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Why I Write

This material remains under copyright in some jurisdictions, including the US, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of  the Orwell Estate . The Orwell Foundation is an independent charity – please consider making a donation or becoming a Friend of the Foundation to help us maintain these resources for readers everywhere. 

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.

I was the middle child of three, but there was a gap of five years on either side, and I barely saw my father before I was eight. For this and other reasons I was somewhat lonely, and I soon developed disagreeable mannerisms which made me unpopular throughout my schooldays. I had the lonely child’s habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts, and I felt that this created a sort of private world in which I could get my own back for my failure in everyday life. Nevertheless the volume of serious – i.e. seriously intended ­– writing which I produced all through my childhood and boyhood would not amount to half a dozen pages. I wrote my first poem at the age of four or five, my mother taking it down to dictation. I cannot remember anything about it except that it was about a tiger and the tiger had ‘chair-like teeth’ – a good enough phrase, but I fancy the poem was a plagiarism of Blake’s ‘Tiger, Tiger’. At eleven, when the war or 1914-18 broke out, I wrote a patriotic poem which was printed in the local newspaper, as was another, two years later, on the death of Kitchener. From time to time, when I was a bit older, I wrote bad and usually unfinished ‘nature poems’ in the Georgian style. I also, about twice, attempted a short story which was a ghastly failure. That was the total of the would-be serious work that I actually set down on paper during all those years.

However, throughout this time I did in a sense engage in literary activities. To begin with there was the made-to-order stuff which I produced quickly, easily and without much pleasure to myself. Apart from school work, I wrote vers d’occasion , semi-comic poems which I could turn out at what now seems to me astonishing speed – at fourteen I wrote a whole rhyming play, in imitation of Aristophanes, in about a week – and helped to edit school magazines, both printed and in manuscript. These magazines were the most pitiful burlesque stuff that you could imagine, and I took far less trouble with them than I now would with the cheapest journalism. But side by side with all this, for fifteen years or more, I was carrying out a literary exercise of a quite different kind: this was the making up of a continuous “story” about myself, a sort of diary existing only in the mind. I believe this is a common habit of children and adolescents. As a very small child I used to imagine that I was, say, Robin Hood, and picture myself as the hero of thrilling adventures, but quite soon my “story” ceased to be narcissistic in a crude way and became more and more a mere description of what I was doing and the things I saw. For minutes at a time this kind of thing would be running through my head: ‘He pushed the door open and entered the room. A yellow beam of sunlight, filtering through the muslin curtains, slanted on to the table, where a matchbox, half-open, lay beside the inkpot. With his right hand in his pocket he moved across to the window. Down in the street a tortoiseshell cat was chasing a dead leaf,’ etc., etc. This habit continued until I was about twenty-five, right through my non-literary years. Although I had to search, and did search, for the right words, I seemed to be making this descriptive effort almost against my will, under a kind of compulsion from outside. The ‘story’ must, I suppose, have reflected the styles of the various writers I admired at different ages, but so far as I remember it always had the same meticulous descriptive quality.

When I was about sixteen I suddenly discovered the joy of mere words, i.e. the sounds and associations of words. The lines from Paradise Lost –

So hee with difficulty and labour hard Moved on: with difficulty and labour hee,

which do not now seem to me so very wonderful, sent shivers down my backbone; and the spelling ‘hee’ for ‘he’ was an added pleasure. As for the need to describe things, I knew all about it already. So it is clear what kind of books I wanted to write, in so far as I could be said to want to write books at that time. I wanted to write enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their sound. And in fact my first completed novel, Burmese Days , which I wrote when I was thirty but projected much earlier, is rather that kind of book.

I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject-matter will be determined by the age he lives in ­– at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own – but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, or in some perverse mood: but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write. Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful business men – in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they abandon individual ambition – in many cases, indeed, they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all – and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

(iv) Political purpose – using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

It can be seen how these various impulses must war against one another, and how they must fluctuate from person to person and from time to time. By nature – taking your ‘nature’ to be the state you have attained when you are first adult – I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer. First I spent five years in an unsuitable profession (the Indian Imperial Police, in Burma), and then I underwent poverty and the sense of failure. This increased my natural hatred of authority and made me for the first time fully aware of the existence of the working classes, and the job in Burma had given me some understanding of the nature of imperialism: but these experiences were not enough to give me an accurate political orientation. Then came Hitler, the Spanish Civil War, etc. By the end of 1935 I had still failed to reach a firm decision. I remember a little poem that I wrote at that date, expressing my dilemma:

A happy vicar I might have been Two hundred years ago, To preach upon eternal doom And watch my walnuts grow But born, alas, in an evil time, I missed that pleasant haven, For the hair has grown on my upper lip And the clergy are all clean-shaven. And later still the times were good, We were so easy to please, We rocked our troubled thoughts to sleep On the bosoms of the trees. All ignorant we dared to own The joys we now dissemble; The greenfinch on the apple bough Could make my enemies tremble. But girls’ bellies and apricots, Roach in a shaded stream, Horses, ducks in flight at dawn, All these are a dream. It is forbidden to dream again; We maim our joys or hide them; Horses are made of chromium steel And little fat men shall ride them. I am the worm who never turned, The eunuch without a harem; Between the priest and the commissar I walk like Eugene Aram; And the commissar is telling my fortune While the radio plays, But the priest has promised an Austin Seven, For Duggie always pays. I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls, And woke to find it true; I wasn’t born for an age like this; Was Smith? Was Jones? Were you?

The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it. It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects. Everyone writes of them in one guise or another. It is simply a question of which side one takes and what approach one follows. And the more one is conscious of one’s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s aesthetic and intellectual integrity.

What I have most wanted to do throughout the past ten years is to make political writing into an art. My starting point is always a feeling of partisanship, a sense of injustice. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art’. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience. Anyone who cares to examine my work will see that even when it is downright propaganda it contains much that a full-time politician would consider irrelevant. I am not able, and do not want, completely to abandon the world view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take a pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself. The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.

It is not easy. It raises problems of construction and of language, and it raises in a new way the problem of truthfulness. Let me give just one example of the cruder kind of difficulty that arises. My book about the Spanish civil war, Homage to Catalonia , is of course a frankly political book, but in the main it is written with a certain detachment and regard for form. I did try very hard in it to tell the whole truth without violating my literary instincts. But among other things it contains a long chapter, full of newspaper quotations and the like, defending the Trotskyists who were accused of plotting with Franco. Clearly such a chapter, which after a year or two would lose its interest for any ordinary reader, must ruin the book. A critic whom I respect read me a lecture about it. ‘Why did you put in all that stuff?’ he said. ‘You’ve turned what might have been a good book into journalism.’ What he said was true, but I could not have done otherwise. I happened to know, what very few people in England had been allowed to know, that innocent men were being falsely accused. If I had not been angry about that I should never have written the book.

In one form or another this problem comes up again. The problem of language is subtler and would take too long to discuss. I will only say that of late years I have tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it. Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.

Looking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist or understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.

Gangrel , No. 4, Summer 1946

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Arts & culture.

The art and life of Mark di Suvero

why write in essay

Photograph of light on water by Aayugoyal . Licensed under CC0 4.0.

I encountered Joan Didion’s famous line about why she writes—“entirely to find out what I’m thinking”—many times before I read the essay it comes from, and was reminded once again to never assume you know what anything means out of context. I had always thought the line was about her essays, about writing nonfiction to discover her own beliefs—because of course the act of making an argument clear on the page brings clarity to the writer too. She may have believed that; she may have thought it a truth too obvious to state. In any case, it’s not what she meant. She was talking about why she writes fiction :

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means … Why did the oil refineries around Carquinez Strait seem sinister to me in the summer of 1956? Why have the night lights in the Bevatron burned in my mind for twenty years? What is going on in these pictures in my mind?

These pictures, Didion writes, are “images that shimmer around the edges,” reminiscent of “an illustration in every elementary psychology book showing a cat drawn by a patient in varying stages of schizophrenia.” (I know these frightening psychedelic cats, the art of Louis Wain, very well—I saw them as a child, in just such a book, which I found on my parents’ shelves.) Play It As It Lays , she explains, began “with no notion of ‘character’ or ‘plot’ or even ‘incident,’” but with pictures. One was of a woman in a short white dress walking through a casino to make a phone call; this woman became Maria. The Bevatron (a particle accelerator at Berkeley Lab) was one of the pictures in her mind when she began writing A Book of Common Prayer . Fiction, for Didion, was the task of finding “the grammar in the picture,” the corresponding language: “The arrangement of the words matters, and the arrangement you want can be found in the picture in your mind. The picture dictates the arrangement.” This is a much stranger reason to write than to clarify an argument. It makes me think of the scenes that I sometimes see just before I fall asleep. I know I’m still awake—they’re not as immersive as dreams—but they seem to be something that’s happening to me, not something I’m creating. I’m not manning the projector.

Nabokov spoke of shimmers too. “Literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him,” he said in a lecture in 1948. “Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story, there is a shimmering go-between.” In this view, it seems to me, the writer’s not the wraith who can pass between realms of reality and fantasy. The art itself is the wraith, which the artist only grasps at. Elsewhere, Nabokov writes that inspiration comes in the form of “a prefatory glow, not unlike some benign variety of the aura before an epileptic attack.” In his Paris Review interview, Martin Amis describes the urge to write this way: “What happens is what Nabokov described as a throb. A throb or a glimmer, an act of recognition on the writer’s part. At this stage the writer thinks, Here is something I can write a novel about.” Amis also saw images, a sudden person in a setting, as if a pawn had popped into existence on a board: “With Money , for example, I had an idea of a big fat guy in New York, trying to make a film. That was all.” Likewise for Don DeLillo: “The scene comes first, an idea of a character in a place. It’s visual, it’s Technicolor—something I see in a vague way. Then sentence by sentence into the breach.” For these writers that begin from something like hallucination, the novel is a universe that justifies the image, a replica of Vegas to be built out of words.

William Faulkner wrote The Sound and the Fury five separate times, “trying to tell the story, to rid myself of the dream.” “It began with a mental picture,” he told Jean Stein in 1956, “of the muddy seat of a little girl’s drawers in a pear tree.” He couldn’t seem to get it right, to find the picture’s grammar, or hear it. (According to Didion, “It tells you. You don’t tell it.”) This was part of the work, this getting it wrong—Faulkner believed failure was what kept writers going, and that if you ever could write something equal to your vision, you’d kill yourself. In his own Paris Review interview, Ted Hughes tells a story about Thomas Hardy’s vision of a novel—“all the characters, many episodes, even some dialogue—the one ultimate novel that he absolutely had to write”—which came to him up in an apple tree. This may be apocryphal, but I hope it isn’t. (I imagine him on a ladder, my filigree on the myth.) By the time he came down “the whole vision had fled,” Hughes said, like an untold dream. We have to write while the image is shimmering.

There is often something compulsive about the act of writing, as if to cast out invasive thoughts. Kafka said, “God doesn’t want me to write, but I—I must.” Hughes wondered if poetry might be “a revealing of something that the writer doesn’t actually want to say but desperately needs to communicate, to be delivered of.” It’s the fear of discovery, then, that makes poems poetic, a way of telling riddles in the confession booth. “The writer daren’t actually put it into words, so it leaks out obliquely,” Hughes said. Speaking of Sylvia Plath, in 1995, he added, “You can’t overestimate her compulsion to write like that. She had to write those things—even against her most vital interests. She died before she knew what The Bell Jar and the Ariel poems were going to do to her life, but she had to get them out.” Jean Rhys also looked at writing as a purgative process: “I would write to forget, to get rid of sad moments.” Some reach a point where the writing is almost involuntary. The novelist Patrick Cottrell has said he only writes when he absolutely has to. “I have to feel borderline desperate,” he said, and “going long periods without writing” helps feed the desperation. Ann Patchett, in an essay called “Writing and a Life Lived Well,” writes that working on a novel is like living a double life, “my own and the one I create.” It’s much easier not to be working on a novel—I sometimes hear novelists speak of a work in progress as an all-consuming crisis—but the ease of not working, after a while, feels cheap: “this life lived only for myself takes on a certain lightness that I find almost unbearable.”

Some writers write in the name of Art in general—James Salter for instance: “A great book may be an accident, but a good one is a possibility, and it is thinking of that that one writes. In short, to achieve.” Eudora Welty said she wrote “for it , for the pleasure of it .” Or as Joy Williams puts it, in a wonderfully strange essay called “Uncanny the Singing that Comes from Certain Husks,” “The writer doesn’t write for the reader. He doesn’t write for himself, either. He writes to serve … something. Somethingness. The somethingness that is sheltered by the wings of nothingness—those exquisite, enveloping, protecting wings.” Is that somethingness the wraith, the shimmering go-between? Or a godlike observer? “The writer writes to serve,” she writes, “that great cold elemental grace which knows us.”

Though Faulkner felt a duty toward the work that superseded all other ethics (“If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ is worth any number of old ladies”!), he also found writing fun, at least when it was new. David Foster Wallace, in a piece from the 1998 anthology Why I Write , edited by Will Blythe, agrees: “In the beginning, when you first start out trying to write fiction, the whole endeavor’s about fun … You’re writing almost wholly to get yourself off.” (He’s not the only writer in the volume to describe writing as physical, almost sexual pleasure; William Vollmann claims he would write just for thrills but also likes getting paid, “like a good prostitute.”) But once you’ve been published, the innocent pleasure is tainted. “The motive of pure personal fun starts to get supplanted by the motive of being liked,” Wallace writes, and the fun “is offset by a terrible fear of rejection.” Beyond the pleasure in itself, the fun for fun’s sake, writing for fun wards off ego and blinding vanity.

For every author who finds writing fun there is one for whom it’s pain, for whom Nabokov’s shimmerings would not be benign but premonitions of the suffering. Ha Jin said, “To write is to suffer.” Spalding Gray said, “Writing is like a disease.” Truman Capote, in his introduction to The Collected Works of Jane Bowles , and perhaps a particularly self-pitying mood, called writing “the hardest work around.” Annie Dillard said that “writing sentences is difficult whatever their subject”—and further, “It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby-Dick . So you might as well write Moby-Dick .” (Annie Dillard says such preposterous things—“Some people eat cars”!) It’s fashionable now to object on principle to the idea that writing is hard. Writing isn’t hard, this camp says; working in coal mines is hard. Having a baby is hard. But this is a category error. Writing isn’t hard the way physical labor, or recovery from surgery, is hard; it’s hard the way math or physics is hard, the way chess is hard. What’s hard about art is getting any good—and then getting better. What’s hard is solving problems with infinite solutions and your finite brain.

Then there’s the question of whether the pain comes from writing or the writing comes from pain. “I’ve never written when I was happy,” Jean Rhys said. “I didn’t want to … When I think about it, if I had to choose, I’d rather be happy than write.” Bud Smith has said he’s only prolific because he ditched all his other hobbies, so all he can do is write—but “people are probably better off with a yard, a couple kids, and sixteen dogs.” Here’s Williams again: “Writing has never given me any pleasure.” And then there’s Dorothy Parker, simply: “I hate writing.” I love writing, but I hate almost everything about being a writer. The striving, the pitching, the longueurs and bureaucracy of publishing, the professional jealousy, the waiting and waiting and waiting for something to happen that might make it all feel worth it. But when I’m actually writing, I’m happy.

