What Are College Admissions Officers Looking for in the Application Essay?


While not all schools require an application essay, those that do will pay close attention to what you’ve submitted. According to CNBC, college applications have recovered by 22% in 2021 compared to previous years. This means that you’ll have more competition to think about, regardless of which universities or majors you’ve set your sights on. There are some legitimately good reasons to write your application essay carefully:

  • Present yourself in a proper light
  • Increase your chances of being accepted
  • Showcase your writing skills first-hand
  • Reflect on who you’ve become as a person

Application essays are a useful tool for admission officers to assess their university’s candidates beyond the academic achievements they’ve presented in their applications. Here’s how you can use yours to your advantage and come closer to achieving your academic goals.

A Strong Opening Hook

There are two important reasons why a strong opening hook will work in your favor. For one, the hook will entice your reader enough so they continue reading the essay without you expressly telling them to. Also, your admission officers will be on the lookout for opening hooks or use thereof. 

By implementing this writing strategy into your essay, you’ll showcase that you’re already familiar with how academic writing works beyond the basics. You’ll also naturally intrigue the readers enough, so they enjoy reading your essay instead of doing it simply because it’s their job to do it.

Attention to Detail

When it comes to writing application essays, you want to make sure that you follow certain academic rules. Different universities and colleges will ask for different formatting styles, or “tells” of whether the candidate read the instructions. 

By following these details to the letter, you’ll showcase how attentive and considerate you are as a future academic professional. Don’t simply write your application essay without adhering to the strict rules set up by your potential college. Instead, take a more calculated approach and write your essay with those restrictions and/or instructions in mind for the best results.

Academic Vocabulary and Formatting

While your application essay isn’t a technical document or a research paper, you should still showcase your writing versatility to the admission officer. More than anything, they’ll be on the lookout for improper formatting, spelling errors, and omissions in stylistic writing choices. 

You can check out some professional essay writing services to have a reliable editor help you write and format your application essay. That way, you’ll be able to write an original essay while having someone with an academic background go over how you’ve formatted your paper before you submit it.

Originality Instead of Clichés

Speaking of originality, admission officers will want to see a creative spark in the essay you send in for review. Avoid using clichés such as “passionate about learning” or “committed to my profession” because many other candidates will use the same line of thinking. 

Instead, write from the heart and try to contextualize why you’re applying for college in the first place. Did your sibling, a parent, or a friend inspire you to pursue a certain vocation? Do you already have plans to start your own business after graduating? Tell that to the admission officers, and they’ll look at your essay more fondly than if you stuck to “safe” arguments for applying.

Writing your Application Essay

Whether you have a natural affinity for creative writing or you struggle with academic assignments, writing your application essay properly is essential for your college admission. No matter your GPA or the extracurricular activities you’ve engaged in, college admission officers will look for certain tells and red flags in your application essay. 

Don’t write it without any interest or agency because it will clearly show. Instead, look for ways to make the process more interesting for yourself by thinking long-term. Your application essay will help you get accepted to the university you want to attend.

Bio: Joanne Elliot is a writer, editor, and content creator who is passionate about personal and professional development. Joanne enjoys the process of researching and writing about various topics in a variety of formats, including essays, blog posts, research papers, and case studies. She tends to spend her free time doing online courses or spending time outdoors depending on the weather.


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