How to better write your university application essay

Essay writing at keyboard

One of the most difficult parts of your application process is writing your essay. Not everybody excels in creative writing, and it may be difficult to write about yourself without falling in your own traps. Furthermore, there is no real right or wrong way to do it. But we know for sure this essay is all about you, and you may choose your theme and play with words the best you can. It is your chance to present a good image to the admission officers, as well as only thing that tells you apart from other applicants. We do not have the perfect recipe, but we do have some handy ingredients that you might want to use when drafting your essay. Here is a list of DOs and DON’Ts in your essay for university application.

Here are the DOs:

Answer all the questions being asked.

The admission committees usually seek to identify key aspects about their potential students. Here are the most common questions they need to decode from your essay:
Does the student have a genuine interest in the subject?
Does the student have the necessary qualifications and qualities?
Is the student conscientious, hardworking and unlikely to drop out?
Will the student be able to adjust to their new environment at university?

Make sure your essay has a theme or a thesis.

A theme thesis is the main idea on which you create your essay. This means that you have to focus on certain aspects and not deviate from the subject. Stay concise and do not lose track from the subject and your goal.

Provide evidence to support your claims.

Obviously, everything you write has to be demonstrated one way or another. You may be asked to also attach your CV or Resume to the application. This does not mean that you are not allowed to mention the experience from your CV, but at the same time you do not have to provide every detail in the CV. Find the balance between CV and essay to make sure you explain the aspects you present.

Make your introduction unique.

How many books have you tried to read, but abandoned because the introduction was not catchy enough? How many books have you started and then could not let go of, until you fell asleep with the book in your arms? Your introduction must have the same impact: unique and memorable. If your introduction is good, chances are the rest of the letter will also be perceived as “good”.

Write clearly and make sure it is easy to read.

Who likes to read twisted and extremely long sentences? You certainly do not want to bore or scare the assessors with stilted, unnatural vocabulary, or too much terminology. It is best to write as you speak, carefully choosing the best words from your knowledge-base.

Be honest, confident, and be yourself.

What you write in the essay must represent you in reality. There is no point in trying to fool the assessors, by actually fooling yourself in the first place. Be honest with yourself first, then with the admission committee. Offer an overview of your own self and let the university know their potential student!

Be interesting and positive.

We are all unique in our own way. Look for your most interesting qualities, describe special experiences and always maintain a positive tone. Yes, many things are difficult in life, and even the admission process is difficult and demanding. Do not forget to dream, to hope, to desire and aim, and to express these things in your essay.

Make sure your essay is organized, coherent, and concise.

Paragraphs. This is all we have to say. Well-structed paragraphs are the key to a clean and neat essay. Paragraph too long? remember the walls of text you have always refused to read – tl;dr, right? Paragraph too short? You most likely missed some information, or the paragraph is misplaced. Paragraphs must be quantitatively balanced.

Write about yourself and use examples from your own life experiences.

It would be awkward to tell someone else’s story, wouldn’t it? Nobody wants to be a fraud and succeed on the basis of someone else’s achievements. Tell your story and only what you have experienced. Do not speak on behalf of others, and other’s business is none of your concerns here (or in general). The essay must be about you.

Use a mixture of long and short sentences.

We love a mixture of long and short sentences. It helps readers stay alert. You do not risk to bore the committee, nor to make them stop every two seconds because of your full stops.

Discuss your future goals.

Remember when every aunt and uncle would ask “what do you want to become when you grow up?” at the Christmas dinner table? Well, the time to answer that question has finally come! Universities wish to learn about your future goals, but also to measure your potential.

Mention any hobbies, past jobs, community service, or research experience.

The more, the merrier. Do you like sports? Maybe you like video games! Maybe you worked some months at the local grocery store. Did you do any jury duty? Have you ever just helped an old lady cross the street? Mention your good deeds! However, if you are applying for a master’s or a Ph.D program, it is vital you also speak about your research interests.

Speak in the first person (I…).

“I” will be the center of your essay. Nobody is interested in whoever that mysterious “you” is.

