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  • Job Application Documents

How to Write a Job Application Essay

Last Updated: April 9, 2024 References

This article was co-authored by Shannon O'Brien, MA, EdM and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD . Shannon O'Brien is the Founder and Principal Advisor of Whole U. (a career and life strategy consultancy based in Boston, MA). Through advising, workshops and e-learning Whole U. empowers people to pursue their life's work and live a balanced, purposeful life. Shannon has been ranked as the #1 Career Coach and #1 Life Coach in Boston, MA by Yelp reviewers. She has been featured on Boston.com, Boldfacers, and the UR Business Network. She received a Master's of Technology, Innovation, & Education from Harvard University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 196,631 times.

Many employers now require a writing sample, or job application essay , to accompany all applications or résumés — even if writing is not a significant part of the position. The goal of the job application essay is to ensure that applicants have the right communication skills for the position offered. Sometimes, potential employers will provide a specific topic or series of questions for your essay to respond to. However, you may also be asked to provide an essay with no guidance whatsoever. Either way, approach the essay seriously so that it highlights the skills and assets you could bring to the company. [1] X Research source

Outlining Your Essay

Step 1 Read the job listing and essay description carefully.

  • If you don't know much about the company, do a little research on it before you start writing. You might look at their website or do a general internet search with the name of the company to see if any news articles or other reports come up. Go beyond the four corners of the job listing so that you understand who will likely be reading your essay.
  • If there's anything in the job listing or essay requirements that you don't understand, contact the employer and ask about them. Employers are often impressed by applicants who clarify the employer's intent rather than making assumptions.

Step 2 State your theme or thesis statement upfront.

  • For example, if you're applying for a position in sales, you might want to write an essay about your ability to tailor your pitch to specific clients and close the deal. If you have the ability to be more creative, you might tailor your essay to "sell" yourself directly to the employer.

Step 3 Brainstorm 3 or 4 points that support your thesis statement.

  • For each of your points, think of a specific example you can relate briefly that illustrates the point. For example, if you've described yourself as a "team player," you might include an example of how you came in on your day off to complete some of the more monotonous tasks that no one else wanted to do so a project could be completed ahead of schedule.
  • It's a good idea to have more than one example in your outline for each point, even if you only end up using one. That way, if you start writing something and it ends up not working as well as you thought it would, you'll have a back-up handy.
  • Brainstorming can be difficult. If you find yourself churning over the same thoughts, stand up and take a break for a few minutes. Step outside or go for a walk to clear your head, then come back to it.

Step 4 Gather documents and information to fill out your points.

  • For example, if you want to describe how you increased sales in a specific quarter, you would want to state specifically how much you increased sales. Your former employer may have sales figures that you could ask them for. You might also have that information in your records.
  • Wherever possible, use specific numbers and dates rather than making general statements. It's okay to estimate, but make sure your estimate is conservative. Saying you led your sales team to the highest sales in a quarter is impressive — but only if it's true.

Completing Your Rough Draft

Step 1 Start with an introductory paragraph that describes you and your essay.

  • Think of this paragraph as telling the hiring manager what you're going to tell them in the essay. Outline the points you're going to elaborate on in the essay that back up your theme or thesis statement.
  • Sometimes it's best to go back and write your introduction after you've written the body of your essay. That way, you can make sure the introduction provides an outline that matches the body.

Step 2 Organize your essay logically.

  • If the employer listed specifically what should be included in your essay, follow their order, since that's what they'll be looking for when they read the essay.
  • Write in the first person and make yourself the star of any anecdote you include as an example. Use action verbs to focus on what you did rather than focusing on what happened and how you reacted to it. [7] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Step 3 Create transitions between each paragraph of your essay.

  • For example, if you're writing about your skills as a team player, you might note that you discuss doing routine work that others found monotonous so they had time to work on other parts of a project. You could use that detail to move on to a section describing how you're detail-oriented.