Didion borrowed the title of her lecture “Why I Write” from George Orwell, who in his essay of this name outlined four potential reasons why anyone might write: “sheer egoism” (Gertrude Stein claimed she wrote “for praise,” like Wallace in his weaker moments); “aesthetic enthusiasm” or the mere love of beauty (William Gass: “The poet, every artist, is a maker, a maker whose aim is to make something supremely worthwhile, to make something inherently valuable in itself”); “historical impulse,” or “desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity”; and finally “political purpose.” This last cause was what mattered to Orwell. “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936”—he was writing this ten years later—“has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.” He considered it “nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.”

I’m unsure if Orwell meant that avoiding moral subjects was an unthinkable error, or a true impossibility, in the sense that one can’t escape the spirit of the age. Was any post-war novel, any novel written or even read in 1946, a war novel ineluctably? Kazuo Ishiguro has said he never writes to assert a moral: “I like to highlight some aspect of being human. I’m not really trying to say, so don’t do this, or do that. I’m saying, this is how it feels to me.” But having a moral, a didactic lesson, and being moral are different. Writers might try to avoid an argument and fail, even if it is less a thesis than an emergent property, a slow meaning that arises through cause and effect or mere juxtaposition. Ishiguro’s novels, in the course of unfolding, do triangulate a worldview. John Gardner would say, if the work is didactic, that means it’s too simple: “The didactic writer is anything but moral because he is always simplifying the argument.” (He also said, hilariously, “If you believe that life is fundamentally a volcano full of baby skulls, you’ve got two main choices as an artist: You can either stare into the volcano and count the skulls for the thousandth time and tell everybody, There are the skulls; that’s your baby, Mrs. Miller. Or you can try to build walls so that fewer baby skulls go in.”) The book can also stand in as an argument for its own existence. Toni Morrison wrote her first novel to fill what she saw as a treacherous gap in literature, to create a kind of book that she had always wanted to read but couldn’t find—a book about “those most vulnerable, most undescribed, not taken seriously little black girls.” Her ambition was not to make white people empathize with black girls. “I’m writing for black people,” Morrison once said, “in the same way that Tolstoy was not writing for me.”

Only one writer in the Blythe anthology, a magazine writer named Mark Jacobson, claims he does it “for the money.” (“What other reason could there be? For my soul? Gimme a break.”) No one in the book claims they do it for fame, though the luster of fame is tempting, distracting. In a TV documentary about Madonna that I saw many years ago, she said she always knew she wanted to be famous, and didn’t really care how she got there—music was just the path that worked out. This is not so different from Susan Sontag, who was also obsessed with fame from an early age. Plath too made such confessions in her diary. Capote often said he always knew he would be rich and famous. I think the wish for fame is reasonable, since practically there’s not much money in writing unless you are famous. For most the rewards are meager. As Salter writes, “So much praise is given to insignificant things that there is hardly any sense in striving for it.” The thing about success, good fortune, and maybe even happiness is this: You can see that there are people who “deserve” whatever you have as much as you do but have less, as well as people who “deserve” it less or equally and have more. So, at the same time, you want more and feel you don’t deserve what you have. It’s a source of anxiety, guilt, and resentment and troubles the very idea of what one “deserves.” In the end I believe you don’t deserve anything; you get what you get.

I’ve been collecting these theories of why writers write because so many writers have written about it. I love reading writers on writing. I love writers on their bullshit. During the first year of the pandemic, I started listening obsessively to interview podcasts. At first this was strategic. I had a book coming out, and I thought of them as training; I thought they would help me get better at talking about my own book. But I was also lonely. I wasn’t going to readings or parties, and I missed writers’ voices. The practice has diminishing comforts. After a while most writers sound the same, and some days, after bingeing on writers, I can start to feel pointless, interchangeable. Faulkner said he disliked giving interviews because the artist was “of no importance”: “If I had not existed, someone else would have written me, Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, all of us.” (And yet he named himself as one of the five most important authors of the twentieth century; there are limits to humility.) Some days I think the very question is banal, like photos of a writer’s “workspace.” They’re all just desks! Why write? Why do anything? Why not write? It’s the same as the impulse to make a handprint in wet concrete or trace your finger in the mist on a window. What you wrote, as a kid, on a window was the simplest version of the vision. Why that vision? Why that vision, and why you?

Tillie Olsen, in her 1965 essay “Silences,” called the not-writing that has to happen sometimes—“what Keats called agonie ennuyeuse (the tedious agony)”—instead “natural silences,” or “necessary time for renewal, lying fallow, gestation.” Breaks or blocks, times when the author has nothing to say or can only repeat themselves, are the opposite of “the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot.” The unnatural silence of writers is suppression of the glimmer. This is Melville who, in Olsen’s words, was “damned by dollars into a Customs House job; to have only weary evenings and Sundays left for writing.” And likewise Hardy, who stopped writing novels after “the Victorian vileness to his Jude the Obscure ,” Olsen writes, though he lived another thirty years—thirty years gone, gone as that novel in the apple tree. She quotes a line from his poem “The Missed Train”: “Less and less shrink the visions then vast in me.” And this same fate came to Olsen herself, who wrote what she wrote in “snatches of time” between jobs and motherhood, until “there came a time when this triple life was no longer possible. The fifteen hours of daily realities became too much distraction for the writing.” I read Olsen’s essay during a period in my life when stress from my day job, among other sources, was making it especially difficult to write. I didn’t have the energy to do both jobs well, but I couldn’t choose between them, so I did both badly. Like Olsen, I’d lost “craziness of endurance.”

James Thurber said “the characteristic fear of the American writer” is aging—we fear we’ll get old and die or simply lose the mental capacity to do the work we want to do, to make our little bids for immortality. Of late I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a “body of work.” I’ve gotten it into my head that seven books, even short, minor books, will constitute a body of work, my body of work. When I finish, if I finish, seven books I can retire from writing, or die. But how long can the corpus really outlast the corpse? I heard Nicholson Baker on a podcast say his grandfather, or maybe some uncle or other, was a well-known writer in his day and is now totally unknown. Unless we’re very, very famous, we’ll be forgotten that quickly, he said, so you might as well write what you want. I think about that a lot. Since I don’t have children, I have more time to write than Tillie Olsen did. But I don’t have that built-in generation of buffer between my death and obscurity. At least I won’t be around to know I’m not known. DeLillo again: “We die indoors, and alone.”

That year when I walked so much while listening to writers that I wore clean holes through my shoes, I kept asking myself why I write—or more so, why my default state is writing, since on any given day I might be writing for morality, Art, or attention, for just a little money. (I can’t go very long without writing, though I can go for a while without writing something good.) I think I write to think—not to find out what I think; surely I know what I already think—but to do better thinking. Staring at my laptop screen makes me better at thinking. Even thinking about writing makes me better at thinking. And when I’m thinking well, I can sometimes write that rare, rare sentence or paragraph that feels exactly right, only in the sense that I found the exact right sequence of words and punctuation to express my own thought—the grammar in the thought. That rightness feels so good, like sinking an unlikely shot in pool. The ball is away and apart from you, but you feel it in your body, the knowledge of causation. Never mind luck or skill or free will, you caused that effect—you’re alive!

Elisa Gabbert is the author of six collections of poetry, essays, and criticism, most recently Normal Distance, out from Soft Skull in September 2022, and  The Unreality of Memory & Other Essays. She writes the “On Poetry” column for the New York Times, a nd her work has appeared recently in Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, and The Believer.

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Why do we write, reasons for writing.

The primary reason for writing anything is to communicate with others, to stimulate interest or action from the reader. You may also use writing to help you to reflect on your experiences and learn from them. While at University a key way of assessing the progress and learning of students is via the written work you produce.When we write, therefore, we are either writing for ourselves or we are writing for others.

When we write for ourselves it helps us to think, learn and understand. Writing for ourselves is a private affair though it may be shared with others.

When we write for others it is usually for assessment or publication for a wider readership.

Benefits of writing

Writing has a number of key benefits:

  • It is fixed and is therefore more permanent. You can keep coming back to a previous piece of writing and you may gain more benefit from reviewing it as a result.
  • BUT... do remember that you do not have to submit your first draft, the writing process may take many forms (visually and textually) and that looking back at your previous experiences of writing can help you learn more about your writing style.
  • Writing offers you time and space to re-draft and re-focus your message. In this way, perhaps, it is easier than spoken communication. When speaking, you have to think of words and immediately release them to the audience, and once spoken there is no opportunity to 'edit' them before they are heard.
  • The process of writing is something that you can constantly learn from, and cumulatively feedback and reflection on your writing can help you to develop as a writer. However, an important benefit of writing is also that as a form of assessment a piece of writing can be self-contained with its own deadline and a particular purpose. You do not have to keep writing the same piece for the same purpose.
  • Writing sometimes has more impact than other communication channels. Through writing, you can select language to influence the thoughts and actions of your reader in particular ways, guiding them through your evidence and argument to convince them of your analysis and conclusions.

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Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of George Orwell’s ‘Why I Write’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘Why I Write’ is an essay by George Orwell, published in 1946 after the publication of his novella Animal Farm and before he wrote his final novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four . The essay is an insightful piece of memoir about Orwell’s early years and how he developed as a writer, from harbouring ambitions to write self-consciously literary works to developing, in the 1930s, into the author of sharp political commentary in both fiction and non-fiction.

You can read ‘Why I Write’ here before proceeding to our summary and analysis of Orwell’s essay below.

‘Why I Write’: summary

Orwell begins by observing that he knew he should be a writer from a very young age. Although in early adulthood he tried to ‘abandon’ the idea, he knew it was his true calling and that he would eventually ‘settle down and write books’.

He tells us that he was a lonely child who would make up stories and hold conversations with imaginary people, and that his own desire to write is linked to this childhood loneliness. During the First World War, when Orwell was still a child, he had two poems published in the local newspaper, and that was the beginning of his publishing career.

In his youth, he continued to think like a writer, making up a ‘continuous “story” about myself’, but never writing it down. When he was in his twenties, he had ambitions of writing ‘enormous naturalistic novels with unhappy endings, full of detailed descriptions and arresting similes, and also full of purple passages in which words were used partly for the sake of their sound’. Orwell calls his first novel, Burmese Days (1934), this kind of book.

Orwell then outlines what he sees as four chief motives for anyone becoming a writer: 1) egoism; 2) aesthetic enthusiasm; 3) historical impulse; and 4) political purpose.

Egoism is the desire to be thought clever, be talked about when alive, and remembered after death. Aesthetic enthusiasm is the perception of beauty in the world around the writer, as well as the beauty of language. The historical impulse is a desire to see things as they are and present the facts to readers. Political purpose is the urge to change people’s views of the kind of society they want to live in.

This last one is a matter of degree, because Orwell argues that every writer adopts some kind of political position: ‘Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.’

Perhaps surprisingly given he is principally known for ‘political’ writing, Orwell confides that by nature he is someone for whom the first three motives would usually outweigh the fourth. But when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Orwell knew where he stood. As he famously declares: ‘Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it.’

Orwell concludes ‘Why I Write’ by stating that in the decade since 1936 he has tried to turn political writing ‘into an art’. Although he acknowledges that his impulse has not been entirely public-spirited but just as egoistic and ‘vain’ as it is in most writers, he knows that ‘one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality.’ The political scene has helped Orwell to sharpen his own writing.

‘Why I Write’: analysis

Orwell’s essay is of interest as a piece of autobiography, but Orwell extrapolates from his own personal background and literary trajectory to make more universal statements about good writing, and the reasons why all writers choose to write for a living (if they’re indeed lucky enough to do it for a living: in his ‘ Confessions of a Book Reviewer ’, also from 1946, he brilliantly outlines the absurd and stressful existence of struggling writers surviving on hackwork for newspapers and magazines, just to pay that month’s rent).

One of the key insights in ‘Why I Write’ is the link Orwell makes between his own efforts to become a successful writer and the broader political scene in Europe (and beyond) at the time. The Spanish Civil War, and the rise of Nazism, fascism, and Stalinism, all gave him a clear sense of what he should write about. As he puts it, all of his serious work written since has been ‘ against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism’.

We find this even in an essay like ‘ Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels ’ (which, along with his analysis of Dickens’s art, shows what a fine and sensitive literary critic Orwell was), another 1946 essay, in which Orwell argues that in Book IV of Gulliver’s Travels , Jonathan Swift depicts what we would now call a totalitarian society. But because Gulliver (and, presumably, by extension, Swift himself) approves of the Houyhnhnms’ society, Swift admires the idea of a totalitarian state in which dissident opinion is unacceptable.

The point is that when he lacked a clear motivation for writing fiction, he churned out ‘lifeless’ work (much of which, such as his novel A Clergyman’s Daughter , a kind of Joycean work in many ways, he later disowned, calling it ‘tripe’).

But once he realised what his subject-matter should be, this new-found ‘political purpose’ sharpened his prose. In a sense, the fourth of Orwell’s listed motives brought the other three into a new perspective. His clearest and most detailed account of what constitutes good political writing is his essay ‘ Politics and the English Language ’ (also from 1946), which we have analysed here .

In 1976, Joan Didion wrote her own essay called ‘ Why I Write ’, in which she acknowledged that she had taken her title from George Orwell. She also drew attention to the triple-assonance in Orwell’s title, the long I sounds of ‘Why I Write’.

Even Orwell’s title is itself an example of the clear-minded simplicity which he identifies as the chief feature of good writing at the end of ‘Why I Write’: ‘Good prose is like a window pane.’ But as so often with Orwell’s work, he is not just writing about himself, but drawing attention to far more widespread truths about what motivates an author to devote their lives to writing.

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By Paul Auster

Paul Auster

A German friend tells of the circumstances that preceded the births of her two daughters.

Nineteen years ago, hugely pregnant and already several weeks past due, A. sat down on the sofa in her living room and turned on the television set. As luck would have it, the opening credits of a film were just coming onscreen. It was “The Nun’s Story,” a nineteen-fifties Hollywood drama starring Audrey Hepburn. Glad for the distraction, A. settled in to watch the movie and immediately got caught up in it. Halfway through, she went into labor. Her husband drove her to the hospital, and she never learned how the film turned out.

Three years later, pregnant with her second child, A. sat down on the sofa and turned on the television set once again. Once again a film was playing, and once again it was “The Nun’s Story,” with Audrey Hepburn. Even more remarkable (and A. was very emphatic about this point), she had tuned in to the film at the precise moment where she had left off three years earlier. This time, she was able to see the film through to the end. Less than fifteen minutes later, her water broke, and she went off to the hospital to give birth for the second time.

These two daughters are A.’s only children. The first labor was extremely difficult (my friend nearly didn’t make it and was ill for many months afterward), but the second delivery went smoothly, with no complications of any kind.

Five years ago, I spent the summer with my wife and children in Vermont, renting an old, isolated farmhouse on the top of a mountain. One day, a woman from the next town stopped by to visit, along with her two children, a girl of four and a boy of eighteen months. My daughter had turned three, and she and the girl enjoyed playing with each other. My wife and I sat down in the kitchen with our guest, and the children ran off to amuse themselves.

