College Essay Writing Webinar- Top 5 Takeaways

by ABF Communications Specialist, Leah Prinz

As the school year begins, many students feel stressed and overwhelmed by college applications. On August 2nd, 2023, the Ann Bancroft Foundation hosted a webinar on advice for writing college application essays. The session was hosted by Karlyn Coleman, an author, teacher, and educational specialist at Lerner Publishing, and Maya, a former Trailblazer and sophomore at UW Madison. In case you missed the seminar, here are the top five takeaways to perfect your writing.

1: Start with the prompt “I remember.”

Think of important memories from your life. What stands out to you? Try to recall specific details, even small ones. Good writing has sensory details like smells, sounds, and colors. Vivid and descriptive language can help the words come alive. Don’t be afraid of being “weird.” An unusual essay will stand out as more memorable and authentic.

2: Brainstorm!

Write down your “superpowers,” or the things that you excel at. Jot down quick notes and ideas about things you might write about. These can be very short, just a few words. Your brainstorming can be informal. You could use sticky notes, a notebook, voice memos, or all three. Brainstorm throughout your process, collecting the notes over time.

3: Make a “life map”

A life map is a visual timeline of your life from when you were born up to today. Write down key moments from your life in chronological order. Draw each event to help you understand and remember it better. This can help you capture key moments from your life and “turning points” that helped shape who you are as a person. Take stock of these moments and what you can say about them. The moments from your “life map” are a good jumping-off point for the focus of your essay!

4: Show what you will bring to the campus.

Colleges want a well-rounded student body with a variety of interests, ideas, skills, and experiences. Your essay is a great place to show what makes you special. This includes your attitude and mindset. You don’t have to write a big lesson that you learned and have everything resolved at the end. It is okay to show that you are still learning and developing. Show your values, strengths, and authentic self.

5: Bring your essay into the world.

Reading your essay out loud can help you realize what needs to change. You can catch errors that slipped under your radar or realize how certain things might be misinterpreted. You should also share your essay with others, like a parent or friend. Embrace criticism and take feedback as constructive. With some outside critique, you can make your essay even better.


Additional Resources

More Writing Tips (PrepScholar)

How to Get a Scholarship (College Ave)

College Scholarship Finder (Fastweb)

How to Fill Out the FAFSA (Federal Student Aid)

Sallie Mae Scholarship