Step 4 Use your closing to summarize your essay.

  • For example, you might write "My business school education, skills as a team player, and focus on detail make me the best candidate to lead your sales team."

Finalizing Your Essay

Step 1 Proofread your essay for spelling, grammar, and typographical errors.

  • For example, you might start by looking solely at punctuation, then read through again focusing on spelling.
  • If you find that you tend to repeat a particular error, go through your essay looking for that error specifically.
  • If your grammar isn't particularly strong or you're writing in a language other than your native language, have someone else read over your essay as well.

Step 2 Read your essay out loud.

  • If you find that you stumble over a sentence while reading aloud, that's a sign that your writing could be clearer. Work with your text until you have something that you can read aloud with ease.

Step 3 Edit

  • If the prospective employer did not specify a length, try to keep your essay under 2 double-spaced pages. Remember that hiring managers are busy and don't have a lot of time to read a long, rambling essay.
  • Eliminate all unnecessary words or sentences that aren't relevant to the subject of your essay. The majority of your sentences should be short, declarative sentences with action verbs.
  • Apps such as Hemingway ( http://www.hemingwayapp.com/ ) or Grammarly ( https://app.grammarly.com/ ) can help you identify portions of your essay that are more difficult to read. Both of these apps have a free version that you can use to edit your text.

Step 4 Work backward through your essay to proofread a second time.

  • Working backward is particularly helpful for noticing spelling mistakes, especially hard-to-catch homophone errors, because you're seeing the word out of context.

Step 5 Print your essay and read through it a final time.

  • It may also help to print your essay in a different font or font size than what you used to type it. This breaks your brain's familiarity with the text, which can make typos and other errors more noticeable. Just remember to change the font back after you print it.

Job Application Essay

how to start a job application essay

Expert Q&A

Shannon O'Brien, MA, EdM

  • Give yourself plenty of time to work on your essay. Ideally, you should plan to work on it over the course of at least two days, so you have the time to set it aside after writing before you move to the editing and proofreading stage. [15] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

how to start a job application essay

  • Unless you're applying for a position in a political or religious organization, avoid including anything in your essay that identifies your political or religious preferences or beliefs. [16] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Avoid using humor, especially sarcasm or ironic humor, as it can be misconstrued in text. Additionally, humor may lead the hiring manager to believe that you aren't serious about the position. [17] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

You Might Also Like

Write a CV (Curriculum Vitae)

  • ↑ https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/writing-sample-job-application
  • ↑ https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2012/04/30/essay-how-write-good-applications-jobs-or-grants
  • ↑ Shannon O'Brien, MA, EdM. Life & Career Coach. Expert Interview. 25 May 2021.
  • ↑ https://www.govloop.com/community/blog/government-job-application-essays-made-easy/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/application-essays/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/
  • ↑ https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/proofreading-tips
  • ↑ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/career-transitions/200906/the-dreaded-writing-sample

About This Article

Shannon O'Brien, MA, EdM

Job application essays can seem scary, but they’re really just an opportunity for you to highlight your skills and explain why you’re suitable for the role. Read the job listing to find out what traits and skills the company is looking for, like time management, working under pressure, and leadership. If you don’t know much about the company, read through its website and do an online search to find articles about its work. In your introduction, you’ll want to to describe yourself and introduce the main points you’ll be making. Then, write a paragraph for each trait or skill. Use real life examples from previous jobs, your recent studies, or extracurricular activities to support your points. For example, you could highlight your leadership skills by talking about a time you led a group project that exceeded your targets. For more tips, including how to write a compelling conclusion for your job application essay, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Application Essays

What this handout is about.

This handout will help you write and revise the personal statement required by many graduate programs, internships, and special academic programs.

Before you start writing

Because the application essay can have a critical effect upon your progress toward a career, you should spend significantly more time, thought, and effort on it than its typically brief length would suggest. It should reflect how you arrived at your professional goals, why the program is ideal for you, and what you bring to the program. Don’t make this a deadline task—now’s the time to write, read, rewrite, give to a reader, revise again, and on until the essay is clear, concise, and compelling. At the same time, don’t be afraid. You know most of the things you need to say already.