Five minutes later, there was a loud crash. The little boy had wandered into the front hall at the other end of the house. Since my wife had put a vase of flowers in that hall just two hours earlier, it wasn’t difficult to guess what had happened. I didn’t have to look to know that the floor would be covered with broken glass and a pool of water—along with the stems and petals of a dozen scattered flowers.

I was annoyed. “Goddam kids,” I said to myself. “Goddam people with their goddam clumsy kids. Who gave them the right to drop by without calling first?”

I told my wife that I’d clean up the mess, and so while she and our visitor continued their conversation I gathered up a broom, a dustpan, and some towels and marched off to the front of the house.

My wife had put the flowers on a wooden trunk that sat just below the staircase railing. This staircase was especially steep and narrow, and there was a large window not more than a yard from the bottom step. I mention this geography because it’s important. Where things were has everything to do with what happened next.

I was about half finished with the cleanup job when my daughter rushed out from her room onto the second-floor landing. I was close enough to the foot of the stairs to catch a glimpse of her (a couple of steps back and she would have been blocked from view), and in that brief moment I saw that she had that high-spirited, utterly happy expression that has filled my middle age with such overpowering gladness. Then, an instant later, before I could even say hello, she tripped. The toe of her sneaker had caught on the landing, and just like that, without any cry or warning, she was sailing through the air. I don’t mean to suggest that she was falling or tumbling or bouncing down the steps. I mean to say that she was flying. The stumble had literally launched her into space, and from the trajectory of her flight I could see that she was heading straight for the window.

What did I do? I don’t know what I did. I was on the wrong side of the bannister when I saw her trip. By the time she was midway between the landing and the window I was standing on the bottom step of the staircase. How did I get there? It was no more than a question of several feet, but it hardly seems possible to cover that distance in that amount of time—which is next to no time at all. Nevertheless, I was there, and the moment I got there I looked up, opened my arms, and caught her.

I was fourteen. For the third year in a row, my parents had sent me to a summer camp in New York State. I spent the bulk of my time playing basketball and baseball, but as it was a coed camp there were other activities as well: evening “socials,” the first awkward grapplings with girls, panty raids, the usual adolescent shenanigans. I also remember smoking cheap cigars on the sly, “Frenching” beds, and massive water-balloon fights.

None of this is important. I simply want to underscore what a vulnerable age fourteen can be. No longer a child, not yet an adult, you bounce back and forth between who you were and who you are about to become. In my own case, I was still young enough to think that I had a legitimate shot at playing in the major leagues, but old enough to be questioning the existence of God. I had read the “Communist Manifesto,” and yet I still enjoyed watching Saturday-morning cartoons. Every time I saw my face in the mirror, I seemed to be looking at someone else.

There were about sixteen or eighteen boys in my group. Most of us had been together for several years, but a couple of newcomers had also joined us that summer. One was named Ralph. He was a quiet kid without much enthusiasm for dribbling basketballs and hitting the cutoff man, and while no one gave him a particularly hard time, he had trouble blending in. He had flunked a couple of subjects that year, and most of his free periods were spent being tutored by one of the counsellors. It was a little sad, and I felt sorry for him—but not too sorry, not sorry enough to lose any sleep over it.

Our counsellors were all New York college students from Brooklyn and Queens. Wisecracking basketball players, future dentists, accountants, and teachers, city kids to their very bones. Like most true New Yorkers, they persisted in calling the ground the “floor,” even when all that was under their feet was grass, pebbles, and dirt. The trappings of traditional summer-camp life were as alien to them as the I.R.T. is to an Iowa farmer. Canoes, lanyards, mountain climbing, pitching tents, singing around the campfire were nowhere to be found in the inventory of their concerns. They could drill us on the finer points of setting picks and boxing out for rebounds; otherwise they horsed around and told jokes.

Imagine our surprise, then, when one afternoon our counsellor announced that we were going for a hike in the woods. He had been seized by an inspiration and wasn’t going to let anyone talk him out of it. Enough basketball, he said. We’re surrounded by nature, and it’s time we took advantage of it and started acting like real campers—or words to that effect. And so, after the rest period that followed lunch, the whole gang of sixteen or eighteen boys, along with two counsellors, set off into the woods.

It was late July, 1961. Everyone was in a fairly buoyant mood, I remember, and half an hour or so into the trek most people agreed that the outing had been a good idea. No one had a compass, of course, or the slightest clue as to where we were going, but we were all enjoying ourselves, and if we happened to get lost, what difference would that make? Sooner or later we’d find our way back.

Then it began to rain. At first, it was barely noticeable, a few light drops falling between the leaves and branches, nothing to worry about. We walked on, unwilling to let a little water spoil our fun, but a couple of minutes later it started coming down in earnest. Everyone got soaked, and the counsellors decided that we should turn around and head back. The only problem was that no one knew where the camp was. The woods were thick, dense with clusters of trees and thorn-studded bushes, and we had woven this way and that, abruptly shifting directions in order to move on. To add to the confusion, it was becoming hard to see. The woods had been dark to begin with, but, with the rain falling and the sky turning black, it felt more like night than three or four in the afternoon.

Then the thunder started. And after the thunder the lightning started. The storm was directly on top of us, and it turned out to be the summer storm to end all summer storms. I have never seen weather like that before or since. The rain poured down on us so hard that it actually hurt; each time the thunder exploded, you could feel the noise vibrating inside your body. When the lightning came, it danced around us like spears. It was as if weapons had materialized out of thin air—a sudden flash that turned everything a bright, ghostly white. Trees were struck, and their branches began to smolder. Then it would go dark again for a moment, there would be another crash in the sky, and the lightning would return in a different spot.

The lightning was what scared us, of course, and in our panic we tried to run away from it. But the storm was too big, and everywhere we went we were met by more lightning. It was a helter-skelter stampede, a headlong rush in circles. Then, suddenly, someone spotted a clearing in the woods. A brief dispute broke out over whether it was safer to go into the open or continue to stand under the trees. The voice arguing for the open won, and we ran in the direction of the clearing.

It was a small meadow, most likely pasture that belonged to a local farm, and to get to it we had to crawl under a barbed-wire fence. One by one, we got down on our bellies and inched our way through. I was in the middle of the line, directly behind Ralph. Just as he went under the barbed wire, there was another flash of lightning. I was two or three feet away, but, because of the rain pounding against my eyelids, I had trouble making out what happened. All I knew was that Ralph had stopped moving. I figured that he had been stunned, so I crawled past him under the fence. Once I was on the other side, I took hold of his arm and dragged him through.

I don’t know how long we stayed in that field. An hour, I would guess, and the whole time we were there the rain and lightning and thunder continued to crash down upon us. It was a storm ripped from the pages of the Bible, and it went on and on and on, as if it would never end.

Two or three boys were hit by something—perhaps by lightning, perhaps by the shock of lightning as it struck the ground near them—and the meadow began to fill with their moans. Other boys wept and prayed. Still others, fear in their voices, tried to give sensible advice. Get rid of everything metal, they said; metal attracts the lightning. We all took off our belts and threw them away from us.

I don’t remember saying anything. I don’t remember crying. Another boy and I kept ourselves busy trying to take care of Ralph. He was still unconscious. We rubbed his hands and arms, we held down his tongue so he wouldn’t swallow it, we told him to hang in there. After a while, his skin began to take on a bluish tinge. His body seemed colder to my touch, but in spite of the mounting evidence it never occurred to me that he wasn’t going to come around. I was only fourteen years old, after all, and what did I know? I had never seen a dead person before.

It was the barbed wire that did it, I suppose. The other boys hit by the lightning went numb, felt pain in their limbs for an hour or so, and then recovered. But Ralph had been under the fence when the lightning struck, and he had been electrocuted on the spot.

Later on, when they told me he was dead, I learned that there was an eight-inch burn across his back. I remember trying to absorb this news and telling myself that life would never feel the same to me again. Strangely enough, I didn’t think about how I had been right next to him when it happened. I didn’t think, One or two seconds later and it would have been me. What I thought about was holding his tongue and looking down at his teeth. His mouth had been set in a slight grimace, and, with his lips partly open, I had spent an hour looking down at the tips of his teeth. Thirty-four years later, I still remember them. And his half-closed, half-open eyes. I remember those, too.

Not many years ago, I received a letter from a woman who lives in Brussels. In it, she told me the story of a friend of hers, a man she has known since childhood.

In 1940, this man joined the Belgian Army. When the country fell to the Nazis later that year, he was captured and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. He remained there until the war ended, in 1945.

Prisoners were allowed to correspond with Red Cross workers back in Belgium. The man was arbitrarily assigned a pen pal—a Red Cross nurse from Brussels—and for the next five years he and this woman exchanged letters every month. Over the course of time, they became fast friends. At a certain point (I’m not exactly sure how long this took), they understood that something more than friendship had developed between them. The correspondence went on, growing more intimate with each exchange, and at last they declared their love for each other. Was such a thing possible? They had never seen each other, had never spent a minute in each other’s company.

After the war was over, the man was released from prison and returned to Brussels. He met the nurse, the nurse met him, and neither was disappointed. A short time later, they were married.

Years went by. They had children, they grew older, the world became a slightly different world. Their son completed his studies in Belgium and went off to do graduate work in Germany. At the university there, he fell in love with a young German woman. He wrote his parents and told them that he intended to marry her.

The parents on both sides couldn’t have been happier for their children. The two families arranged to meet, and on the appointed day the German family showed up at the house of the Belgian family in Brussels. As the German father walked into the living room and the Belgian father rose to welcome him, the two men looked into each other’s eyes and recognized each other. Many years had passed, but neither one was in any doubt as to who the other was. At one time in their lives, they had seen each other every day. The German father had been a guard in the prison camp where the Belgian father had spent the war.

As the woman who wrote me the letter hastened to add, there was no bad blood between them. However monstrous the German regime might have been, the German father had done nothing during those five years to turn the Belgian father against him.

These two men are now the best of friends. The greatest joy in both their lives is the grandchildren they have in common.

I was eight years old. At that moment in my life, nothing was more important to me than baseball. My team was the New York Giants, and I followed the doings of those men in the black-and-orange caps with all the devotion of a true believer. Even now, remembering that team—which no longer exists, which played in a ballpark that no longer exists—I can reel off the names of nearly every player on the roster. Alvin Dark, Whitey Lockman, Don Mueller, Johnny Antonelli, Monte Irvin, Hoyt Wilhelm. But none was greater, none more perfect nor more deserving of worship than Willie Mays, the incandescent Say Hey kid.

That spring, I was taken to my first big-league game. Friends of my parents had box seats at the Polo Grounds, and one April night a group of us went to watch the Giants play the Milwaukee Braves. I don’t know who won, I can’t recall a single detail of the game, but I do remember that after the game was over my parents and their friends sat talking in their seats until all the other spectators had left. It got so late that we had to walk across the diamond and leave by the center-field exit, which was the only one still open. As it happened, that exit was right below the players’ locker rooms.

Just as we approached the wall, I caught sight of Willie Mays. There was no question about who it was. It was Willie Mays, already out of uniform and standing there in his street clothes not ten feet away from me. I managed to keep my legs moving in his direction and then, mustering every ounce of my courage, I forced some words out of my mouth. “Mr. Mays,” I said, “could I please have your autograph?”

He had to have been all of twenty-four years old, but I couldn’t bring myself to pronounce his first name.

His response to my question was brusque but amiable. “Sure, kid, sure,” he said. “You got a pencil?” He was so full of life, I remember, so full of youthful energy, that he kept bouncing up and down as he spoke.

I didn’t have a pencil, so I asked my father if I could borrow his. He didn’t have one, either. Nor did my mother. Nor, as it turned out, did any of the other grownups.

The great Willie Mays stood there watching in silence. When it became clear that no one in the group had anything to write with, he turned to me and shrugged. “Sorry, kid,” he said. “Ain’t got no pencil, can’t give no autograph.” And then he walked out of the ballpark into the night.

I didn’t want to cry, but tears started falling down my cheeks, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. Even worse, I cried all the way home in the car. Yes, I was crushed with disappointment, but I was also revolted at myself for not being able to control those tears. I wasn’t a baby. I was eight years old, and big kids weren’t supposed to cry over things like that. Not only did I not have Willie Mays’ autograph, I didn’t have anything else, either. Life had put me to the test, and in all respects I had found myself wanting.

After that night, I started carrying a pencil with me wherever I went. It became a habit of mine never to leave the house without making sure I had a pencil in my pocket. It’s not that I had any particular plans for that pencil, but I didn’t want to be unprepared. I had been caught empty-handed once, and I wasn’t about to let it happen again. If nothing else, the years have taught me this: if there’s a pencil in your pocket, there’s a good chance that one day you’ll feel tempted to start using it. As I like to tell my children, that’s how I became a writer. ♦

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Do you dread essay writing? Are you looking for some essay tips that will help you write an amazing essay—and have fun doing it?

essay tips

Lots of students, young and old, dread essay writing. It's a daunting assignment, one that takes research, time, and concentration.

It's also an assignment that you can break up into simple steps that make writing an essay manageable and, yes, even enjoyable.

These ten essay tips completely changed my writing process—and I hope that they can do the same for you.

Essay Writing Can Be Fun

Honestly, throughout most of high school and college, I was a mediocre essay writer.

Every once in a while, I would write a really good essay, but mostly I skated by with B's and A-minuses.

I know personally how boring writing an essay can be, and also, how hard it can be to write a good one.

However, toward the end of my time as a student, I made a breakthrough. I figured out how to not only write a great essay, I learned how to have fun while doing it . 

And since then, I've become a professional writer and have written more than a dozen books. I'm not saying that these essay writing tips are going to magically turn you into a writer, but at least they can help you enjoy the process more.

I'm excited to share these ten essay writing tips with you today! But first, we need to talk about why writing an essay is so hard.

Why Writing an Essay Is So Hard

When it comes to essay writing, a lot of students find a reason to put it off. And when they tackle it, they find it difficult to string sentences together that sound like a decent stance on the assigned subject.

Here are a few reasons why essay writing is hard:

  • You'd rather be scrolling through Facebook
  • You're trying to write something your teacher or professor will like
  • You're trying to get an A instead of writing something that's actually good
  • You want to do the least amount of work possible

The biggest reason writing an essay is so hard is because we mostly focus on those external  rewards like getting a passing grade, winning our teacher's approval, or just avoiding accusations of plagiarism.

The problem is that when you focus on external approval it not only makes writing much less fun, it also makes it significantly harder.

Because when you focus on external approval, you shut down your subconscious, and the subconscious is the source of your creativity.

The subconscious is the source of your creativity.

What this means practically is that when you're trying to write that perfect, A-plus-worthy sentence, you're turning off most of your best resources and writing skills.

So stop. Stop trying to write a good essay (or even a “good-enough” essay). Instead, write an interesting  essay, write an essay you think is fascinating. And when you're finished, go back and edit it until it's “good” according to your teacher's standards.

Yes, you need to follow the guidelines in your assignment. If your teacher tells you to write a five-paragraph essay, then write a five-paragraph essay! If your teacher asks for a specific type of essay, like an analysis, argument, or research essay, then make sure you write that type of essay!

