing your writing. At that point, at least you’ll have something to base yourself off of. Seeing that the art of writing is very much an epidemic among students these days, I decided to show you different ways to start a college essay. I’ll show you college essay tips, as well as some samples of college essays.

And Now, To The Tips on How To Start A College Essay


TRY To Get A Head Start

Listen to me dear child, I AM TELLING YOU….do not wait until near the deadline to procrastinate. It’s just a way of starting off on the wrong foot. By looking at your college’s prompts in advance, and brainstorming which one you could write the most about, you’re already far ahead of other applicants.

TIP 💡 : Since many deadlines are at around January, it’d be super smart of you to get it done before winter break, so you can chillax afterwards.

If you didn’t get a head start…which I’m not very surprised about…keep on reading.

Keep In Mind Admissions Officers Read Hundreds Of College Essays

It’s good to think outside of the box to stand out from other applicants. I know. Easier said than done. But by making your writing style out of the ordinary, and maybe even stifling a quick chuckle from something funny, you’ll only be doing yourself a favor.

Tell the reader something they don’t know. For instance, if your transcript already shows your participation in AP classes, don’t brag about all the AP classes you’ve taken. Instead, opt for something more personal that tells a story….kind of like a fairy tale. A few ideas off the top of my head:

  • A parent’s divorce and adjusting to new family living
  • ONLY If you’re comfortable enough, the death of a loved one, and finding ways to cope
  • Balancing what’s taught at church with Bio class at school

I’m sure that to many of you, none of the situations above apply. At least you have an idea of the kind of story telling you have to convey. Only the college essays that stood out and were able show a unique aspect of a student, were truly the college essays that worked.


Ask For Help

As the saying goes, 2 heads are better than one. And in your case, your teacher’s head is the best one to ask for help. If you’re stuck thinking about a topic for your college essay, take a minute of your teacher’s time to ask for suggestions. They know you much better than I do, so they’d have good ideas. And they won’t bite. I promise.

Even if you feel like you have everything under control it wouldn’t hurt to have them edit your rough draft later on. No one says you’re actually forced to continue writing with their edits. You can get a second opinion, or just go with your gut. The point is, the more heads to brainstorm, the better.


This list could go on and on, but I’m sure you’ll figure out more tips on how to start a college essay. But now for the sample essays I promised….

Sample College Essays

College Application Essay 1

Prompt: Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

I won “Most Original” pumpkin at a Halloween party years ago. I hate the “Most Original” award. It’s a consolation prize. You can’t be the best, or the prettiest, so you have to be “original”. I’ve won the “Most Original” award a fair amount of times. I was even named “Most Original” at a basketball awards banquet. What does that mean? How can anybody be “Most Original” when she’s playing basketball?

Recognizing the “Most Original” award for the pity-prize that it was, I grew increasing hostile toward the very word “original”. If you win this cursed award, everyone around you feigns sympathy for your circumstances. Phrases like “oh, bummer” and “well, good for you” often circle around the recipient. This creates a cyclone of cynicism and regret, one from which the “winner” will never quite recover.

Okay. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I cannot for the life of me understand that award. “Most Original” always let me down, and as a result, I hated to be original in any context. In my hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, where normality was… well, the norm, I tried to be a typical student, absolutely, perfectly normal.. I blended into crowds, the definition of the classic American teenager. I became a person who refused to surprise people. Just another brick in the wall. Dull.

And then I moved to Berkeley for 6 months. It’s an odd, vibrant place, with odd, vibrant people. I love it because originality is celebrated there. I became friends with a student who dressed outlandishly, wearing corset tops and tutus, and on some days, carrying around a parasol. Her best friend was a boy with purple hair who once wore a shirt with built in LED lights for Christmas. They were the most popular people in school, despite being contradictions to all that was admired in New Haven. Our peers recognized them as being unique, but instead of ostracizing them, as would likely have happened in New Haven, the students in Berkeley accepted and celebrated their originality.

In Berkeley, I learned the value of originality: Those who celebrate their individuality are not only unique, but strong. It takes great strength to defy the definitions of others, and because of that strength, those who create their own paths discover a different world than those who travel the same worn road.

When I returned to New Haven, I had changed. My hair was dyed with red streaks, and I wore crazy clothes that instantly made me stand out. Suddenly, everyone knew who I was. Once, such notoriety would have made me nervous, as if I had painted a large target on my forehead. But I had changed more than just my hairstyle and clothing – I had embraced the idea of being original. Spending time in a place where “most original” was the highest compliment allowed me to explore myself without fear of being different, lesser.

