The 3 Cs to Essay-Writing Success


In 300 words… *cue writer’s block*


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The essay section of college applications might seem intimidating, but it’s really just another way for us to learn more about you! Much like an admissions interview, the essay provides you a platform to share more than just your SAT or GPA, which are certainly important but can never fully capture who you are and how you think.

As you put yourself into words, see below for some tips to pull off an A-grade college essay, summed up in three Cs. Do your best to be clear, concise, and compelling.

Note: The Grove City College Application gives you two essay prompts to choose from, but the tips below may be helpful as you write essays for other colleges too!


1. To be CLEAR…

  • Find out what the question is asking and answer the prompt directly, meeting the required length in word count as closely as possible.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of your readers. Could anyone pick up your essay and understand what you’re getting at? Never assume.
  • Make it easy for readers to navigate through your thoughts. Use smooth transitions to help guide readers along from point to point.
  • As you write, periodically go back to the beginning and get a running start to see what will naturally flow into the next sentence. If your thoughts seem choppy in writing, talk them through out loud and then capture them on paper.
  • When you hit writer’s block, shut it down and come back later. A fresh mind can do wonders. Speaking of later, give yourself enough time—don’t try to finish it all in one night. Allow yourself a week or two to think, outline, write, and edit.
  • Get feedback from others along the way, and don’t click “submit” until you’ve wrung your essay dry of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors.

spelling errors


2. To be CONCISE…

  •  Figure out what you want to say before trying to figure out how you want to say it. Eloquence is lovely, but eloquence without substance is fluff, so think through your content carefully before pulling out the ornamental language. can wait.
  • Choose your words wisely. Use strong verbs and modifiers that accurately and descriptively capture the image you’re trying to paint, but avoid using big words just to sound more impressive.
  • Whether the required word count is 50 or 500, it’s always better to say something in fewer words than too many. To be succinct, cut out unnecessary adverbs, prepositional phrases, and auxiliary verbs that don’t enhance the essay.
    • For a generic example, a sentence that reads: “I am hoping to pursue the thing about which I undoubtedly have the most excitement…” is more concisely put: “I hope to pursue what excites me.”




  •  Think outside the box! There is hardly ever one right answer to a college essay prompt, and originality makes you stand out. Tell your readers something they haven’t already heard in the 3,000 other essays.
  •  Share something about yourself that isn’t already evident in your other application materials, or shed some light on a feature of your resume that’s just dripping with tell me more! Show off your ability to engage with content in a way that’s unique and memorable.
  •  Use concrete examples and anecdotes over abstract generalizations. For example, tell us a story that proves you are the leader you say you are. Stories bring you to life!
  • Craft your essay—don’t just cram your thoughts into the provided space.
    • Have a gripping beginning that invites readers to keep reading, and a killer ending that brings the essay full circle with new understanding.
    • Vary sentence length and sentence openers by using different parts of speech to introduce each thought. This helps to avoid monotony as you create rhythm and balance.
    • Strike a tone that is genuine, and be sure to balance confidence with humility. (10)

In other words…

Be yourself. We want to get to know YOU through this process, so take advantage of the opportunity to explore within as you seek to capture your thoughts, and don’t let writer’s block get you down. If you have any questions, contact us at We’re here to help!


photo credit: featured imageimage 1; image 2; image 3; image 4

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