However, within those guidelines, find room to express something that is uniquely you .

I can't guarantee you'll get a higher grade (although, you almost certainly will), but I can absolutely promise you'll have a lot more fun writing.

The Step-by-Step Process to Writing a Great Essay: Your 10 Essay Writing Tips

Ready to get writing? You can read my ten best tips for having fun while writing an essay that earns you the top grade, or check out this presentation designed by our friends at Canva Presentations .

1. Remember your essay is just a story.

Every story is about conflict and change, and the truth is that essays are about conflict and change, too! The difference is that in an essay, the conflict is between different ideas , and the change is in the way we should perceive those ideas.

That means that the best essays are about surprise: “You probably think it's one way, but in reality, you should think of it this other way.” See tip #3 for more on this.

How do you know what story you're telling? The prompt should tell you.

Any list of essay prompts includes various topics and tasks associated with them. Within those topics are characters (historical, fictional, or topical) faced with difficult choices. Your job is to work with those choices, usually by analyzing them, arguing about them, researching them, or describing them in detail.

2. Before you start writing, ask yourself, “How can I have the most fun writing this?”

It's normal to feel unmotivated when writing an academic essay. I'm a writer, and honestly, I feel unmotivated to write all the time. But I have a super-ninja, judo-mind trick I like to use to help motivate myself.

Here's the secret trick: One of the interesting things about your subconscious is that it will answer any question you ask yourself. So whenever you feel unmotivated to write your essay, ask yourself the following question:

“How much fun can I have writing this?”

Your subconscious will immediately start thinking of strategies to make the writing process more fun.

The best time to have your fun is the first draft. Since you're just brainstorming within the topic, and exploring the possible ways of approaching it, the first draft is the perfect place to get creative and even a little scandalous. Here are some wild suggestions to make your next essay a load of fun:

  • Research the most surprising or outrageous fact about the topic and use it as your hook.
  • Use a thesaurus to research the topic's key words. Get crazy with your vocabulary as you write, working in each key word synonym as much as possible.
  • Play devil's advocate and take the opposing or immoral side of the issue. See where the discussion takes you as you write.

3. As you research, ask yourself, “What surprises me about this subject?”

The temptation, when you're writing an essay, is to write what you think your teacher or professor wants to read.

Don't do this .

Instead, ask yourself, “What do I find interesting about this subject? What surprises me?”

If you can't think of anything that surprises you, anything you find interesting, then you're not searching well enough, because history, science, and literature are all brimming   over with surprises. When you look at how great ideas actually happen, the story is always, “We used  to think the world was this way. We found out we were completely wrong, and that the world is actually quite different from what we thought.”

These pieces of surprising information often make for the best topic sentences as well. Use them to outline your essay and build your body paragraphs off of each unique fact or idea. These will function as excellent hooks for your reader as you transition from one topic to the next.

(By the way, what sources should you use for research? Check out tip #10 below.)

4. Overwhelmed? Write five original sentences.

The standard three-point essay is really made up of just five original sentences surrounded by supporting paragraphs that back up those five sentences. If you're feeling overwhelmed, just write five sentences covering your most basic main points.

Here's what they might look like for this article:

  • Introductory Paragraph:  While most students consider writing an essay a boring task, with the right mindset, it can actually be an enjoyable experience.
  • Body #1: Most students think writing an essay is tedious because they focus on external rewards.
  • Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay.
  • Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, it will also result in better essays.
  • Conclusion: Writing an essay doesn't have to be simply a way to earn a good grade. Instead, it can be a means of finding fulfillment.

After you write your five sentences, it's easy to fill in the paragraphs for each one.

Now, you give it a shot!

5. Be “source heavy.”

In college, I discovered a trick that helped me go from a B-average student to an A-student, but before I explain how it works, let me warn you. This technique is powerful , but it might not work for all teachers or professors. Use with caution.

As I was writing a paper for a literature class, I realized that the articles and books I was reading said what I was trying to say much better than I ever could. So what did I do? I quoted them liberally throughout my paper. When I wasn't quoting, I re-phrased what they said in my own words, giving proper credit, of course. I found that not only did this formula create a well-written essay, it took about half the time to write.

It's good to keep in mind that using anyone else's words, even when morphed into your own phrasing, requires citation. While the definition of plagiarism is shifting with the rise of online collaboration and cooperative learning environments, always  err on the side of excessive citation to be safe.

When I used this technique, my professors sometimes mentioned that my papers were very “source” heavy. However, at the same time, they always gave me A's.

To keep yourself safe, I recommend using a 60/40 approach with your body paragraphs: Make sure 60% of the words are your own analysis and argumentation, while 40% can be quoted (or text you paraphrase) from your sources.

Like the five sentence trick, this technique makes the writing process simpler. Instead of putting the main focus on writing well, it instead forces you to research  well, which some students find easier.

6. Write the body first, the introduction second, and the conclusion last.

Introductions are often the hardest part to write because you're trying to summarize your entire essay before you've even written it yet. Instead, try writing your introduction last, giving yourself the body of the paper to figure out the main point of your essay.

This is especially important with an essay topic you are not personally interested in. I definitely recommend this in classes you either don't excel in or care much for. Take plenty of time to draft and revise your body paragraphs before  attempting to craft a meaningful introductory paragraph.

Otherwise your opening may sound awkward, wooden, and bland.

7. Most essays answer the question, “What?” Good essays answer the “Why?” The best essays answer the “How?”

If you get stuck trying to make your argument, or you're struggling to reach the required word count, try focusing on the question, “How?”

For example:

  • How did J.D. Salinger convey the theme of inauthenticity in  The Catcher In the Rye ?
  • How did Napoleon restore stability in France after the French Revolution?
  • How does the research prove girls really do rule and boys really do drool?

If you focus on how, you'll always have enough to write about.

8. Don't be afraid to jump around.

Essay writing can be a dance. You don't have to stay in one place and write from beginning to end.

For the same reasons listed in point #6, give yourself the freedom to write as if you're circling around your topic rather than making a single, straightforward argument. Then, when you edit and proofread, you can make sure everything lines up correctly.

In fact, now is the perfect time to mention that proofreading your essay isn't just about spelling and commas.

It's about making sure your analysis or argument flows smoothly from one idea to another. (Okay, technically this comprises editing, but most students writing a high school or college essay don't take the time to complete every step of the writing process. Let's be honest.)

So as you clean up your mechanics and sentence structure, make sure your ideas flow smoothly, logically, and naturally from one to the next as you finish proofreading.

9. Here are some words and phrases you don't want to use.

  • You  (You'll notice I use a lot of you's, which is great for a blog post. However, in an academic essay, it's better to omit the second-person.)
  • To Be verbs (is, are, was, were, am)

Don't have time to edit? Here's a lightning-quick editing technique .

A note about “I”: Some teachers say you shouldn't use “I” statements in your writing, but the truth is that professional, academic papers often use phrases like “I believe” and “in my opinion,” especially in their introductions.

10. It's okay to use Wikipedia, if…

Wikipedia is one of the top five websites in the world for a reason: it can be a great tool for research. However, most teachers and professors don't consider Wikipedia a valid source for use in essays.

Don't totally discount it, though! Here are two ways you can use Wikipedia in your essay writing:

  • Background research. If you don't know enough about your topic, Wikipedia can be a great resource to quickly learn everything you need to know to get started.
  • Find sources . Check the reference section of Wikipedia's articles on your topic. While you may not be able to cite Wikipedia itself, you can often find those original sources and cite them . You can locate the links to primary and secondary sources at the bottom of any Wikipedia page under the headings “Further Reading” and “References.”

You Can Enjoy Essay Writing

The thing I regret most about high school and college is that I treated it like something I had  to do rather than something I wanted  to do.

The truth is, education is an opportunity many people in the world don't have access to.

It's a gift, not just something that makes your life more difficult. I don't want you to make the mistake of just “getting by” through school, waiting desperately for summer breaks and, eventually, graduation.

How would your life be better if you actively enjoyed writing an essay? What would school look like if you wanted to suck it dry of all the gifts it has to give you?

All I'm saying is, don't miss out!

Looking for More Essay Writing Tips?

Looking for more essay tips to strengthen your essay writing? Try some of these resources:

  • 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay
  • Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

How about you? Do you have any tips for writing an essay?  Let us know in the  comments .

Need more grammar help?  My favorite tool that helps find grammar problems and even generates reports to help improve my writing is ProWritingAid . Works with Word, Scrivener, Google Docs, and web browsers. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 20 percent off: WritePractice20

Coupon Code:WritePractice20 »

Ready to try out these ten essay tips to make your essay assignment fun? Spend fifteen minutes using tip #4 and write five original sentences that could be turned into an essay.

When you're finished, share your five sentences in the comments section. And don't forget to give feedback to your fellow writers!

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College Essays

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If you grow up to be a professional writer, everything you write will first go through an editor before being published. This is because the process of writing is really a process of re-writing —of rethinking and reexamining your work, usually with the help of someone else. So what does this mean for your student writing? And in particular, what does it mean for very important, but nonprofessional writing like your college essay? Should you ask your parents to look at your essay? Pay for an essay service?

If you are wondering what kind of help you can, and should, get with your personal statement, you've come to the right place! In this article, I'll talk about what kind of writing help is useful, ethical, and even expected for your college admission essay . I'll also point out who would make a good editor, what the differences between editing and proofreading are, what to expect from a good editor, and how to spot and stay away from a bad one.

Table of Contents

What Kind of Help for Your Essay Can You Get?

What's Good Editing?

What should an editor do for you, what kind of editing should you avoid, proofreading, what's good proofreading, what kind of proofreading should you avoid.

What Do Colleges Think Of You Getting Help With Your Essay?

Who Can/Should Help You?

Advice for editors.

Should You Pay Money For Essay Editing?

The Bottom Line

What's next, what kind of help with your essay can you get.

Rather than talking in general terms about "help," let's first clarify the two different ways that someone else can improve your writing . There is editing, which is the more intensive kind of assistance that you can use throughout the whole process. And then there's proofreading, which is the last step of really polishing your final product.

Let me go into some more detail about editing and proofreading, and then explain how good editors and proofreaders can help you."

Editing is helping the author (in this case, you) go from a rough draft to a finished work . Editing is the process of asking questions about what you're saying, how you're saying it, and how you're organizing your ideas. But not all editing is good editing . In fact, it's very easy for an editor to cross the line from supportive to overbearing and over-involved.

Ability to clarify assignments. A good editor is usually a good writer, and certainly has to be a good reader. For example, in this case, a good editor should make sure you understand the actual essay prompt you're supposed to be answering.

Open-endedness. Good editing is all about asking questions about your ideas and work, but without providing answers. It's about letting you stick to your story and message, and doesn't alter your point of view.

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Think of an editor as a great travel guide. It can show you the many different places your trip could take you. It should explain any parts of the trip that could derail your trip or confuse the traveler. But it never dictates your path, never forces you to go somewhere you don't want to go, and never ignores your interests so that the trip no longer seems like it's your own. So what should good editors do?

Help Brainstorm Topics

Sometimes it's easier to bounce thoughts off of someone else. This doesn't mean that your editor gets to come up with ideas, but they can certainly respond to the various topic options you've come up with. This way, you're less likely to write about the most boring of your ideas, or to write about something that isn't actually important to you.

If you're wondering how to come up with options for your editor to consider, check out our guide to brainstorming topics for your college essay .

Help Revise Your Drafts

Here, your editor can't upset the delicate balance of not intervening too much or too little. It's tricky, but a great way to think about it is to remember: editing is about asking questions, not giving answers .

Revision questions should point out:

  • Places where more detail or more description would help the reader connect with your essay
  • Places where structure and logic don't flow, losing the reader's attention
  • Places where there aren't transitions between paragraphs, confusing the reader
  • Moments where your narrative or the arguments you're making are unclear

But pointing to potential problems is not the same as actually rewriting—editors let authors fix the problems themselves.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Bad editing is usually very heavy-handed editing. Instead of helping you find your best voice and ideas, a bad editor changes your writing into their own vision.

You may be dealing with a bad editor if they:

  • Add material (examples, descriptions) that doesn't come from you
  • Use a thesaurus to make your college essay sound "more mature"
  • Add meaning or insight to the essay that doesn't come from you
  • Tell you what to say and how to say it
  • Write sentences, phrases, and paragraphs for you
  • Change your voice in the essay so it no longer sounds like it was written by a teenager

Colleges can tell the difference between a 17-year-old's writing and a 50-year-old's writing. Not only that, they have access to your SAT or ACT Writing section, so they can compare your essay to something else you wrote. Writing that's a little more polished is great and expected. But a totally different voice and style will raise questions.

Where's the Line Between Helpful Editing and Unethical Over-Editing?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether your college essay editor is doing the right thing. Here are some guidelines for staying on the ethical side of the line.

  • An editor should say that the opening paragraph is kind of boring, and explain what exactly is making it drag. But it's overstepping for an editor to tell you exactly how to change it.
  • An editor should point out where your prose is unclear or vague. But it's completely inappropriate for the editor to rewrite that section of your essay.
  • An editor should let you know that a section is light on detail or description. But giving you similes and metaphors to beef up that description is a no-go.

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Proofreading (also called copy-editing) is checking for errors in the last draft of a written work. It happens at the end of the process and is meant as the final polishing touch. Proofreading is meticulous and detail-oriented, focusing on small corrections. It sands off all the surface rough spots that could alienate the reader.

Because proofreading is usually concerned with making fixes on the word or sentence level, this is the only process where someone else can actually add to or take away things from your essay . This is because what they are adding or taking away tends to be one or two misplaced letters.

Laser focus. Proofreading is all about the tiny details, so the ability to really concentrate on finding small slip-ups is a must.

Excellent grammar and spelling skills. Proofreaders need to dot every "i" and cross every "t." Good proofreaders should correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar. They should put foreign words in italics and surround quotations with quotation marks. They should check that you used the correct college's name, and that you adhered to any formatting requirements (name and date at the top of the page, uniform font and size, uniform spacing).

Limited interference. A proofreader needs to make sure that you followed any word limits. But if cuts need to be made to shorten the essay, that's your job and not the proofreader's.

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A bad proofreader either tries to turn into an editor, or just lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job.

Some signs that you're working with a bad proofreader are:

  • If they suggest making major changes to the final draft of your essay. Proofreading happens when editing is already finished.
  • If they aren't particularly good at spelling, or don't know grammar, or aren't detail-oriented enough to find someone else's small mistakes.
  • If they start swapping out your words for fancier-sounding synonyms, or changing the voice and sound of your essay in other ways. A proofreader is there to check for errors, not to take the 17-year-old out of your writing.

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What Do Colleges Think of Your Getting Help With Your Essay?

Admissions officers agree: light editing and proofreading are good—even required ! But they also want to make sure you're the one doing the work on your essay. They want essays with stories, voice, and themes that come from you. They want to see work that reflects your actual writing ability, and that focuses on what you find important.