I’m still skeptical about the “Most Original” award. In the context of an award ceremony, it’s still just a meaningless consolation prize. But I don’t think of being “most original” as an insult anymore. I wear it as a badge of honor, proof that I am myself and no one else.

Very recently, a friend joked, “If there were a ‘Quirkiest’ award in the yearbook, you would definitely be in it.” We were standing outside of a classroom, and I was wearing a pair of gold colored shorts that definitely caught the eye. Her comment made me laugh. “‘Quirkiest’ makes me sound awkward.” I answered. “How about ‘Most Original’?”


College Application Essay 2

Prompt: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

The sweet smell of cinnamon resonated through the house. A wave of warmth washed over my face as I opened the oven door to reveal my first batch of snicker doodles. Small domes of sugary cookies shyly peeked from the edge of the door. I smiled in excitement as I thought about the laughter these cookies would bring to my friends. They like to compare me to the witch in Hansel and Gretel, except that I fatten children up and then forget to eat them. I am inclined to send a slight glare at this comparison, but any rancor is overwhelmed by my enjoyment of their anticipation of my baked goods.

There is something about the warmth of a kitchen filled with the buttery smell of pastry that evokes a feeling of utter relaxation. I find joy in sharing this warm and homey experience by showering the people around me with the sweets. The smile that creeps up in the corners of someone’s mouth as he or she bites into my food gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment.

For as long as I can remember, baking has been an integral part of my life. Thanks to busy parents and hungry siblings, I was encouraged to cook from a relatively young age. Time spent in the kitchen naturally piqued my interest in baking. Such interests expanded into a heart-warming hobby that rejuvenates my stressful days, improves upon even my happiest moments, and brings joy to the people around me.

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It has been my experience that the way to ANYONE’S heart is through the stomach. To me, food is not simply about sustenance. The time that I spend in my kitchen, the effort and care that I pour into my confectionary creations, is a labor of love that brings me just as much satisfaction as it does my hungry friends and family.


College Application Essay 3

Prompt: Please write between 250 and 500 words to describe a special interest, significant experience or achievement, or anything else that has special meaning to you or had a significant influence on you.s.

While most of my friends spend their time online updating their Facebook statuses and uploading pictures to Instagram, I analyze the red and green triangles on the NASDAQ ticker. My classmates chat excitedly about the latest iPhone as I am scrutinizing the effects of this new product release on Apple’s stock price. It is hard to believe that just a few years ago I had no concept of the vast possibilities for earning money on the stock market. Now, I consider myself a savvy investor who can carry on a conversation using stock market lingo with any trader on Wall Street.

My initiation into trading stocks was largely due to my friend Kyle. After school one day, I saw Kyle check his phone, and a sly smirk stretched across his face. Confused, I asked him what was going on, and he told me that his chemical company’s stock had skyrocketed. Coincidentally, this was around the time that my grandfather’s Apple stock, which I had convinced him to buy, had taken off and left him with huge profits. Kyle seemed astonished that I, too, was playing the market. Sadly, at that time my investments were nonexistent, as I preferred to watch and synthesize information from others before jumping head first into an unforgiving world. My only actual credit for investment was in Apple, and even that wasn’t officially my own investment, but rather my grandfather’s.

Following that conversation, I went to my brokerage and looked up the chemical company Kyle had recommended. Flotek recently saw its stocks tumble due to suspicion over some of its chemicals. However, this dip was an overreaction by investors. In the coming days, Flotek would rebound and land me my first profits. I gained confidence and drive to invest aggressively and leave my timid attitude behind. Our discussion and research about stocks ultimately led to the acquisition of not only a winning stock but also a winning mindset that has helped me tremendously. Hoping to have a sequel to my initial success, I looked into more stocks. I no longer played from the sidelines, instead taking the market head on. I started looking at high-risk, high-reward stocks, something a cautious investor would dismiss as ludicrous. After several months of careful observation and research, I mastered the key skill of timing my actions and investments to suit the circumstances. I picked my companies by combing the news for major political and economic developments. When I started out, my portfolio was $8,500. Now, it is valued at over $14,200, a gain of more than 65%.

Investment has helped me develop skills that apply to more than stocks. Additionally, playing the stock market has helped me to become a more independent individual as well as develop a valuable aptitude for difficult decision-making. I had a goal to raise money for college and through research, commitment, and temerity, I was able to soar to my current position and discover a new passion in the process.

UNC College of Arts and Sciences