Read the instructions carefully. One of the basic tasks of the application essay is to follow the directions. If you don’t do what they ask, the reader may wonder if you will be able to follow directions in their program. Make sure you follow page and word limits exactly—err on the side of shortness, not length. The essay may take two forms:

  • A one-page essay answering a general question
  • Several short answers to more specific questions

Do some research before you start writing. Think about…

  • The field. Why do you want to be a _____? No, really. Think about why you and you particularly want to enter that field. What are the benefits and what are the shortcomings? When did you become interested in the field and why? What path in that career interests you right now? Brainstorm and write these ideas out.
  • The program. Why is this the program you want to be admitted to? What is special about the faculty, the courses offered, the placement record, the facilities you might be using? If you can’t think of anything particular, read the brochures they offer, go to events, or meet with a faculty member or student in the program. A word about honesty here—you may have a reason for choosing a program that wouldn’t necessarily sway your reader; for example, you want to live near the beach, or the program is the most prestigious and would look better on your resume. You don’t want to be completely straightforward in these cases and appear superficial, but skirting around them or lying can look even worse. Turn these aspects into positives. For example, you may want to go to a program in a particular location because it is a place that you know very well and have ties to, or because there is a need in your field there. Again, doing research on the program may reveal ways to legitimate even your most superficial and selfish reasons for applying.
  • Yourself. What details or anecdotes would help your reader understand you? What makes you special? Is there something about your family, your education, your work/life experience, or your values that has shaped you and brought you to this career field? What motivates or interests you? Do you have special skills, like leadership, management, research, or communication? Why would the members of the program want to choose you over other applicants? Be honest with yourself and write down your ideas. If you are having trouble, ask a friend or relative to make a list of your strengths or unique qualities that you plan to read on your own (and not argue about immediately). Ask them to give you examples to back up their impressions (For example, if they say you are “caring,” ask them to describe an incident they remember in which they perceived you as caring).

Now, write a draft

This is a hard essay to write. It’s probably much more personal than any of the papers you have written for class because it’s about you, not World War II or planaria. You may want to start by just getting something—anything—on paper. Try freewriting. Think about the questions we asked above and the prompt for the essay, and then write for 15 or 30 minutes without stopping. What do you want your audience to know after reading your essay? What do you want them to feel? Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, organization, or anything else. Just get out the ideas you have. For help getting started, see our handout on brainstorming .

Now, look at what you’ve written. Find the most relevant, memorable, concrete statements and focus in on them. Eliminate any generalizations or platitudes (“I’m a people person”, “Doctors save lives”, or “Mr. Calleson’s classes changed my life”), or anything that could be cut and pasted into anyone else’s application. Find what is specific to you about the ideas that generated those platitudes and express them more directly. Eliminate irrelevant issues (“I was a track star in high school, so I think I’ll make a good veterinarian.”) or issues that might be controversial for your reader (“My faith is the one true faith, and only nurses with that faith are worthwhile,” or “Lawyers who only care about money are evil.”).

Often, writers start out with generalizations as a way to get to the really meaningful statements, and that’s OK. Just make sure that you replace the generalizations with examples as you revise. A hint: you may find yourself writing a good, specific sentence right after a general, meaningless one. If you spot that, try to use the second sentence and delete the first.

Applications that have several short-answer essays require even more detail. Get straight to the point in every case, and address what they’ve asked you to address.

Now that you’ve generated some ideas, get a little bit pickier. It’s time to remember one of the most significant aspects of the application essay: your audience. Your readers may have thousands of essays to read, many or most of which will come from qualified applicants. This essay may be your best opportunity to communicate with the decision makers in the application process, and you don’t want to bore them, offend them, or make them feel you are wasting their time.

