The "College Admissions Essay" Tea with Julie starts.
Tea with Julie

Welcome to "Tea with Julie," a weekly missive by me, Julie Bogart. My wish is to give you food for thought over a cup of tea to enhance your life as an educator, parent, and awesome adult. Glad you're here. Pinkies up!
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Cincinnati, December 9, 2023

Hi Friend,

You may only have small children or middle schoolers, but this next series ought to be of interest to everyone—especially parents of high school students who are college bound. We’re going to tackle the “College Application Essay” —how to write one!

The way we teach writing in Brave Writer is powerful preparation for writing a college application essay.

We focus on:

  • cultivating strong language,
  • powerful story-telling,
  • and generating insight.

These are the three key features you want your students to demonstrate when it comes time to apply to college.


  • Tips for Writing Your College Essay (below!)
  • More Tips
  • Buff It Till It Shines
  • Essay Examples

Tips for Writing Your College Essay

Know what it’s for.

Your college application essay is a way for people you’ve never met to get some sense of who you are—what drives your intellect, what matters to you, what you love most in this world, what you’re doing when you are most engaged and most at ease, and what it will be like to study and socialize with you on campus. The essay that will fit the bill is the one that shares an experience that feels important to you.

Read other essays.

Reading other essays will trigger ideas about your own. You’ll get a feel for what kind of story can be told in a few hundred words and how some writers have made the form their own. My favorite site for sample essays is Johns Hopkins University’s Essays That Worked. Of course, there’s no need to confine yourself to college essays for inspiration! Check out The Best American Essays series or spend a weekend with James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Zadie Smith, Annie Dillard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, or your favorite essayist. Brave Writer also offers an online class, Reading the Essay, as well.

Make lists.

Before you choose a prompt, try making a few lists.

Some useful lists:

  • everything in your room,
  • your favorite objects,
  • the moments in your life when you felt like giving up.

Or make lists in answer to these questions:

  • What experiences have made me who I am?
  • What do I love?
  • Why do I want to delve into my interests more by going to college?

Once you’re ready to work with prompts, use them to make more lists. Let your list making lead you into a story you want to tell.

Think of your essay as a story.

Once you have a sense of what you’d like to write about, freewrite in 10- to 20-minute bursts. Think of your memories as short stories that build.

  • What obstacles arose and how did you overcome them?
  • What were the twists and turns in the story?
  • What surprised you?

These can be subtle rather than big and dramatic, but they’re important because they show how you changed: how you succeeded in solving a problem, how you matured, how you transformed a difficulty into a learning experience. This will dictate the shape of your essay.

Luxuriate in the freewriting phase. Give yourself a week or two of successive freewriting to find your strongest material. The furthest thing from your mind during this phase should be your word count. You may generate thousands of words to find the nugget that will be your 650-word essay.

More tips next week!

If you do have a student who is planning to attend college and apply in the next year, definitely book mark this series and return to it at the right time. We also offer a College Admissions Essay online writing class with the support of a writing coach when that time comes as well. We usually offer that class in the summer session.





P.S. Catch up on all the “Tea with Julie” emails here! Follow me on Instagram.

Julie Bogart
© 2023 Brave Writer LLC™

Brave Writer



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