6 Tips for Writing a College Essay

With applying for colleges/universities comes the dreaded college essay. Sounding way easier said than done, your college essay is the way you’ll stand out from the hundreds (or thousands) of other students applying. 

What makes you different and a good candidate to attend a particular school? College admissions advisors read thousands of essays, and many times it’s like reading the same thing over and over (and over). It’s important to make your essay uniquely you. 

Here are a few of our tips and tricks for writing a strong college essay!

It’s important to take your time to think about a good essay topic. Don’t settle for the first thought that comes to mind. 

Believe it or not, you’ve already had multiple life experiences and lessons. Brainstorm different experiences and topics you are familiar with. See what sticks out to you. Don’t be discouraged if on day one you only have one idea. It often takes days or even weeks, depending on your schedule, before you feel you have a strong topic. 

A strong topic is something you feel comfortable writing about so you can write the minimum amount of words asked for and engage the reader.

As good as you might think your first draft might be, don’t settle for the first one. Writing multiple drafts on the same topic can help your creative juices flow, can spark new ideas, and can provide you with different perspectives. 

Writing multiple drafts gives you options. You can look through them and pick the one you feel is strongest. 

Also – don’t be afraid to have a few different essay topics written up. You don’t need to confine yourself to one topic or one essay and you can send different essays to different colleges. 

College admissions officers are not English teachers. They don’t want to read a redundant five-page essay. 

Don’t be afraid to have a shorter essay. Be concise. As long as you keep your writing clear, you can stand out through a shorter essay. 

Getting straight to the point might be more impressive to college admissions. It shows you are articulate and smart with your words. 

When writing your essay, if your first draft is a little long don’t fret! That’s what editing is for. Look it over and keep working to combine ideas to shorten it up. It’s often easier to edit by removing information than it is to think of it to make it longer. 

Be creative. Put some of your personality into it. 

The introduction is your way to set the tone and hook your readers.  A good “hook” makes you stand out from other writers and helps the reader form a lasting impression. 

It’s important to have other people read your essays and give you some constructive feedback. A fresh set of eyes gives you a new perspective. No matter how good you think you are at the details like punctuation and grammar, you can still miss the little mistakes in your own work. 

Another perspective can also provide ideas you might not have thought of. 

Don’t be afraid to ask multiple people either! Everyone has something to offer and can give you advice and pointers for focusing on the powerful points in your essay. 

Most importantly: be yourself! 

It’s important to keep it personable and let your personality shine. This isn’t a school essay being graded. This is your shot to convince them that they want you at their college and your college essay helps the people at the college learn more about you as a student and as an individual. 

Crossing the Finish Line

Congratulations seniors, you’ve completed high school! You’ve crossed that finish line! But you’re not finished yet. What’s next? You’re about to start a whole new chapter. For many of you, that means starting over as a freshman but in college this time. You have to figure out dorms, orientation, what classes to take, and much more! We have a few tips to keep you on track and make these next steps a little easier. 

Prepare for Adjusting to Your New Home

In just a few months you’ll be in a completely new place with new people. Take time this summer to prepare and you will make your fall much easier. 

Sign up for orientation now.  

Orientation is an important time for any incoming freshmen. It offers you a chance to learn more about campus and start becoming familiar with the layout and the different buildings. It’s also a valuable time for making friends! 

Make sure you’re keeping an eye on your emails, or school portal to see how you need to register and pick the perfect date for you.

If you haven’t seen anything yet, check your school’s website or give your school a call!

Attend summer programs offered by your college.

Orientation is a great way to learn and make friends but so is attending summer programs. Many schools offer summer programs in a variety of interest areas. Take advantage of these opportunities to strengthen your learning, your experience, and to expose yourself to new things.

Trying new things helps you broaden your network and push yourself; it also will help you make your new campus feel more like home so your transition in the fall will be much more comfortable. 

Bonus Tip:

Make sure you’ve finished any paperwork needed such as: 

  • loan paperwork
  • financial aid applications or documentation (including your FAFSA!)
  • any pre-surveys that the college or university requires

Most of this information can be found in your school’s portal or email. You may need additional information from your high school. Keep in mind that the school guidance counselors do not work all summer so don’t put this paperwork off until fall!