With this in mind:

  • Do assure your audience that you understand and look forward to the challenges of the program and the field, not just the benefits.
  • Do assure your audience that you understand exactly the nature of the work in the field and that you are prepared for it, psychologically and morally as well as educationally.
  • Do assure your audience that you care about them and their time by writing a clear, organized, and concise essay.
  • Do address any information about yourself and your application that needs to be explained (for example, weak grades or unusual coursework for your program). Include that information in your essay, and be straightforward about it. Your audience will be more impressed with your having learned from setbacks or having a unique approach than your failure to address those issues.
  • Don’t waste space with information you have provided in the rest of the application. Every sentence should be effective and directly related to the rest of the essay. Don’t ramble or use fifteen words to express something you could say in eight.
  • Don’t overstate your case for what you want to do, being so specific about your future goals that you come off as presumptuous or naïve (“I want to become a dentist so that I can train in wisdom tooth extraction, because I intend to focus my life’s work on taking 13 rather than 15 minutes per tooth.”). Your goals may change–show that such a change won’t devastate you.
  • And, one more time, don’t write in cliches and platitudes. Every doctor wants to help save lives, every lawyer wants to work for justice—your reader has read these general cliches a million times.

Imagine the worst-case scenario (which may never come true—we’re talking hypothetically): the person who reads your essay has been in the field for decades. She is on the application committee because she has to be, and she’s read 48 essays so far that morning. You are number 49, and your reader is tired, bored, and thinking about lunch. How are you going to catch and keep her attention?

Assure your audience that you are capable academically, willing to stick to the program’s demands, and interesting to have around. For more tips, see our handout on audience .

Voice and style

The voice you use and the style in which you write can intrigue your audience. The voice you use in your essay should be yours. Remember when your high school English teacher said “never say ‘I’”? Here’s your chance to use all those “I”s you’ve been saving up. The narrative should reflect your perspective, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Focusing on events or ideas may give your audience an indirect idea of how these things became important in forming your outlook, but many others have had equally compelling experiences. By simply talking about those events in your own voice, you put the emphasis on you rather than the event or idea. Look at this anecdote:

During the night shift at Wirth Memorial Hospital, a man walked into the Emergency Room wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. He seemed confused and was moaning in pain. One of the nurses ascertained that he had been swinging from tree branches in a local park and had hit his head when he fell out of a tree. This tragic tale signified the moment at which I realized psychiatry was the only career path I could take.

An interesting tale, yes, but what does it tell you about the narrator? The following example takes the same anecdote and recasts it to make the narrator more of a presence in the story:

I was working in the Emergency Room at Wirth Memorial Hospital one night when a man walked in wearing a monkey costume and holding his head. I could tell he was confused and in pain. After a nurse asked him a few questions, I listened in surprise as he explained that he had been a monkey all of his life and knew that it was time to live with his brothers in the trees. Like many other patients I would see that year, this man suffered from an illness that only a combination of psychological and medical care would effectively treat. I realized then that I wanted to be able to help people by using that particular combination of skills only a psychiatrist develops.

The voice you use should be approachable as well as intelligent. This essay is not the place to stun your reader with ten prepositional phrases (“the goal of my study of the field of law in the winter of my discontent can best be understood by the gathering of more information about my youth”) and thirty nouns (“the research and study of the motivation behind my insights into the field of dentistry contains many pitfalls and disappointments but even more joy and enlightenment”) per sentence. (Note: If you are having trouble forming clear sentences without all the prepositions and nouns, take a look at our handout on style .)

You may want to create an impression of expertise in the field by using specialized or technical language. But beware of this unless you really know what you are doing—a mistake will look twice as ignorant as not knowing the terms in the first place. Your audience may be smart, but you don’t want to make them turn to a dictionary or fall asleep between the first word and the period of your first sentence. Keep in mind that this is a personal statement. Would you think you were learning a lot about a person whose personal statement sounded like a journal article? Would you want to spend hours in a lab or on a committee with someone who shuns plain language?

