Published: Oct. 22, 2015

You may recognize this story from the headlines: a notorious college essay* detailing a young Writing
woman and her conversation with a teacher. She had a full bladder and a conflicting dedication to hearing everything the teacher had to say until . . . you guessed it. She “let it go,” as the song says. The essay garnered national attention for its content—was it comical and personable? Way too much information? Immature?  And it led to a renewed fervor of the age-old question: how do you write the perfect admissions essay? Well, with two essays submitted for every CU-Boulder applicant each year, our Office of Admissions has become quite knowledgeable about this topic.

Tip No. 1: Show us your voice.

The most memorable essays are always ones in which we meet you. Of course, we don’t actually shake your hand, but your personality, your mannerisms, your heart are all evident in an essay with strong voice. This is your chance to be spirited or reflective, nostalgic or fierce, comical or educational. Maybe you talk about your local dialect or perhaps you mention the surprising lessons to be learned through trying new foods. Examples like these don’t just show us your voice, but also your personality.

Tip No. 2: Use your craft.

You’ll notice that we do not use the writing portion of the SAT exam in our decisions. As such, the essay is a key component of demonstrating your compositional skills. And oh, how you demonstrate! Students can intrigue us with a semi-colon, trick us with an extra-long hyphen (maybe you’re a feminist-poet-hiker-recycler-foodie-language-loving-opera-singing Francophile student!), or move us with poetry as prose. At the same time, they focus on a single topic, organize relevant facts and details and maintain a point. Flex your writer’s fingers and show us your skills.

Tip No. 3: Find “your story.”

When making an admission decision, we are reviewing your application holistically. Your academic performance is at the core of our review, but the rest is from what you can share in your essays. Some students have pivotal experiences that are intrinsic to their student lives. Yet others have seen few aberrations from everyday life. But anyone can still explain their story. Whether you to choose to share an experience where you’ve faced adversity or eaten one type of sandwich for lunch every day or taught yourself to build a car engine (all possibilities, all unique), there is something about you that nobody else can call their own. Share it.

Tip No. 4: Be mature.

Regardless of your essay topics, one thing is consistent: you are requesting entrance into a rigorous, demanding and independent world. A student who can demonstrate the skills to transition from high school to college is one who will be successful. You’re making a very important commitment when choosing an institution of higher learning, and we want to ensure that we welcome students who are ready. Take the time to be mature and respectful in your essay. Acknowledge your mistakes. Plan for the future. And tell us what life has taught you so far.


Lindsay Scurto
Lindsay Scurto
Senior Admission Counselor