Research your Campus

After you’ve prepared for orientation or any other paperwork necessary for a strong start in the fall, research your school. 

Get familiar with the campus and nearby off-campus areas. 

Where can you find some basic groceries or snacks? 

Where can you get prescriptions filled? 

Where is a great place for your parents to take you to eat when they visit? 

Where can you purchase an extra phone charger if yours goes missing or dies? 

Are you looking for a job while you’re at school? Students that are interested in obtaining a job during the school year should start checking available openings now. Your campus should offer a variety of on-campus positions but they may go quickly! 

Check out clubs and life on campus.

Look into different groups the school may offer from clubs related to your major, to clubs that focus on one of your interest areas. Learn more about Greek Life opportunities or how to join an intramural sports team!

Joining a group once you get to campus is a perfect way to make your new “world” feel less overwhelming and more like home. Groups also give you perfect opportunities to network and meet new people along with providing excellent experiences you can add to your resume

Prepare to Move

Not only will you be attending a new school you’ll be living in a completely new environment. Dorms can be intimidating and a change to what you are used to but being prepared helps you tackle this challenge!

Use a dorm checklist. 

Many colleges offer a dorm checklist which includes some suggestions for what to bring along with the important things to know like bed size and space measurements.  

If you know anyone who went to college recently, see what suggestions they have on what to get – keeping in mind that many college campuses have different specifics for what is and what is not available in their dorm rooms and common spaces. 

Living in a place without your parents or your friends can be intimidating. So make sure you’re prepared to create your own space that will feel like home. Some LaunchPad suggestions for what to prepare include:

  • Water filter
  • Laundry basket or bag
  • Towels (2)
  • Mattress pad (make sure you check what size of bed you’ll have)
  • Comforter, blanket, pillow
  • Shower caddy/shower shoes
  • Microwave and/or mini-fridge (if allowed in your dorms)
  • A bowl, set of silverware and a plate
  • Extension cord(s)
  • Hangers
  • Couches or seating for living room or extra space
  • Desk supplies
  • Decorations
  • Fans
  • 3-M/Command Hooks for hanging things on the walls

If you have a roommate, or multiple roommates, make sure you coordinate who’s bringing what. Items such as microwaves, mini-fridges, living room seating, or TVs are items you won’t have a lot of space for so make sure you’re in contact with one another to coordinate. 

Prepare for Academic Success

You’re not only moving into a dorm room, you’re moving into a whole new school. You will not have the same classes every day so it can be easy to feel like you have tons of free time but college classes come with a lot of work, readings, and other assignments that you need to plan out for yourself.

Depending on the state of your school supplies, now might be a good time to upgrade. Perhaps a new backpack, laptop, notebook, or other key tools that will keep you on track like a planner! Planners are excellent organizational tools.

An average college class load is about 5 classes so you will need a good system and resources to help you keep up. Five classes can mean at least 8-10 hours outside of class will be needed to complete the work. A planner is a great tool to keep yourself on track!

Bonus tip: 

Check out Launchpad on Facebook or Instagram for our Tech Tuesday posts with suggestions for organizational apps and other tools for setting yourself up for success!

Spend Time with Friends and Family

As busy as your summer may be, don’t forget to have fun and spend time with your loved ones! 

In just a few months you’ll be somewhere completely new. For some students, this somewhere new could be hours away but even if your new home is only an hour away, it’s still going to be different than being with your family every day. Use these last few months to cherish the time you have with them as you start to get excited about all the new things you will experience in just a couple of months!

For more tips, check out our blog post, 10 Things You Need to do to be Ready for Success in College.

One Way for High School Students to Expand Their Resumes

It’s May. That means you are one step closer to summer and your graduation! 

Whether you are finishing your junior year or graduating high school this year, college is right around the corner. Though you’ll be starting a new chapter in your life in a few months, you still have the summer to play, but also to work.  

Getting a summer job is one of the best ways a high school student can expand their resume before they even start college. 

There are many kinds of jobs that provide you with good experience for your resumes: 

  • camp counselor
  • lifeguard
  • coach
  • referee or umpire
  • work at a grocery store
  • country club employee (waitstaff; grounds keeping; caddy)
  • restaurant staff
  • ice cream shop
  • retail clerk
  • babysitter/nanny
  • and more!