Of course, you don’t want to be chatty to the point of making them think you only speak slang, either. Your audience may not know what “I kicked that lame-o to the curb for dissing my research project” means. Keep it casual enough to be easy to follow, but formal enough to be respectful of the audience’s intelligence.

Just use an honest voice and represent yourself as naturally as possible. It may help to think of the essay as a sort of face-to-face interview, only the interviewer isn’t actually present.

Too much style

A well-written, dramatic essay is much more memorable than one that fails to make an emotional impact on the reader. Good anecdotes and personal insights can really attract an audience’s attention. BUT be careful not to let your drama turn into melodrama. You want your reader to see your choices motivated by passion and drive, not hyperbole and a lack of reality. Don’t invent drama where there isn’t any, and don’t let the drama take over. Getting someone else to read your drafts can help you figure out when you’ve gone too far.

Taking risks

Many guides to writing application essays encourage you to take a risk, either by saying something off-beat or daring or by using a unique writing style. When done well, this strategy can work—your goal is to stand out from the rest of the applicants and taking a risk with your essay will help you do that. An essay that impresses your reader with your ability to think and express yourself in original ways and shows you really care about what you are saying is better than one that shows hesitancy, lack of imagination, or lack of interest.

But be warned: this strategy is a risk. If you don’t carefully consider what you are saying and how you are saying it, you may offend your readers or leave them with a bad impression of you as flaky, immature, or careless. Do not alienate your readers.

Some writers take risks by using irony (your suffering at the hands of a barbaric dentist led you to want to become a gentle one), beginning with a personal failure (that eventually leads to the writer’s overcoming it), or showing great imagination (one famous successful example involved a student who answered a prompt about past formative experiences by beginning with a basic answer—”I have volunteered at homeless shelters”—that evolved into a ridiculous one—”I have sealed the hole in the ozone layer with plastic wrap”). One student applying to an art program described the person he did not want to be, contrasting it with the person he thought he was and would develop into if accepted. Another person wrote an essay about her grandmother without directly linking her narrative to the fact that she was applying for medical school. Her essay was risky because it called on the reader to infer things about the student’s character and abilities from the story.

Assess your credentials and your likelihood of getting into the program before you choose to take a risk. If you have little chance of getting in, try something daring. If you are almost certainly guaranteed a spot, you have more flexibility. In any case, make sure that you answer the essay question in some identifiable way.

After you’ve written a draft

Get several people to read it and write their comments down. It is worthwhile to seek out someone in the field, perhaps a professor who has read such essays before. Give it to a friend, your mom, or a neighbor. The key is to get more than one point of view, and then compare these with your own. Remember, you are the one best equipped to judge how accurately you are representing yourself. For tips on putting this advice to good use, see our handout on getting feedback .

After you’ve received feedback, revise the essay. Put it away. Get it out and revise it again (you can see why we said to start right away—this process may take time). Get someone to read it again. Revise it again.

When you think it is totally finished, you are ready to proofread and format the essay. Check every sentence and punctuation mark. You cannot afford a careless error in this essay. (If you are not comfortable with your proofreading skills, check out our handout on editing and proofreading ).

If you find that your essay is too long, do not reformat it extensively to make it fit. Making readers deal with a nine-point font and quarter-inch margins will only irritate them. Figure out what material you can cut and cut it. For strategies for meeting word limits, see our handout on writing concisely .

Finally, proofread it again. We’re not kidding.

Other resources

Don’t be afraid to talk to professors or professionals in the field. Many of them would be flattered that you asked their advice, and they will have useful suggestions that others might not have. Also keep in mind that many colleges and professional programs offer websites addressing the personal statement. You can find them either through the website of the school to which you are applying or by searching under “personal statement” or “application essays” using a search engine.