On the Importance of Editing

Get feedback. Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College )

Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head. This exercise reveals flaws in the essay's flow, highlights grammatical errors and helps you ensure that you are communicating the exact message you intended. ( Dickinson College )

On the Value of Proofreading

Share your essays with at least one or two people who know you well—such as a parent, teacher, counselor, or friend—and ask for feedback. Remember that you ultimately have control over your essays, and your essays should retain your own voice, but others may be able to catch mistakes that you missed and help suggest areas to cut if you are over the word limit. ( Yale University )

Proofread and then ask someone else to proofread for you. Although we want substance, we also want to be able to see that you can write a paper for our professors and avoid careless mistakes that would drive them crazy. ( Oberlin College )

On Watching Out for Too Much Outside Influence

Limit the number of people who review your essay. Too much input usually means your voice is lost in the writing style. ( Carleton College )

Ask for input (but not too much). Your parents, friends, guidance counselors, coaches, and teachers are great people to bounce ideas off of for your essay. They know how unique and spectacular you are, and they can help you decide how to articulate it. Keep in mind, however, that a 45-year-old lawyer writes quite differently from an 18-year-old student, so if your dad ends up writing the bulk of your essay, we're probably going to notice. ( Vanderbilt University )

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Now let's talk about some potential people to approach for your college essay editing and proofreading needs. It's best to start close to home and slowly expand outward. Not only are your family and friends more invested in your success than strangers, but they also have a better handle on your interests and personality. This knowledge is key for judging whether your essay is expressing your true self.

Parents or Close Relatives

Your family may be full of potentially excellent editors! Parents are deeply committed to your well-being, and family members know you and your life well enough to offer details or incidents that can be included in your essay. On the other hand, the rewriting process necessarily involves criticism, which is sometimes hard to hear from someone very close to you.

A parent or close family member is a great choice for an editor if you can answer "yes" to the following questions. Is your parent or close relative a good writer or reader? Do you have a relationship where editing your essay won't create conflict? Are you able to constructively listen to criticism and suggestion from the parent?

One suggestion for defusing face-to-face discussions is to try working on the essay over email. Send your parent a draft, have them write you back some comments, and then you can pick which of their suggestions you want to use and which to discard.

Teachers or Tutors

A humanities teacher that you have a good relationship with is a great choice. I am purposefully saying humanities, and not just English, because teachers of Philosophy, History, Anthropology, and any other classes where you do a lot of writing, are all used to reviewing student work.

Moreover, any teacher or tutor that has been working with you for some time, knows you very well and can vet the essay to make sure it "sounds like you."

If your teacher or tutor has some experience with what college essays are supposed to be like, ask them to be your editor. If not, then ask whether they have time to proofread your final draft.

Guidance or College Counselor at Your School

The best thing about asking your counselor to edit your work is that this is their job. This means that they have a very good sense of what colleges are looking for in an application essay.

At the same time, school counselors tend to have relationships with admissions officers in many colleges, which again gives them insight into what works and which college is focused on what aspect of the application.

Unfortunately, in many schools the guidance counselor tends to be way overextended. If your ratio is 300 students to 1 college counselor, you're unlikely to get that person's undivided attention and focus. It is still useful to ask them for general advice about your potential topics, but don't expect them to be able to stay with your essay from first draft to final version.

Friends, Siblings, or Classmates

Although they most likely don't have much experience with what colleges are hoping to see, your peers are excellent sources for checking that your essay is you .

Friends and siblings are perfect for the read-aloud edit. Read your essay to them so they can listen for words and phrases that are stilted, pompous, or phrases that just don't sound like you.

You can even trade essays and give helpful advice on each other's work.

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If your editor hasn't worked with college admissions essays very much, no worries! Any astute and attentive reader can still greatly help with your process. But, as in all things, beginners do better with some preparation.

First, your editor should read our advice about how to write a college essay introduction , how to spot and fix a bad college essay , and get a sense of what other students have written by going through some admissions essays that worked .

Then, as they read your essay, they can work through the following series of questions that will help them to guide you.

Introduction Questions

  • Is the first sentence a killer opening line? Why or why not?
  • Does the introduction hook the reader? Does it have a colorful, detailed, and interesting narrative? Or does it propose a compelling or surprising idea?
  • Can you feel the author's voice in the introduction, or is the tone dry, dull, or overly formal? Show the places where the voice comes through.

Essay Body Questions

  • Does the essay have a through-line? Is it built around a central argument, thought, idea, or focus? Can you put this idea into your own words?
  • How is the essay organized? By logical progression? Chronologically? Do you feel order when you read it, or are there moments where you are confused or lose the thread of the essay?
  • Does the essay have both narratives about the author's life and explanations and insight into what these stories reveal about the author's character, personality, goals, or dreams? If not, which is missing?
  • Does the essay flow? Are there smooth transitions/clever links between paragraphs? Between the narrative and moments of insight?

Reader Response Questions

  • Does the writer's personality come through? Do we know what the speaker cares about? Do we get a sense of "who he or she is"?
  • Where did you feel most connected to the essay? Which parts of the essay gave you a "you are there" sensation by invoking your senses? What moments could you picture in your head well?
  • Where are the details and examples vague and not specific enough?
  • Did you get an "a-ha!" feeling anywhere in the essay? Is there a moment of insight that connected all the dots for you? Is there a good reveal or "twist" anywhere in the essay?
  • What are the strengths of this essay? What needs the most improvement?

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Should You Pay Money for Essay Editing?

One alternative to asking someone you know to help you with your college essay is the paid editor route. There are two different ways to pay for essay help: a private essay coach or a less personal editing service , like the many proliferating on the internet.

My advice is to think of these options as a last resort rather than your go-to first choice. I'll first go through the reasons why. Then, if you do decide to go with a paid editor, I'll help you decide between a coach and a service.

When to Consider a Paid Editor

In general, I think hiring someone to work on your essay makes a lot of sense if none of the people I discussed above are a possibility for you.

If you can't ask your parents. For example, if your parents aren't good writers, or if English isn't their first language. Or if you think getting your parents to help is going create unnecessary extra conflict in your relationship with them (applying to college is stressful as it is!)

If you can't ask your teacher or tutor. Maybe you don't have a trusted teacher or tutor that has time to look over your essay with focus. Or, for instance, your favorite humanities teacher has very limited experience with college essays and so won't know what admissions officers want to see.

If you can't ask your guidance counselor. This could be because your guidance counselor is way overwhelmed with other students.

If you can't share your essay with those who know you. It might be that your essay is on a very personal topic that you're unwilling to share with parents, teachers, or peers. Just make sure it doesn't fall into one of the bad-idea topics in our article on bad college essays .

If the cost isn't a consideration. Many of these services are quite expensive, and private coaches even more so. If you have finite resources, I'd say that hiring an SAT or ACT tutor (whether it's PrepScholar or someone else) is better way to spend your money . This is because there's no guarantee that a slightly better essay will sufficiently elevate the rest of your application, but a significantly higher SAT score will definitely raise your applicant profile much more.

Should You Hire an Essay Coach?

On the plus side, essay coaches have read dozens or even hundreds of college essays, so they have experience with the format. Also, because you'll be working closely with a specific person, it's more personal than sending your essay to a service, which will know even less about you.

But, on the minus side, you'll still be bouncing ideas off of someone who doesn't know that much about you . In general, if you can adequately get the help from someone you know, there is no advantage to paying someone to help you.

If you do decide to hire a coach, ask your school counselor, or older students that have used the service for recommendations. If you can't afford the coach's fees, ask whether they can work on a sliding scale —many do. And finally, beware those who guarantee admission to your school of choice—essay coaches don't have any special magic that can back up those promises.

Should You Send Your Essay to a Service?

On the plus side, essay editing services provide a similar product to essay coaches, and they cost significantly less . If you have some assurance that you'll be working with a good editor, the lack of face-to-face interaction won't prevent great results.

On the minus side, however, it can be difficult to gauge the quality of the service before working with them . If they are churning through many application essays without getting to know the students they are helping, you could end up with an over-edited essay that sounds just like everyone else's. In the worst case scenario, an unscrupulous service could send you back a plagiarized essay.

Getting recommendations from friends or a school counselor for reputable services is key to avoiding heavy-handed editing that writes essays for you or does too much to change your essay. Including a badly-edited essay like this in your application could cause problems if there are inconsistencies. For example, in interviews it might be clear you didn't write the essay, or the skill of the essay might not be reflected in your schoolwork and test scores.

Should You Buy an Essay Written by Someone Else?

Let me elaborate. There are super sketchy places on the internet where you can simply buy a pre-written essay. Don't do this!

For one thing, you'll be lying on an official, signed document. All college applications make you sign a statement saying something like this:

I certify that all information submitted in the admission process—including the application, the personal essay, any supplements, and any other supporting materials—is my own work, factually true, and honestly presented... I understand that I may be subject to a range of possible disciplinary actions, including admission revocation, expulsion, or revocation of course credit, grades, and degree, should the information I have certified be false. (From the Common Application )

For another thing, if your academic record doesn't match the essay's quality, the admissions officer will start thinking your whole application is riddled with lies.

Admission officers have full access to your writing portion of the SAT or ACT so that they can compare work that was done in proctored conditions with that done at home. They can tell if these were written by different people. Not only that, but there are now a number of search engines that faculty and admission officers can use to see if an essay contains strings of words that have appeared in other essays—you have no guarantee that the essay you bought wasn't also bought by 50 other students.

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  • You should get college essay help with both editing and proofreading
  • A good editor will ask questions about your idea, logic, and structure, and will point out places where clarity is needed
  • A good editor will absolutely not answer these questions, give you their own ideas, or write the essay or parts of the essay for you
  • A good proofreader will find typos and check your formatting
  • All of them agree that getting light editing and proofreading is necessary
  • Parents, teachers, guidance or college counselor, and peers or siblings
  • If you can't ask any of those, you can pay for college essay help, but watch out for services or coaches who over-edit you work
  • Don't buy a pre-written essay! Colleges can tell, and it'll make your whole application sound false.

Ready to start working on your essay? Check out our explanation of the point of the personal essay and the role it plays on your applications and then explore our step-by-step guide to writing a great college essay .

Using the Common Application for your college applications? We have an excellent guide to the Common App essay prompts and useful advice on how to pick the Common App prompt that's right for you . Wondering how other people tackled these prompts? Then work through our roundup of over 130 real college essay examples published by colleges .

Stressed about whether to take the SAT again before submitting your application? Let us help you decide how many times to take this test . If you choose to go for it, we have the ultimate guide to studying for the SAT to give you the ins and outs of the best ways to study.

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

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12 Effective “Why This College?” Essay Examples

What’s covered.

  • Essay 1: UPenn Nursing
  • Essay 2: UPenn
  • Essay 3: UW Madison
  • Essay 4: Northwestern
  • Essay 5: NYU
  • Essay 6: NYU
  • Essay 7: Boston University
  • Essay 8: Boston University
  • Essay 9: Tufts
  • Essay 10: Tufts
  • Essay 11: Georgia Tech
  • Essay 12: Georgia Tech

Where to Get Your Essays Edited

The “ Why This College?” essay is one of the most common supplemental prompts. These school-specific essays help colleges understand if you’re a good fit for them, and if they’re a good fit for you.

In this post, we’ll share 12 “Why This College?” essay examples from real students and explain what they did well, and what could be improved. Read these examples to understand how to write a strong supplemental essay that improves your chances of acceptance.

Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized.

Essay Example #1: UPenn Nursing

Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying (650 words).

Sister Simone Roach, a theorist of nursing ethics, said, “caring is the human mode of being.” I have long been inspired by Sister Roach’s Five C’s of Caring: commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and confidence. Penn both embraces and fosters these values through a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum and unmatched access to service and volunteer opportunities.

COMMITMENT. Reading through the activities that Penn Quakers devote their time to (in addition to academics!) felt like drinking from a firehose in the best possible way. As a prospective nursing student with interests outside of my major, I value this level of flexibility. I plan to leverage Penn’s liberal arts curriculum to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges LGBT people face, especially regarding healthcare access. Through courses like “Interactional Processes with LGBT Individuals” and volunteering at the Mazzoni Center for outreach, I hope to learn how to better support the Penn LGBT community as well as my family and friends, including my cousin, who came out as trans last year.

CONSCIENCE. As one of the first people in my family to attend a four-year university, I wanted a school that promoted a sense of moral responsibility among its students. At Penn, professors challenge their students to question and recreate their own set of morals by sparking thought- provoking, open-minded discussions. I can imagine myself advocating for universal healthcare in courses such as “Health Care Reform & Future of American Health System” and debating its merits with my peers. Studying in an environment where students confidently voice their opinions – conservative or liberal – will push me to question and strengthen my value system.

COMPETENCE. Two aspects that drew my attention to Penn’s BSN program were its high-quality research opportunities and hands-on nursing projects. Through its Office of Nursing Research, Penn connects students to faculty members who share similar research interests. As I volunteered at a nursing home in high school, I hope to work with Dr. Carthon to improve the quality of care for senior citizens. Seniors, especially minorities, face serious barriers to healthcare that I want to resolve. Additionally, Penn’s unique use of simulations to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application impressed me. Using computerized manikins that mimic human responses, classes in Penn’s nursing program allow students to apply their emergency medical skills in a mass casualty simulation and monitor their actions afterward through a video system. Participating in this activity will help me identify my strengths and areas for improvement regarding crisis management and medical care in a controlled yet realistic setting. Research opportunities and simulations will develop my skills even before I interact with patients.

COMPASSION. I value giving back through community service, and I have a particular interest in Penn’s Community Champions and Nursing Students For Sexual & Reproductive Health (NSRH). As a four-year volunteer health educator, I hope to continue this work as a Community Champions member. I am excited to collaborate with medical students to teach fourth and fifth graders in the city about cardiology or lead a chair dance class for the elders at the LIFE Center. Furthermore, as a feminist who firmly believes in women’s abortion rights, I’d like to join NSRH in order to advocate for women’s health on campus. At Penn, I can work with like-minded people to make a meaningful difference.

CONFIDENCE. All of the Quakers that I have met possess one defining trait: confidence. Each student summarized their experiences at Penn as challenging but fulfilling. Although I expect my coursework to push me, from my conversations with current Quakers I know it will help me to be far more effective in my career.

The Five C’s of Caring are important heuristics for nursing, but they also provide insight into how I want to approach my time in college. I am eager to engage with these principles both as a nurse and as a Penn Quaker, and I can’t wait to start.

What the Essay Did Well

This essay has many positive aspects, but the most impressive one is the structure. Utilizing the Five C’s of Caring to discuss Penn’s offerings was a genius way of tying in this student’s passion for nursing while also making their essay exciting and easy to read. Beginning each paragraph with the respective adjective helped focus the paragraph and allowed the student to demonstrate how they exemplify each quality without explicitly stating it. The student wasn’t afraid to think outside the box and add creativity to their essay structure, which really paid off.

Another positive is how specific and specialized the Penn resources and opportunities the student mentions are. This essay did not fall into the trap of name-dropping professors or programs. In every paragraph, there was a connection to something the student wants to do at Penn to further themselves in the respective characteristic they were describing.

Not only did this student mention a resource at Penn—whether it was a professor, a class, or a club—in every paragraph, but they elaborated on what that resource was and how it would help them achieve their goal of becoming a nurse. The what and how is what sets this essay apart from other supplements that just name-drop resources for the sake of it. The amount of detail this essay went into about some of these resources makes it clear to the admissions officers reading the essay that this student has seriously looked into Penn and has a strong desire to come to campus and use these resources.

