The brainstorming and outlining have occurred and now it is time to begin writing the first draft of your college admissions essay. Here are a series of things to do and not to do when writing your essay to astound the admissions committee.

Do start with a catchy opening. It is vital to begin with an opening that grabs the reader's attention. Whether it is a story, a quote, a song lyric, or even selecting a keyword from the question, gaining the reader's attention from the onset of the essay will help pave the road for a stronger admissions essay and, in turn, allow you to shine before the admissions committee. Remember, a strong closing is just as important. You will want to leave the reader with an everlasting impression.

Do answer the question or prompt and expand on it with clear thoughts and details. Highlight the keywords in the question or prompt and focus your efforts on answering it. Make sure to add strong sensory details that go to the essence of your point of view. Include details that hinge on the five senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch). The idea is for the admissions counselor to get into the mind of you, the college applicant. The way to do that is to paint a clear description in the essay so that if the reader were to close his/her eyes, he/she would be able to visualize himself or herself in your shoes.

Do allow your personality to shine. The admissions essay is your chance to show your creative side. Share your personal viewpoints. Give insight into who you are, what you stand for, and where you want to take your future. As Shakespeare boldly said, "To thine own self be true." Make sure you capture your inner voice and pave your own writing style.

Don't go off on tangents. Your essay must have a clear theme and follow a specific structured formula that answers the question or prompt and provides insight into why you chose that question or prompt. Make sure you stay on topic, answer the question, and leave the reader with a lasting impression of who you are and why you are the ideal candidate for that college.

Don't go over the word limit. Always make sure you adhere to the word limit. Going over the word limit evidences to the admissions committee that you do not follow instructions. A caveat to that is if the essay is 500 words, having a 200-300 word essay is perfectly acceptable as long as you answer the question with enough detail. Sometimes, simplicity, clarity, and brevity can be a huge payoff to "woo" the admissions committee.

Don't rely on spellcheck or grammar check to do your proofreading for you. Devote time to editing and proofreading your work. Give your essay to a friend or a relative to review and seek objective opinions.

Don't be pretentious in your word choice. The college admissions essay is your chance to show off your personality, not to show off your advanced vocabulary. Using words out of context or words that are too enhanced may give the perception that someone else wrote your essay for you.

Following these simple tips can pave a stronger road for the writing process, create a winning essay in the eyes of the admissions committee, and lead to that acceptance letter you are seeking.

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