Planning for College

Writing Tips

Admissions essays

If you apply to a private college, you may have to write a brief admissions essay. The essay lets admissions officers learn more about you and find out how well you write.

Some colleges will give you a topic or ask you to choose from several topics. Others will let you pick the topic yourself.

If you pick your own topic, write something that shows who you are. You don't want to write about how the war on terrorism has affected you (unless you or a member of your family was directly involved). Pick a topic that will give the admissions officer insight into your thoughts and abilities—and that will make the officer say, "We want this student on our campus."

"Keep the reader in mind—be original," said an admissions officer at one private school. "The admissions staff member reads hundreds of essays. What will make yours stand out? Avoid topics that everyone else will write about."

After you've written a creative essay that lets the reader know about you, you need to polish it. That means proofread your essay and ask your English teacher or counselor to look it over.

Above all, follow directions. Many students don't pay attention to the guidelines, and not following directions may cost you the chance to attend the school you really want to go to.

Be a winner—use your own words

While we're on the subject of writing, let's talk about plagiarism, which is taking someone else's words and passing them off as your own. With the Internet, it's easy to find sources to copy and paste into a research paper. You can even buy papers online. But it's also easy for professors to go to websites, type in a key phrase and see if they get any matches. Your work is supposed to be your work. If you're taking information and arguments from other people, you need to give them credit.

Colleges take academic integrity seriously. If you get caught plagiarizing, about the easiest you can get off with is a zero on that paper. You can also get kicked out of school. That's how seriously colleges take plagiarism.