If your schedule and ours permit, we invite you to come to the Writing Center. Be aware that during busy times in the semester, we limit students to a total of two visits to discuss application essays and personal statements (two visits per student, not per essay); we do this so that students working on papers for courses will have a better chance of being seen. Make an appointment or submit your essay to our online writing center (note that we cannot guarantee that an online tutor will help you in time).

For information on other aspects of the application process, you can consult the resources at University Career Services .

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Asher, Donald. 2012. Graduate Admissions Essays: Write Your Way Into the Graduate School of Your Choice , 4th ed. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press.

Curry, Boykin, Emily Angel Baer, and Brian Kasbar. 2003. Essays That Worked for College Applications: 50 Essays That Helped Students Get Into the Nation’s Top Colleges . New York: Ballantine Books.

Stelzer, Richard. 2002. How to Write a Winning Personal Statement for Graduate and Professional School , 3rd ed. Lawrenceville, NJ: Thomson Peterson.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Write a Job Application Essay: Tips and Guidelines

Writing a Job Application Essay: Tips and Guidelines

Crafting a job application essay can be a daunting task, as it requires you to effectively communicate your qualifications, experiences, and personality in a concise and persuasive manner. In today’s competitive job market, a well-written job application essay can make all the difference in landing your dream job. In this article, we will explore some tips and guidelines to help you write a compelling job application essay that showcases your strengths and sets you apart from the competition.

Understanding the Purpose of a Job Application Essay

Before diving into the writing process, it is important to understand the purpose of a job application essay. This essay serves as a way for employers to get to know you beyond your resume and cover letter. It allows you to highlight your unique qualities, experiences, and skills that make you the ideal candidate for the position. A well-written job application essay should demonstrate your passion for the role, showcase your relevant experiences, and explain why you are the best fit for the job.

Research the Company and Position

Before you start writing your job application essay, take the time to research the company and position you are applying for. This will help you tailor your essay to the specific needs and values of the organization. Look into the company’s mission, values, and culture, as well as the key responsibilities and qualifications for the position. By understanding the company and position, you can better highlight how your skills and experiences align with what they are looking for.

Crafting a Compelling Introduction

The introduction of your job application essay is your chance to grab the reader’s attention and make a strong first impression. Start with a hook that draws the reader in and makes them want to keep reading. You can use a personal anecdote, a relevant quote, or a thought-provoking question to kick off your essay. In the introduction, briefly introduce yourself and explain why you are excited about the opportunity to work for the company.

Highlight Your Strengths and Experiences

In the body of your job application essay, focus on highlighting your strengths, experiences, and achievements that make you the perfect fit for the position. Provide specific examples of how your skills and experiences have prepared you for the role, and explain how you can contribute to the company’s success. Use concrete examples and metrics to demonstrate your accomplishments and showcase your qualifications.

Demonstrate Your Passion and Enthusiasm

Employers are looking for candidates who are passionate and enthusiastic about the job and the company. In your job application essay, make sure to convey your genuine interest in the role and explain why you are excited about the opportunity. Share what motivates you, what drives you, and how you see yourself making a positive impact in the position. By demonstrating your passion and enthusiasm, you can show employers that you are truly invested in the opportunity.

Showcase Your Personality

Your job application essay is also a chance to showcase your personality and unique qualities. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your writing. Share your interests, hobbies, and values that make you who you are. Employers want to get a sense of who you are as a person, not just as a professional. By showing your personality in your essay, you can help employers envision you as a valuable member of their team.

Proofread and Edit

Before submitting your job application essay, make sure to proofread and edit it carefully. Check for any spelling or grammar errors, and ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and professional. It can be helpful to have someone else read over your essay to provide feedback and catch any mistakes you may have missed. A well-written and error-free job application essay will leave a positive impression on employers and increase your chances of landing an interview.

Q: How long should a job application essay be?

A: Job application essays are typically one to two pages long, depending on the employer’s guidelines. It is important to be concise and to the point while still providing enough detail to showcase your qualifications and experiences.