Finding a job and getting the job can be tricky. Start planning now!

We’ve prepared a few tips and tricks to help you get the perfect summer job!

A Summer Job

Right now you might not have a lot of experience to put on your resume. A summer job will give you work experience to put on your resume and the opportunity to showcase your skills and maturity. 

A summer job is a great way to start saving money for college or just to have some extra money. Having a job keeps you busy through the summer and will give you good experience to put on your resume. Experience that employers look for when you get ready to apply for internships or more permanent employment.

Saving money isn’t the only benefit of a summer job. A summer job helps you develop interview skills, gives you an opportunity to explore and establish your work ethic, discover your strengths and weaknesses, and gives you real-world experience.

A summer job helps you build skills and habits for your future career as well as your personal development. A summer job can help you develop valuable skills in communication, time management, and managing responsibilities.  It can also help you learn more about how you work with people, how you work under pressure, and more about your likes and dislikes. 

Finding a Job

There are plenty of job websites out there like Indeed or ZipRecruiter that make it easy to sift through job postings. You can make an account and then look through available job postings while applying filters to find jobs that match your exact needs. 

Filters include things like: industry, salary, company, part-time/full-time, and location. Filters make it much simpler to search for what you’re looking for and, if you find a posting you like, you can always save it and return to it later to apply. also offers the chance for one-click applications. You fill out a resume on the app, or you can upload your own, and then you can automatically apply with only a few clicks. 

Other than checking out job postings, if you have a place in mind you’d want to work, give them a call or go there in person to ask if they have any openings. Most places are interested in extra help in the summer and they might not have gotten around to putting a posting online yet. 

Another option is to ask friends if they enjoy where they work. If they do, ask if they’re hiring and if they could put in a good word for you. Just because it’s a job doesn’t mean you can’t work with friends!

Getting the Job

After you’ve been applying, you’ll start to get phone calls or emails in regards to the job itself so be sure to check your voicemails and emails

First impressions make or break a lot of interviews. Employers are now seeing you for the first time and they want to know they’re hiring someone professional. Make sure you dress professionally and arrive on time (10 – 15 minutes before your interview time). A future employer wants to know you are punctual and can be on time for your shift. 

Show up prepared with questions to ask and know the role you’re applying for.

Some questions you should expect to answer include: 

  • Why did you apply for the job? 
  • Why do you want to do the job? 
  • Why should we hire you? 

Make sure you have some potential answers already prepared in your head so you are ready to answer when they are asked. 

Be honest and transparent with the person interviewing you. Make sure they’re aware you’re leaving in the fall so that this job is temporary. Be prepared to talk about whether or not you’ll be home for holidays and interested in working then as well. 

Knowing Your Strengths and Skills

As a young adult, you might not have a lot of real-life experience. You might not even have held a job before. That’s okay! 

Draw on the experiences you do have even if they weren’t learned in a workplace. For example, do you play a sport? What skills have you developed from working as part of a team? Athletes develop kills like time management from balancing homework, classes, practices, and games, interpersonal skills from working with teammates, leadership skills, ability to follow directions, and/or perseverance. 

You have also developed solid job skills from being a good student, skills like managing your schoolwork and time. Do you accomplish things on time? Do you have a strong work ethic? If you’ve had group projects, how do you work with a group? What role do you take? What have you learned about yourself and how you work with others?  

Think about your involvement with any school clubs, volunteering, or other extracurriculars. Have you had any leadership roles? How have you supported the work of that club or organization? These experiences help develop skills like time management, civic engagement, and communication. 

Lastly, even if you don’t think you have a lot of job experience, know that employers are looking for some kind of evidence of these key skills: 

  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Time Management
  • Ability to Manage Various Responsibilities
  • Task Completion
  • Ability to Independently Follow Directions
  • Responsibility
  • Punctuality

There are many opportunities to apply and develop these skills. Keep track of all of them so you have a solid supply of experiences to draw from when finalizing your resume and preparing to write the next chapters of your life! 

Need help organizing your experiences or writing your resume? Contact us today!