What Could Be Improved

One thing this essay could do to make it stronger is improve the first paragraph. The student does a good job of setting up Sister Roach and the Five C’s, but they don’t mention anything about their desire to study or pursue nursing. The first paragraph mentions both Sister Roach and Penn, but left out the student. This could be fixed by simply adding something along the lines of “I can’t wait to embody these values as a nursing student at Penn” to the paragraph.

Essay Example #2: UPenn

Prompt: Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania?  For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer these questions in regard to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay. (300-450 words)

I always loved watching the worms when it rained. I used to put my little raincoat on, sit on the doorsteps, and watch them move toward the puddles. My younger brother, forever intent on destroying the world around him, would try to stomp on the worms, and I would run after him screaming. In my imagination, the brain looked like a pile of squiggly worms. However, my neuroscience curiosity has since grown beyond a worm’s habits.

For example, my mother thought that I was insane when I wanted to watch American Murder: The Family Next Door . To her immense relief, I was interested in the psychology of the criminal rather than the crime itself. Although neuroscience is my primary interest, I also hope to learn more about the intersection between law and medicine at the UPenn College of Arts and Sciences. I’ve been able to explore this topic through various projects at school such as presentations on juvenile crime and the death penalty.

At the University of Pennsylvania, I look forward to taking classes like Forensic Neuroscience (BIBB 050) as well as Neuroscience and Society (PSYC 247) both of which directly combine my two interests. Hopefully, the Take Your Professor to Dinner program resumes as I would make sure to talk to Dr. Daniel Langleben about his research on forensic functional brain imaging over a meal of Philly cheesesteaks.

I also hope to participate in the Race, Science, and Society Program where I can discover how race biases and neuroscience go hand-in-hand and contribute to the fight against racism. The Beyond Arrests: Re-Thinking Systematic-Oppression Group immediately caught my attention while looking at Penn’s opportunities to engage in relevant dialogue. My fascination with the criminal system began with reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment , and Penn will both fuel that curiosity as well as introduce new questions about the world of justice reform.

As an eight-year Latin scholar and a five-time reader of the Percy Jackson franchise, I would like to take classes in the Penn Classical Studies department where I can learn more about the impact of ancient cultures on society today. Classes such as Greek and Roman Medicine (CLST 271) would intersect my interests in medicine and classical civilizations.

Although I do harbor a deep love for Philly cheesesteaks and enjoyment of running in strange places like the Woodlands Cemetery, the range of programs to support my diverse interests and unmatched opportunities to put learning into action make me confident that the University of Pennsylvania is the best university for me to succeed.

The real strength in the essay lies in the sheer number of details this student is able to include in a short space, without sacrificing style and flow. The first two paragraphs really have nothing to do with Penn, but the inclusion of them makes this response feel like an essay, rather than a list of offerings at Penn. Striking the balance is important, and the anecdote at the beginning ultimately humanizes the writer.

From the three unique courses to the specific professor and his research to the race and criminal justice programs, this student has clearly done their homework on Penn! The key to this essay’s success isn’t just mentioning the offerings at Penn that excite the student, but the context that explains how each opportunity fits into the student’s academic interests.

Adding book titles like Crime and Punishment and Percy Jackson to support their passion for the criminal justice system and classics are extra details that help us learn more about how this student pursues their passions outside of the classroom. Finding little ways to humanize yourself throughout the essay can take it from good to great.

One area of improvement for this essay is the structure. It follows a very traditional “ Why This College? ” framework—start with an anecdote, then discuss classes, and then extracurriculars and programs—that gets old quickly for admissions officers.

A great way to add some spice to the format would be to use a sample schedule for the day. This essay mentions three different classes, two different groups, and a Take Your Professor to Dinner opportunity. Together, that’s the recipe for a full day at UPenn!

There are a few ways to play around with an essay that follows a typical day-in-the-life. Maybe each paragraph starts with a time and explains what they do during that hour. Maybe they narrate walking through campus on their way from one class to the next and what they just learned. However they choose to go about it, adding in a playful spin to the traditional essay structure is one of the best ways to instantly set an essay apart from the crowd. 

Essay Example #3: UW Madison

Prompt: Tell us why you decided to apply to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, please include why you are interested in studying the major(s) you have selected. If you selected undecided, please describe your areas of possible academic interest. (650 words)

Essay – # Day 117

7:30 am… As I open my eyes, I look at the pinboard in front of my bed. Written in red block letters are two of the many goals of my life: “Make life better and more independent for the Visually impaired; Inspire kids to explore the field of STEM, making them the future problem solvers.“

Keeping these goals afresh in mind, I freshen up and prepare for the first class of the day, ​ECE 533 Image Processing. As the professor explains the Applications of Image Processing in Computer Vision, a light bulb sparks in my mind. I can modify the head contraption of PERIPHIS to identify objects in peripheral vision and alert the wearer via an earpiece using Text to Speech (TTS). 

After the class, I see Professor Mohit Gupta at the WISION Lab, where he shares his insights from the Block World Cameras system, which helps to geometrize 3D Man-made environments. We brainstorm ways we can implement this system on PERIPHIS.

Deep in the discussion and intrigued by my curiosity, he asked me where my interest in this niche field sparked during high school, and then I recount the incident from 9th grade: 

“In Hindi – Agar aaj mere paas paise hote to ye din na dekhna padta” (If I had money, I would not have had to see this day.) 

These were the words of Aadiya, a glaucoma patient, who couldn’t help but cry in despair as she injured herself in an accident just because she couldn’t sense the incoming traffic. During my visit to “Baroda Association for Blind (BAB)” for a survey, I saw and experienced firsthand how hard and inaccessible it is for an underprivileged visually impaired to locomote without anyone’s assistance. 

What happened next was my first adventure into the world of Computer Science and Engineering. I dedicated the next four years to find an affordable solution to a pressing problem. It was called PERIPHIS, a smart wearable that helps alert the visually impaired wearer of impending danger while locomoting.

When I finally presented this device to Aadiya, the smile on her face made me realize how big an impact technology can make in one’s life.

11:00 am… As I head to the Engineering Hall to complete my assignments of COMP SCI 570

Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction, I crossways with my roommate from the Chadbourne Residential College, who is also interested in researching applications of Computer Vision in real life. We fix a time to chat later. 

1:20pm… After a quick bite, I head to Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory. I expand my knowledge on different applications of Computer Science to make human life better than I found. I get fascinated when I see a few students building a child-friendly humanoid robot to teach kids the principles of Coding and AI. I hop in and share insights from my experience of being the President at AiGoLearning and kindling interest in STEM for young children. I explain how crucial the UI is when it comes to technology for the young.

5:00pm… To blow off some steam and socialize, I meet up with my fellow countrymen and artists at the Indian Graduate Students’ Association. We discuss and plan the upcoming Diwali Night Music at Shannon Hall. I feel proud to share my national identity while bringing out my musical self by contributing as a Tabla player at the student organization. 

As I close my day, I reflect and think of the most unique resource at UW. It is not the labs, research facilities, classes, but the people, including the professors and students, all aligned to a single goal: “Solving problems to make society a better place.”

10:00pm… I find my way back to my dorm room and write with red block letters on my pinboard: “Meet with at least 1 Badger every day and gain new insight from them.”

This essay is a stellar example. The day in the life formatting is a common way to spice up your “Why This College?” essay, but the way this writer executes it is nearly flawless.

Opening with the vision board makes the student’s college goals clear from the very start, and this was cleverly done since vision boards are naturally one of the first things you see when you wake up.

The student then takes us to specific courses and labs and shares their thoughts on how they could improve their invention, PERIPHIS. The author seamlessly includes background information on PERIPHIS by including this hypothetical conversation with a professor who speaks their native language.

As we go through the day, we can see that this student will not only be involved academically, but also socially. We learn how important their culture is to them and how they plan to share it with the campus community.

This essay does everything a “Why This College?” essay should: it shares the student’s goals and motivations behind them, how the university can support those goals, and how the student will engage with the campus beyond academics.

There’s not much this essay could improve, besides a few formatting and wording issues. The first line of this essay—“ Essay – # Day 117”—is a great attention-grabber, but the placement of the # symbol is confusing and perhaps should’ve been in front of the number.

There are also a couple spots where wording is a bit awkward, such as these lines:

I crossways with my roommate from the Chadbourne Residential College, who is also interested in researching applications of Computer Vision in real life. We fix a time to chat later. 

It should instead say something like “I run into my roommate” and “We schedule a time”. This is likely due to English not being the student’s native language, but could’ve easily been caught by proofreading from a native speaker.

Essay Example #4: Northwestern

Prompt: While other parts of your application give us a sense of who you are, we are also excited to hear more about how you see yourself engaging with the larger Northwestern community.

In 300 words or less, help us understand how you might engage specific resources, opportunities, and/or communities here. We are curious about what these specifics are, as well as how they may enrich your time at Northwestern and beyond.

For as long as I can remember, I have seen my parents, both farmers, struggling to produce food because of the challenges presented by the environment. Joining Northwestern’s community, and majoring in Environmental Engineering, will allow me to understand what are the reasons behind climate change and learn how to stop them and/or prevent them from happening. 

Having witnessed how plant diseases affect crops, I would like to collaborate in the PLANT-Dx project and in its widespread application. I strongly believe that it will be able to help farmers to improve the quality and quantity of their production, and reduce famine around the world. At some point in my education, I want to take advantage of the study-abroad programs Northwestern has to offer and learn about farming practices in a different part of the world. In addition, I want to conduct research on sustainable alternative farming methods that adapt to the new environmental conditions and that can be practiced in countries with fewer resources.

Apart from having access to outstanding professors, rigorous academics, and cutting-edge research resources, I will be able to be part of a close-knit community genuinely curious about others’ activities, truly passionate about what they do, and not afraid to step out of their comfort zone to make of this world a better place. Being part of Engineers for a Sustainable World at Northwestern will allow me to get to know people that share one of my passions in addition to learning and teaching how to apply sustainable practices in daily life.  

I am already looking forward to marching through the Weber Arch.

This essay is extremely cohesive, as it focuses on the student’s agricultural background and desire to study environmental engineering. The student mentions a couple resources specific to Northwestern, such as the PLANT-Dx project and Engineers for a Sustainable World.

Because of the background information the student provided, their motivations for participating in these opportunities is also clear. We can see that Northwestern would be a school that would help them achieve their goals.

There are two main aspects of the essay that could be improved: the writing and its specificity.

To begin with, the intro paragraph is a bit clunky and vague.  The student should have specified the challenges the environment has presented to their parents’ farming with detailed imagery about droughts or torrential rain. The final sentence about climate change is also much too broad, and the student should’ve stated a goal in a smaller niche of environmentalism.

For example, here’s what a rewritten strong intro paragraph might look like:

The drought this year was bad, and the once-flourishing tomato crops on my family’s farm were afflicted with Southern Blight. As my family and our community struggled to put food on the table for the third year in a year, I resolved to major in Environmental Engineering at Northwestern to learn how to preserve our agriculture in the face of climate change.

Another writing error is the typo in the final paragraph, where they write “to make of this world a better place”. It’s important to proofread your essay and have others help you proofread as well!

Finally, while the essay mentions a couple specific Northwestern resources, the other resources they mention are too vague.  The student could’ve improved by mentioning a specific study abroad program and a current research project on sustainable alternative farming methods. Most colleges let you study abroad and conduct research, so you need to explain why Northwestern is the best place for your goals.

Essay Example #5: NYU

Prompt: We would like to know more about your interest in NYU. What motivated you to apply to NYU? Why have you applied or expressed interest in a particular campus, school, college, program, and or area of study? If you have applied to more than one, please also tell us why you are interested in these additional areas of study or campuses. We want to understand – Why NYU? (400 words)

“A futuristic way of looking at academics,” the student panelist said during a New York University virtual information session. I reflected on a conversation I had with my grandma; she couldn’t understand how her vegetarian granddaughter could build a career in the food industry. However much I tried convincing her that vegetarianism was the future, as it offers substantial benefits to the environment and can offer health benefits to a growing population with the same environmental resources, she insisted that tofu would never provide the same satiation as meat. She was raised in a community where meat consumption was embedded in the culture, and its production is a large part of the country’s economy. In contrast, I had the privilege of living a few steps from San Francisco, with many restaurants and grocery stores dedicated to plant-based meat alternatives. Trying innovative recipes and products eventually allowed me to develop my own recipes. Upon my move to Nicaragua, where my grandmother is from, I found my food options to be limited, expensive and hard to find. So I developed my own small-scale solutions that did not break the bank and satiated grandma.

An institution that implements forward-thinking is what I need to reach my goals of changing the future of plant-based diets and people’s views on vegetarianism. NYU’s Nutrition and Food Studies program offers multiple disciplines of food studies that I will apply to my aspirations as a vegetarian. I plan to study under Adjunct Faculty Kayleen St. John, whose success in the plant-based industry and her teaching of the ‘Foundations of Plant-Based Nutrition’ in The Vegetarian Times excites me. The variety of classes like Introduction to Food History, Food Photography, and Food Systems: Food & Agriculture will give me an overview of what is available in the food industry to be prepared for all fields. Not to be cliche, but NYU’s proximity to the city is essential for the rapidly changing vegetarian industry. The multiculturalism available in NYC and NYU will allow me to understand the food system and diets of various cultures, religions, and areas. I can explore the extremes of the food industry, from fancy restaurants to public school cafeterias. These juxtapositions, much like the one I experienced after my move to Nicaragua, will allow me to broaden my reach and demonstrate that the vegetarian diet is not something reserved for select groups but a diet attainable to all. 

A core strength of this essay is the fact it takes its time to provide the reader with ample background on why this student is interested in nutrition and food studies and how they have grappled with difficult questions and surrounding this topic in the past. It’s okay to not mention anything about NYU for a whole paragraph if you are using that space to bring depth to your interests and tell the reader the crucial backstory behind pursuing your intended degree.

Another positive aspect is the inclusion of New York City for a purposeful reason. NYU admissions officers read thousands of essays that just talk about living in NYC for the sake of NYC—this is not what they want to hear. In contrast, this essay focuses on the vast and lively food scene in New York that the student considers to be an invaluable asset to her NYU education. This is a time where including New York actually plays to the appeal of NYU, rather than making it seem like the student is simply applying for the city.

Finally, this student clearly demonstrates that they are someone who wants to change the world for the better, but through their personal niche. NYU is looking for people who express this desire to be a changemaker, but oftentimes sweeping statements like “I want to change the world” come across as vague and disingenuous. The essay does mention changing diets and looking to the future, but it is focused within the student’s specific area of interest, making the claim to change the world more determined and authentic.

This essay could be made stronger if there was a bit more personal reflection included. The first paragraph provides a lot of details on the student’s vegetarianism and how it conflicts with her grandmother and her heritage. What it doesn’t include very much of is how the student thinks and feels about her diet being at odds with that of her family. 