Q: Should I include a cover letter with my job application essay?

A: Yes, it is recommended to include a cover letter along with your job application essay. The cover letter provides a brief overview of your qualifications and interest in the position, while the job application essay allows you to delve deeper into your experiences and skills.

Q: Can I use the same job application essay for multiple positions?

A: It is not recommended to use the same job application essay for multiple positions. Each job application essay should be tailored to the specific requirements and values of the company and position you are applying for. Customizing your essay shows employers that you have taken the time to research and understand their needs.

Q: How can I stand out in my job application essay?

A: To stand out in your job application essay, focus on showcasing your unique strengths, experiences, and personality. Use specific examples and metrics to demonstrate your accomplishments, and make sure to convey your passion and enthusiasm for the role. By highlighting what sets you apart from other candidates, you can make a lasting impression on employers.

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how to start a job application essay

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how to start a job application essay

February 22, 2024

Starting Your Application Essay: Three Tips

how to start a job application essay

If you haven’t yet read the other blog posts in this series, go ahead and check them out:

  • Identifying the Ingredients of a Winning Essay
  • Finding a Theme for Your Statement of Purpose
  • Writing Your Career Goals Essay
  • How to Start Your First Draft of an Application Essay
  • Revise and Polish Your Application Essays

Once you have reflected on the questions that helped you identify and develop your essay theme , you should have a clear path to writing an effective essay. Here are three essential steps to help you achieve that goal. 

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1. Make an outline.

An outline can be formal or informal, but start with one as a foundation. A formal outline will have clearly delineated categories and subcategories, while an informal outline can simply be a list of the main points you want to cover. After answering the questions in the second blog post in this series , you should have a robust list of experiences, anecdotes, and ideas for possible inclusion in your essay. Do you have more examples and ideas than you can use in a single essay? If so, that’s a good problem to have! You can “spread the wealth” of these anecdotes among different essay questions and schools. Having a variety of experiences and stories in your inventory will also make your writing fresher and easier to do for each school.  

2. Structure your essay with an introduction, main content, and conclusion.

Now let’s break the job down further to keep the task of writing manageable. First, how long can or should your essay be? Grad school application essays can range from as short as 250 words to more than 1,500. Ironically, writing a very good short essay is much harder than writing a very good long one. Writing a super-short essay is like being six feet tall and stuck in a coach airline seat – you’re going to feel cramped, despite writing as succinctly as possible. You have very little room to add colorful context or details. At the same time, you must pare your story down to its essence, and there is strength in that.

Assuming you have more legroom, so to speak, and can write up to 700 words, you still have to divide that real estate among your essay’s introduction, main body, and conclusion. Breaking your essay down like this will help you gauge how much you can afford to write in each section, with the main content comprising most of the space. However, while keeping that in mind, don’t worry too much about overwriting at first. In your initial drafts, you need to be able to write everything you want and need to say. In the editing process, you’ll find ways to trim and pare your essay down to just the most crucial material, including the most salient, compelling experiences and insights.  

It is difficult to edit yourself, however. Even professional writers need editors on important projects. Having an expert editor to help you trim down your essays can be a huge asset , saving you time while helping you make content decisions that will work to your advantage. 

3. If you feel stuck, start from the middle, or even the end, of your essay.

In post #1 and post #3 of this series, we looked at some strong introductions and analyzed what made them work. But don’t get hung up on crafting the perfect introduction before moving on to the rest of your essay. If you freeze up because you’re not sure how to begin your essay, days might go by with no progress. So here’s a writing secret: you don’t have to start at the beginning. Start with any section of the essay about which you feel confident. It could be in the middle, with a story you want to tell. It could even be the conclusion you have in mind. Often, the perfect introduction will come to you when you are well into writing the rest of the essay. 