Mention weaknesses without making excuses.

Low marks? Procrastination? Failure? Gave up and started all over again? Undecided? These are normal experiences and feelings for everyone at your age, and even later in life. Do not be afraid to present this part of yours – it is in the human nature to make mistakes and not be perfect. However, make sure you do not make excuses, nor blame anyone for your problems.

Discuss why you are interested in the university and program.

Why did you choose Illustration and not Medicine? Why are you interested in a specific track and not go for a more general and global one? Why this university? We know it is not fate that brought you to this point. Everyone is curious to read your answer: what appeals to you about their university and programs?

Ask for help.

Teacher, professors, assistants, advisors, consultants, friends, family… and us! Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. It is always a good idea to have someone objectively giving feedback to your essay.

Proofread and revise your statement at least 3 times.

…or 10. The difference between “Let’s eat, grandma!” and “Let’s eat grandma!” is someone who did their homework and proofread their text. Do not eat your grandma. Read your letter as many times as needed, until you are perfectly sure no single comma is missing.

Now you can confidently start writing your essay! Let’s find out what are the DON’Ts!

Here are the DON’Ts

Use jargon or slang.

Do not try to impress by using big words. It is informal and you are never going to use this kind of vocabulary in any of future essays, of any kind.

Be repetitive.

Repeating an idea over and over and over again does not add value to your message. See? This would have been the same, or even better, without the repetition.

Be boring.

Every time you write a new idea and you feel it is not good enough, read it out loud and try imaging the admission officers sitting in their chairs, mouths wide open, hurting jaws, watering eyes, yawing while reading the same clichés for the 10th time today, and they have only been at work for 2 hours. Now imagine it is the end of their work day and they read it all. High chances are, if your letter does not stand out, that they might pass out in the office and spend their night there sleeping. We recommend not hurting them like that – they are nice people.


Think about it – is this a fact? We have Wikipedia for that.

Include cliches.

Imagine that you already made the commission yawn, and now they are rolling their eyes too. Disastrous! Try to leave cliches for when you write romantic novels.

Be comical.

A little humor is alright, but remember it can be misconstrued. If you choose to use a subtle joke, make sure you continue your essay in a professional way.

Be defensive or arrogant.

Do not forget that you are the one applying to a university program. It is better to stay humble.


Was the subway packed today? Is the traffic jam terrible in your city? Do you commute a long way to school? Not relevant. Instead of complaining, you should try to see the positive side of things. Nothing is as bad as it seems, but the philosophy lesson of life does still not belong in this essay.

Discuss politics or religion.

Even if you are applying to Political Studies or Religious Studies, you should be careful with your words. As you may already know, even your research should not be biased, and your position should be neutral and objective. Politics and religion are individual beliefs and you do not want to offend the reader.

Give excuses for a low GPA.

Maybe you spent all your semester partying or playing video games. Maybe you fell in love and could not concentrate on your assignments. Maybe you skipped classes, which we do not encourage. Whichever your reasons, do not explain the low GPA. Actually, do not mention it at all.

Make lists of accomplishments, awards, skills, or personal qualities.

This is not the grocery store. Nobody is reading your letter with a full list of such elements, waiting to check them every time you mention one. Moreover, it is hard to remember lists! When was the last time you went to buy groceries and remembered every thing on your list?!

Summarize your CV or resume.

As stated before, your essay and resume are two different documents. Parts of your resume or CV may be in the essay, but this not all that it should be about.

Forget to proofread.

Even if you are in a hurry, do not submit your essay without proofreading it beforehand! Of course, you should not be in the position of applying one minute before the deadline, but we know that such things happen. Do not count on readers’ fatigue! You never know who your assessors will be and how strict they are.

In conclusion, we recommend you to be yourself, not the ideal applicant, because everyone will try to be that! All in all, make sure your essay is organized, coherent, and concise. Address the university’s and the program’s unique features that interest you. Last but not least, enjoy telling your story.

Are you having difficulties in writing your essay? Have these tips helped you? We wish you good luck with writing your essay!

Leave a Reply