Does this student feel they are betraying their heritage by being vegetarian? What emotions do they feel when people criticize vegetarianism? Why did they go vegetarian in the first place? Probing questions like these that get to the emotional core behind the story in the first paragraph would really help to build out this student’s backstory. We want to understand what their emotional responses and reasoning processes look like, so finding ways to include those into an already expositive paragraph would further bolster this essay.

Essay Example #6: NYU

My mother never takes off her Cartier necklace that my father gave her 10 years ago on their anniversary. As a child, I didn’t fully understand this attachment. However, on my 15th birthday, my aunt gifted me a ring, which was uniquely designed and made up of three rings linked together. Wearing it every day and making sure I would never lose it, I didn’t treat it like my easily replaceable childhood necklaces; it was my piece of luxury. This sparked my deep curiosity for the luxury world. The niche strives to provide the finest and most memorable experiences, as equally as my Japanese attention to detail and my French appreciation towards aesthetic beauty. In a constantly shifting environment, I learned that luxury chases timeless excellence.

NYU Stern’s BS in business and a co-concentration in management and marketing will fully immerse me in the business side of luxury fashion that I aim to pursue a future career in. The luxury marketing track, offered only by NYU, will enable me to assemble the most suited classes to reflect my interests. Specifically, NYU Stern’s exciting electives such as The Dynamics of the Fashion Industry seminar and Brand Strategy & Planning will encourage me to develop the skills that I was introduced to and grew keen on when running a virtual sustainable fashion auction.

As someone who has moved around from Paris to Tokyo, to Chicago and now Athens, I thrive in meeting and collaborating with others from diverse backgrounds. The school’s strong global outlook, demonstrated through Stern’s International Business Exchange Program, further sets NYU apart for me, as it is crucial to building essential soft skills. This opportunity allows me to experience new cultural approaches to luxury business which I can bring back with me to New York, and therefore push me to become a well-rounded business student. Similarly, I am excited to take part in the array of student clubs offered, such as the Luxury and Retail Association (LARA), which I learned about after connecting with and talking to current students. Seeing past talks from employers of companies like Conde Nast, I am eager to learn outside of the classroom from future speakers. 

Finding myself in new situations constantly, I always seek new challenges and explorations – to me, it is clear that NYU Stern will push me to create the finest and most unique learning experiences of timeless excellence.

This essay has an amazing introduction paragraph. It doesn’t mention anything about NYU or what this student is planning on studying, which is what makes it so intriguing. The reader doesn’t know where this student is headed after making such a seemingly unrelated statement about jewelry, but we want to find out. 

Not only does this essay immediately capture the reader’s attention, it maintains a succinct and direct tone that helps the reader effortlessly flow from one paragraph to the next. The student chose to include three opportunities at NYU that excite them and fully elaborate on them. This serves as an excellent example of more is less. 

We aren’t bombarded with a laundry list of classes, professors, and clubs the student wants to take. Instead, the student took a focused approach and described why they were excited by each offering they highlighted. Going deeper into a smaller number of opportunities at the college still shows this student did their research, but it allows for their backstory and goals to be discussed in far greater detail.

While this student does a good job of elaborating, they also mention a few key aspects of their personality as throw-away lines, when it would have been great to elaborate further on them. For example, they mention running a virtual sustainable fashion auction (cool!), but don’t provide us with any details on what that actually entails, how they got involved with it, what they enjoyed about it, etc. They also mention moving around a lot in the context of developing a diverse perspective, but they don’t include any emotional insight into what that was like.

Although there are only 400 words available, and you don’t want to spend too much time discussing the past, it would be nice to see just a sentence or two that delves into the details of this student’s background. The fashion auction and moving around clearly had an impact on the student, so we want to know what that was. If they are choosing to include these details, they must be important in the student’s decision to pursue business at NYU, so they shouldn’t be afraid to divulge the emotional significance to the reader.

Essay Example #7: Boston University

Prompt: In no more than 250 words, please tell us why BU is a good fit for you and what specifically has led you to apply for admission.

Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) attracts me because of its support of interdisciplinary study among its wide array of majors. In fact, the CAS now offers a course that combines biology, chemistry, and neuroscience. As I hope to conduct medical research into brain disorders, I plan to pursue all three areas of study. These cross-disciplinary connections at BU will prepare me to do so.

CAS’s undergraduate research program would allow me to work with a mentor, such as Dr. Alice Cronin-Golomb or Dr. Robert M.G. Reinhart related to their research on neurological disorders. With them, I can advance the work I have already completed related to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In a summer class at our local university, my partner and I extracted data from fMRI and PET studies and inputted them into a coding program. We then created an indicator map, which we imported into another software program, AFNI, to display significant activity in the brain regions affected by DID. Seeing the representation of our data thrilled me because I knew it could eventually help people who live with DID. I want to experience that feeling again. Successfully analyzing these fMRI and PET studies and learning to code drives me to pursue more research opportunities, and this desire motivates me to study at a university that offers research opportunities to undergraduates. BU’s interdisciplinary approach to psychology and support for independent undergraduate research will optimally prepare me for a career as a neurological researcher.

This student clearly outlines BU-specific resources (the interdisciplinary course and undergrad research program), plus how these resources align with their professional goals (to become a neurological researcher). They do name professors, but since their work clearly relates to the student’s interests, it doesn’t look disingenuous, and shows that the student has done research on their fit with BU. The student also provides background on why they want to pursue research, and shows that they already have experience, which makes their interest in the undergrad research program more concrete.

The only thing missing from this essay is the student’s fit with BU in terms of extracurriculars and social life. “Why This College?” essays should also cover extracurriculars, as colleges are also interested in how you’ll contribute to their community. 

In general, these essays should be academic-leaning (especially if they’re under 250 words), but you should still address some social aspects of the college that appeal to you (we recommend about 70% academics, 30% social, with more or less focus on social aspects depending on the word count). 

Since the student probably already detailed their previous research in their Common App activities section, they could’ve just summarized their research background in one sentence (instead of 78 words, which is 31% of the total word count!), and used that valuable space to talk about a specific social aspect of BU that interests them. 

Essay Example #8: Boston University

Prompt: In no more than 250 words, please tell us why BU is a good fit for you and what specifically has led you to apply for admission. 

I am fascinated by research, though completely uninterested in the disciplines traditionally associated with it, such as STEM fields. I need to find a school that will balance my desire to conduct research with my interest in political science. 

While many schools boast in-depth student research programs for those looking to cure diseases or develop solutions to global warming, few tout their support for humanities research. Additionally, many universities that do allocate funding to social science research typically reserve these monies for graduate students or upperclassmen. BU, with the help of its Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, will allow me to conduct research on the topics that most intrigue me, such as gender disparity in politics, or the relationship between dominant parties in power and the country’s economy and involvement in foreign affairs. Furthermore, I can begin these studies as early as my first year. Not only can I take classes with professors like Sandra McEvoy or Dino Christenson to develop my interests in a classroom setting, but I could also work with one of them to develop new knowledge in the topics that we both enjoy learning about. With this knowledge base and experience conducting studies with top professors in a respected research institution, I will be well-prepared for my future law career. I want to learn in an environment that encourages independent study no matter one’s field of interest or experience, and BU’s support of intellectual curiosity for all of its students makes it a perfect fit for me.

This student knows exactly what they want, and they’re not afraid to state it bluntly. Their intro paragraph is totally honest about their interests (or lack of interest), and we immediately understand one of their main college goals: to conduct political science research.

The student mentions a specific resource, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, as well as an alignment with BU’s value of encouraging independent study in all fields. Showing alignment with a specific value of the university is a great way to take your essay to the next level.

This essay shows us that the student would be a great fit for BU and would take advantage of its research opportunities.

The writer mentions some of their research interests, but doesn’t explain the motivation behind them. We don’t actually learn very much about the student themself, which is a common flaw of “Why This College?” essays. The essay would’ve been stronger if they’d explained why they’re interested in “gender disparity in politics, or the relationship between dominant parties in power and the country’s economy and involvement in foreign affairs.” For example, maybe they feel strongly about abortion rights and are upset about the way men have been legislating women’s rights.

The student also names two professors whose classes they’d like to take and with whom they’d like to do research, but we aren’t told which classes they’re interested in, or which topics they could cover together. You want to avoid “name-dropping” professors without context in your essay. If the student shared the names of specific classes or research topics and why they’re interested in them, that would’ve strengthened their essay.

Essay Example #9: Tufts

Prompt: Why Tufts? (100 words) 

When Deanne, Tufts’ admissions counselor, visited my school, she immediately caught my attention by emphasizing Tufts’ diverse yet unified campus. Tufts’ inclusive definition of diversity goes beyond merely recruiting students from a variety of backgrounds. Tufts seeks to integrate these categories of diversity and pushes its students to learn from one another. One such intersectional program that attracts me is CAFE (Conversation, Action, Faith, and Education). By joining CAFE, a community that promotes interfaith education, I will learn from my peers, become more understanding of other religious backgrounds, and apply this broader understanding to my academic work at Tufts.

It’s hard to write a “Why This College?” essay in 100 words. This essay does a good job sticking to one unique element of Tufts—its intersectionality. Since Tufts also cares about demonstrated interest, it’s great that the student also mentioned speaking with an admissions counselor. 

We unfortunately don’t learn very much about the student from this essay. Why do they care about diversity and interfaith programs? How does this relate to their academic and career goals? While the word count is super short, they could’ve cut these lines and jumped right into the specific resource they’re interested in: Tufts’ inclusive definition of diversity goes beyond merely recruiting students from a variety of backgrounds. Tufts seeks to integrate these categories of diversity and pushes its students to learn from one another.

Here’s an example of a stronger version of this essay:

When a Tufts admissions counselor visited my school, she immediately caught my attention by emphasizing Tufts’ diverse yet unified campus. As a Muslim hoping to go into International Relations, I want to attend a school that not only recruits diverse students, but pushes them to learn from one another. I hope to join intersectional programs such as CAFE (Conversation, Action, Faith, and Education). By joining this community that promotes interfaith education, I will gain the necessary perspective and compassion to become a human rights lawyer in countries with religious conflict, such as my homeland Azerbaijan.

Essay Example #10: Tufts

Prompt: Why Tufts? (100 words)

Someday I hope to conduct medical research in developing countries; Tufts attracts me because of its wide array of majors it offers and support for undergraduate research. To understand the human brain, I hope to study biology, neuroscience, and psychology. In addition to outstanding faculty in each of these areas, Tufts also organizes initiatives including the International Research Program. Through this program, I would work with other students and faculty members on an international project related to brain diseases. This opportunity will give me a taste of my future career and help me narrow the scope of my later studies.

This essay does a better job of sharing the student’s goals with us compared to the previous Tufts essay. We learn that the applicant is interested in medical research in developing countries on brain diseases, and that Tufts has a program to support international research.

The essay still mentions some resources that could apply to many schools, which is not an effective use of the tiny word count. For example, they say: “Tufts attracts me because of its wide array of majors it offers and support for undergraduate research” and they mention the “outstanding faculty” in the fields they plan to study.

They also don’t tell us their motivation behind studying brain diseases abroad, and it feels like there’s a significant story there. Giving some background would’ve further strengthened their essay.

Finally, they mention that they still need to narrow the scope of their studies; while it’s fine to be undecided on your career and majors, you don’t need to spend your precious word count saying that in your essay. They could’ve instead shared a couple potential avenues they’re considering.

Here’s what the student could’ve written instead:

Outcomes for schizophrenia patients are better in developing countries than in developed ones. I hope to research the reasons behind this and improve the treatment options in the US for the cousin I grew up with. In college, I want to study biology, neuroscience, and psychology. Tufts attracts me because of its unique interdisciplinary BS in Cognitive and Brain Science and its International Research Program. Through this program, I could do the research I’ve dreamt of doing with a faculty member and other students, preparing me for my future career as either a researcher or clinician.

Essay Example #11: Georgia Tech

Prompt: Why do you want to study your chosen major specifically at Georgia Tech? (300 words)

Climate change is a human rights issue.  

There the headline was, screaming on my phone screen. I think about those suffering from a lack of clean water. I think about those suffering from a lack of clean air. 

I often think back to that headline – it’s what drives my passion for environmental engineering. As an environmental engineer, I can mitigate air pollution and design water treatment systems that address the water injustices that people face. However, it’s not just about creating a technology that cleans water; it’s about changing people’s lives. New technologies can make a lasting difference in humanitarian issues worldwide; Georgia Tech’s research on creating a toilet that turns human waste into clean water for those in need of improved sanitation aligns perfectly with my interests.   

At Georgia Tech, through the student-led organization, Engineers for a Sustainable World and the InVenture Prize, I can translate the knowledge gained from my classes into a concrete vision. I can design and implement hands-on sustainability projects around Atlanta and invent a water sanitation system for the on-site acquisition of clean water. 

Georgia Tech can also provide me with ample research opportunities, such as the broad area of Healthy Communities in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. I can further pursue my interest in developing solutions to deliver clean water while welcoming new areas of inquiry. An area I would like to explore would be the controlling of dangerous matter in the air to reduce health hazards; reducing the impact of climate change is of utmost importance to me. 

Studying environmental engineering at Georgia Tech would well prepare me to develop solutions to climate-related issues. With the countless opportunities that Georgia Tech has to offer, I know there is nowhere else where I can receive a better environmental engineering education.

What the Essay Did Well l

This essay begins with an attention-grabbing statement that leaves the reader wondering how this will relate to the student’s interest in Georgia Tech. They then transition seamlessly into how climate change and human rights motivate their desire to become an environmental engineer.

The student mentions several resources specific to Georgia Tech that would help them achieve their goals, such as the research on the toilet turning waste into water, Engineers for a Sustainable World, InVenture Prize, and Healthy Communities research. It’s clear that they did their research and have reflected on their fit with the campus community.

They end the essay explicitly stating that Georgia Tech is the best place for them to grow, and the reader is certainly convinced of this by the end.

This essay is quite strong, so there’s not much that the student could’ve improved. That said, there is one sentence that is a bit awkwardly worded: New technologies can make a lasting difference in humanitarian issues worldwide; Georgia Tech’s research on creating a toilet that turns human waste into clean water for those in need of improved sanitation aligns perfectly with my interests.

Instead, the student could’ve written:

New technologies can make a lasting difference in humanitarian issues worldwide; Georgia Tech aligns with this value of mine and is even developing a toilet that turns human waste into clean water for those who need improved sanitation.

Essay Example #12: Georgia Tech

From my first Java project, a somewhat primitive graphing calculator, I realized that CS unlocks a different way of thinking. My brain races at speeds it seldom touches with other subjects. Every part of CS, from conceptualizing a plan to executing a solution, is another piece of a puzzle I’m eager to solve and affords the most opportunities for creative problem-solving and application. 

“Progress and Service,” Georgia Tech’s motto, tells me there’s no better place to explore my curiosity and deepen my CS skills while simultaneously helping make the world a better place, my ultimate goal for a college education. 

In the classroom, I look forward to GT’s threads program, where I can tailor the curriculum to suit my career choice after exposing myself to all technical aspects of CS.

I’ll apply my specialized learning with Tech’s fascinating research opportunities. Professor Pandarinth’s brain-machine interfacing software means a lot to me. My uncle passed away from a freak accident after extensive paralysis because potential treatments were unaffordable. Exploring this revolutionary brain decoding software wouldn’t just involve me in cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology research, I’d be personally driven to ensure its success and accessibility. 

I’m at my best building towards tangible results. I learned this on my robotics team using design skills to create a technically complex robot that tackles anything from shooting balls to hanging on a balance beam. I’m excited to expand my skills on the RoboJackets team, applying my career interests to build ferocious BattleBots and autonomous race robots that compete on the Indy Speedway, two events that sound ridiculously fun. 

Of course, I can’t skip hackathons. These competitions molded my interest in coding so I want to give back to Georgia Tech’s Hack-Community by planning HackGT and the Catalyst Mentorship program as a member of the Hexlabs team. 

The student’s passion for CS shines through this essay. They explain what they love about the subject (the problem-solving aspect) and they share that they hope to make a difference through CS, demonstrating alignment with Tech’s motto of  “progress and service”.

It’s clear that this student has done their research, mentioning specific academic programs, research, and clubs. We can see that they’d be greatly engaged with the campus community.

Finally, this essay is also down-to-earth. The student doesn’t try to use impressive vocabulary or formal language. In fact, they even describe some extracurriculars as “ridiculously fun.” While you shouldn’t get too informal in your essays, this student’s casual tone in this context makes them feel more approachable and more excited about the prospect of going to Georgia Tech.

This essay has a couple sentences that are confusing to read:

Every part of CS, from conceptualizing a plan to executing a solution, is another piece of a puzzle I’m eager to solve and affords the most opportunities for creative problem-solving and application.

This sentence could’ve been broken up and rewritten as:

Every part of CS, from conceptualizing a plan to executing a solution, is another piece of a puzzle I’m eager to solve. For me, the field affords the most opportunities for creative problem-solving and application.

This sentence also uses incorrect grammar—the comma should be replaced with a semicolon:

Exploring this revolutionary brain decoding software wouldn’t just involve me in cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology research, I’d be personally driven to ensure its success and accessibility. 

These details would make the essay more readable.

The organization of the essay could also be reworked. The student mentions Tech’s motto of “progress and service,” but doesn’t follow up until later with an example of how they’d use CS for the greater good. Using CS for social good isn’t ultimately the theme of their essay, so this section would’ve been better placed at the end of the paragraph about AI technology research, or at the very end of the essay. The essay actually ends abruptly, so placing the section at the end might’ve tied it up nicely, if the student could’ve placed more emphasis on how they plan to use CS to improve society.

Do you want feedback on your “Why This College” essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool , where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 

If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, how to write a 'why harvard' essay.

I've been struggling to write my 'Why Harvard' essay. It's hard to find unique reasons for wanting to attend Harvard that haven't been mentioned in countless other essays. If anyone can provide some advice or examples of successful 'Why Harvard' essays, I would be really grateful!

It's definitely a tricky task to come up with unique reasons for wanting to attend Harvard. When writing a 'Why Harvard' essay, it's important to dig deep and show your genuine connection to the school. Here are some tips to help you:

1. Research: Spend some time actually researching the unique aspects of the Harvard experience that matter to you. You can look at their website, connect with current students and alumni, or explore social media and blogs from students attending Harvard.

2. Focus on Specifics: It's important that your essay is specific, not just a generic list of items that could apply to any prestigious college. Identify programs, classes, professors, or projects at Harvard that truly excite you. By narrowing in on these details, you'll stand out from the essays that simply talk about the reputation and tradition of the school.

3. Connect to Your Personal Goals: When discussing Harvard's offerings, make sure you connect them back to your personal academic and career interests. Explain how the opportunities at Harvard will help you achieve your goals and reach your full potential.

4. Extracurriculars and Campus Life: You can also focus on the extracurricular activities and events that you would like to be a part of at Harvard. Show how your involvement in these activities will enrich your college experience and contribute to the overall campus community.

5. Share an Anecdote: If you have visited Harvard or attended any of its events, share a story that illustrates your fascination with the school. This personal connection can help make your essay feel more genuine and memorable.

6. Be Genuine and Honest: While it's important to show your enthusiasm for Harvard, don't try to inflate your interest in the school or misrepresent what matters to you. Keep your essay genuine and authentic to who you are.

To conclude, it's essential that your 'Why Harvard' essay emphasizes your personal connection to the school and how attending Harvard will help you achieve your goals. A focused, well-researched, and genuine essay will help you stand out among other applicants. Best of luck with your essay writing!

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How to Write the “Why This College” Essay (With an Example!)

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Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

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Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

why write in essay

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

How to Write the “Why This College” Essay (With an Example!)

Applying to college is a big decision that brings a lot of excitement and stress. This is especially true when it comes to answering the “why this college” prompt asked by so many colleges. However daunting these prompts might seem, you got this. Keep reading to learn tips and tricks to write your “why this college” essay, and take a look at an example essay!

“Why this college?” essay prompts 

The “Why this college?” essay is probably one of the most common essays you’ll come across during your application process. This is partially because admissions committees want students that’re as interested and passionate about their institution. Some popular colleges that offer “why this college?” prompts include:

  • Columbia University : “Why are you interested in attending Columbia University? We encourage you to consider the aspect(s) that you find unique and compelling about Columbia. (150 words or fewer)
  • Duke University : “What is your sense of Duke as a university and a community, and why do you consider it a good match for you? If there is something in particular about our offerings that attracts you, feel free to share that as well. (max. 250 words)”
  • University of Michigan : “Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?” (Minimum: 100 words/Maximum: 550 words)

As you can see, all three of the prompts are a variation of the basic “why this college” question. Let’s take a look at a sample response essay written for Columbia University. 

“Why this college?” sample essay

Dear Columbia University, 

This is probably the hundredth essay you’ve read in the sea of applicants, and as you’re likely expecting, I could tell you that I’m different from them all. Though in some ways, I’m the same. Like them, I want to stand on the corner of Broadway and 116th St. and know I chose the perfect school to study literary arts with a focus on fiction writing. 

Even more so, I strive to be one of the Columbia Greats that inspired me to pick up a pen. Though, you shouldn’t want me because I might be the next Allen Ginsberg, but because I plan on being a writer that captures the virtue found in the rye of J.D. Salinger, the watchful gaze of Zora Neale Hurston, and the freshness of my own style. Amongst your walls and tutelage, these literary greats blossomed, as I hope to.

Applicant Name

Why this essay works:

  • Starts with a compelling statement to interest the audience
  • Answers the “why this college?” question by discussing notable alumni and the arts program
  • Uses a unique approach to the prompt question that reflects interest in the major of choice
  • Explains why the admissions committee should choose this applicant
  • Stays within the word count limit

Also see: How to respond to this year’s Common App essay prompts

Mistakes to avoid when writing a “why this college” essay

Generalizing.

When writing any essay, generalizing usually isn’t the way to go. Readers want to get invested in the story or argument you’re presenting, and the admissions office is no different. Details are a key component of making your essay stand out. 

The admissions committee wants to get to know you and assess how you’ll fit into their institution. No two applicants are the same, and you should strive to prove that through your unique essay. 

Placating the admissions office

It can be easy to fall back on simply telling your college’s admissions committee what they want to hear. However, you shouldn’t just pull facts and figures from the website or quote the college’s brochure. Individualize your essay not only to capture the attention of your reader, but to display interest in your college of choice.

Anyone can put general information in their application, but it takes effort to explain why you want to attend a particular school, how admission would affect your life, and what the school has to gain from your attendance. Think of it as a persuasive essay where you have to back up your argument with details. 

Also see: An insider’s perspective into what goes on in college admissions offices

Tips for writing your essay

Find a connection.

Even before you start writing your essay, figure out the connection between you and your college of choice. 

Is there a particular professor you want to study under? Are you a legacy applicant? Is it the campus of your dreams? Are you excited for a particular program? 

Asking yourself questions like this can help pinpoint what’s motivating you to apply to a university and why they should admit you. Explaining your connection to your school of choice can show the admissions committee that you belong on their campus. 

It will strengthen your application and help you individualize your application. Create an interesting or anecdotal story out of your connection in order to set yourself apart.

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

Outline and edit

College essays usually range from around 200 – 500 words, which can go by much quicker than you might think. This is why it’s ideal to outline your essay once you’ve decided what to write about. It can be easy to get distracted by the little details, but emphasize the main points that are essential to the story you’re trying to tell the admissions office. 

It’s also a good idea to thoroughly read and edit your essay multiple times. You’ll want to submit the complete and final version of your essay, not something that reads like a rough draft. 

Remember, your parents, advisors, teachers, and peers can be helpful resources during revision. Feedback is an important aspect of the editing process.

Additional resources

Congratulations on starting your applications to college and working so diligently on them! Fortunately, Scholarships360 has even more resources to offer that can help propel your college journey in the right direction. 

  • Start choosing your major
  • Find the supplemental essay guide for your college
  • Learn what “demonstrated interest” means for your application

Frequently asked questions about writing a “why this college” essay

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  1. Essay Writing

  2. Paragraph Writing: What, Why, How?

  3. A 100 Word "Why Major" Essay Example and Analysis

  4. A 200+ Word "Why Major" Essay Example and Analysis

  5. How to Write the Ultimate “Why Us” Essay

  6. Why Essay Writing Is A Process?

COMMENTS

  1. Why I Write

    Why I Write. This material remains under copyright in some jurisdictions, including the US, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Orwell Estate.The Orwell Foundation is an independent charity - please consider making a donation or becoming a Friend of the Foundation to help us maintain these resources for readers everywhere.. From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or ...

  2. Why Do We Write: Four Reasons

    Writing gives us a surplus of moments to really sympathize with a person, explore a world, and learn from a story in a way that reminds us what really matters in life. We engender a growth mindset through writing—and writing deeply. A writing life is rich with truth and adventures that bring our very beings to life. 2.

  3. The Paris Review

    Didion borrowed the title of her lecture "Why I Write" from George Orwell, who in his essay of this name outlined four potential reasons why anyone might write: "sheer egoism" (Gertrude Stein claimed she wrote "for praise," like Wallace in his weaker moments); "aesthetic enthusiasm" or the mere love of beauty (William Gass ...

  4. Why Write Essays? Why Read Essays?

    Students use it for exploration and demonstration of their knowledge and understanding of a topic. It is widely employed for assessment and examination by teachers. It also plays a central role in our learning and our general reading in terms of its use as a vehicle for the dissemination of new research, theses, proposals and theoretical work ...

  5. The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay

    Come up with a thesis. Create an essay outline. Write the introduction. Write the main body, organized into paragraphs. Write the conclusion. Evaluate the overall organization. Revise the content of each paragraph. Proofread your essay or use a Grammar Checker for language errors. Use a plagiarism checker.

  6. Outlining

    The final step of the outlining process is to repeat this procedure on the smallest level, with the original notes that you took for your essay. To order what probably was an unwieldy and disorganized set of information at the beginning of this process, you need now only think of a sentence or two to support your general argument.

  7. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    When you write an essay for a course you are taking, you are being asked not only to create a product (the essay) but, more importantly, to go through a process of thinking more deeply about a question or problem related to the course. By writing about a source or collection of sources, you will have the chance to wrestle with some of the

  8. Example of a Great Essay

    This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people's social and cultural lives.

  9. Why do we write?

    Reasons for writing. The primary reason for writing anything is to communicate with others, to stimulate interest or action from the reader. You may also use writing to help you to reflect on your experiences and learn from them. While at University a key way of assessing the progress and learning of students is via the written work you produce ...

  10. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Step 1: Hook your reader. Step 2: Give background information. Step 3: Present your thesis statement. Step 4: Map your essay's structure. Step 5: Check and revise. More examples of essay introductions. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

  11. A Summary and Analysis of George Orwell's 'Why I Write'

    By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University) 'Why I Write' is an essay by George Orwell, published in 1946 after the publication of his novella Animal Farm and before he wrote his final novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.The essay is an insightful piece of memoir about Orwell's early years and how he developed as a writer, from harbouring ambitions to write self-consciously literary works to ...

  12. "Why Write?," by Paul Auster

    A German friend tells of the circumstances that preceded the births of her two daughters. Nineteen years ago, hugely pregnant and already several weeks past due, A. sat down on the sofa in her ...

  13. Essay Writing Tips: 10 Steps to Writing a Great Essay (And Have Fun

    Body #1: Most students think writing an essay is tedious because they focus on external rewards. Body #2: Students should instead focus on internal fulfillment when writing an essay. Body #3: Not only will focusing on internal fulfillment allow students to have more fun, it will also result in better essays.

  14. PDF Introductions

    Celsius!). Instead, you should use your introduction to explain to your readers why your essay is going to be interesting to read. To do this, you'll need to frame the question or problem that you're writing about and explain why this question or problem is important. If you make a convincing case for why your question or problem

  15. How to Write a Perfect "Why This College?" Essay

    college essay prompts: Colorado College: "Describe how your personal experiences with a particular community make you a student who would benefit from Colorado College's Block Plan." Tufts University: " I am applying to Tufts because…. Tulane University: "Describe why you are interested in joining the Tulane community.

  16. Getting College Essay Help: Important Do's and Don'ts

    Have a fresh pair of eyes give you some feedback. Don't allow someone else to rewrite your essay, but do take advantage of others' edits and opinions when they seem helpful. ( Bates College) Read your essay aloud to someone. Reading the essay out loud offers a chance to hear how your essay sounds outside your head.

  17. How to Write a Stellar "Why This College?" Essay + Examples

    Pick your top academic reasons for applying, and your top extracurricular/social reasons. 1. Reflect on your academic and career goals. The driver behind this essay needs to be you, and not the school itself. Anyone can write nice things about the college, but only you can explain why you would be a good fit for it.

  18. Why This College Essay Guide + Examples

    How to Write A "Why this College" Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide. Step 1: How to Find All the Resources You Need to Learn about a Particular School. The Top Secret Three-Word Trick to Finding Specific Info for Your "Why this College" Essay. Step 2: Organize Your Research. Step 3: Decide on Your Approach: Approach #1: The Basic, Solid "Why ...

  19. How to Research and Write a "Why This College?" Essay

    Plan and write the essay. Once you've completed your research, you're ready to start the writing process. All the general rules of essay writing still apply—you'll want, for example, to organize your thoughts with an outline before getting started—but keep in mind that many schools want this essay to be short compared to the personal essay.

  20. 12 Effective "Why This College?" Essay Examples

    One thing this essay could do to make it stronger is improve the first paragraph. The student does a good job of setting up Sister Roach and the Five C's, but they don't mention anything about their desire to study or pursue nursing. The first paragraph mentions both Sister Roach and Penn, but left out the student.

  21. How to Write a 'Why Harvard' Essay?

    It's definitely a tricky task to come up with unique reasons for wanting to attend Harvard. When writing a 'Why Harvard' essay, it's important to dig deep and show your genuine connection to the school. Here are some tips to help you: 1. Research: Spend some time actually researching the unique aspects of the Harvard experience that matter to you.

  22. How to Write the "Why This College" Essay (With an Example!)

    Starts with a compelling statement to interest the audience. Answers the "why this college?" question by discussing notable alumni and the arts program. Uses a unique approach to the prompt question that reflects interest in the major of choice. Explains why the admissions committee should choose this applicant.