Primarily, don’t lose sight of the image you want to create of yourself for the admissions committee. One way to think about this is to ask yourself what three adjectives you want them to associate with you after reading your application. Determined, focused, and empathetic? Ambitious, team-oriented, and creative? Visionary, responsible, and community-minded? As you read your draft, try to see whether your three intended adjectives are standing out to you. Keep your eye on the prize. Stay focused on presenting the most meaningful, lively examples that will best showcase the talented, purpose-driven individual you want the adcom to see you as.  

And even though we’ve written this before and you’ve heard it before, it bears repeating: never simply claim to be something without backing it up with evidence.

Summary Tips

  • Make an outline, even if it’s informal.
  • Feel free to overwrite your first drafts – within reason. Capture on paper all the important experiences, ideas, and insights you want to share. As you edit, you will trim the excess and get to the core of your message. Engaging a skilled editor to support you can be a wise investment.
  • Don’t worry if you are stuck on the opening of your essay. Skip it for now, and start wherever you feel confident about what you want to write. As you build your essay from the middle or even the conclusion, the introduction will come to you. We promise!
  • Keep in mind the impression you want the adcom to have of you when they have finished reading your essay. Does your narrative suggest that image to you?

In the next and final post in this series , you’ll learn how to revise and polish your exemplary essays.

Our incredible experts at Accepted will walk you through the process of creating a slam-dunk application. They have read literally thousands of essays and know the exact ingredients of an outstanding essay. Need help figuring out which service is best for you? Click here for more guidance.

Judy Gruen

By Judy Gruen, former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. She is also the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools . Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch !

Related resources:

  • Fitting In & Standing Out: The Paradox at the Heart of Admissions , a free guide
  • Strategy for Writing an Accomplishment Essay (with examples)
  • Admissions Straight Talk Podcast

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How to Write a Job Application Essay

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How to Write a CV When Just Leaving School

How to write a personal biography for a conference, resume objectives for food service.

  • Tips for a Fashion Intern Cover Letter
  • Should You Send a Cover Letter With a Resume If it Is Not Requested?

Never again will you sputter and stutter your way through telling a prospective employer who you are and what job skills you bring to the table. Your job application essay turns your elevator pitch into an irresistible call to action: hiring you. Several methods help you write a tight essay that holds a recruiter's attention and gets straight to the point. The funnel and the graphic organizer make it easy to write your job essay.

Funnel Essay Example

Remember high school essays? You start with a general descriptive statement, make three to five supporting points and finish with a conclusion. It looks like this when you outline your essay: Introduction: Broad statement introducing yourself and stating the type of job that interests you. Main Point One

  • Supporting Point One
  • Supporting Point Two
  • Supporting Point Three

Main Point Two

Main Point Three

Conclusion The introduction should state the job category that interests you. It should also specify the job title and three to five of the duties from the advertisement for the job. For example: I'm interested in the position of executive chef that you have advertised at Indeed.com. I've worked as a sous chef at Sandals Jamaica Resorts for the past three years. I 've earned the Grand Dipl_ô_me from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I bring with me the fusion of fine French cuisine and bold Jamaican flavors. When you open the basket that accompanies this essay, you'll see, smell and taste the very freshest and most flavorful ingredients the island of Jamaica has to offer, lovingly rendered and interpreted through Cordon Bleu techniques. From the Grand Marnier glaze on the jerk chicken to the freshly grated coconut and bitter orange peel in the individual mango cheesecakes with macaron crusts, the flavors of Jamaica take a starring role. Who needs a résumé when you have a Cordon Bleu boxed lunch par deux?

Graphic Organizer Essay Example

When you want to strike a creative note, using a graphic organizer, such as a bubble chart, will help you brainstorm. This method works very well for people who prefer visual or hands-on learning. If you seek a position as a visual merchandiser, cosmetologist, metalworker or auto mechanic, a graphic organizer may help you get your thoughts in order. Print one of the graphic organizers from the resource section of this article. Write your introductory sentence in the center Topic bubble if you use the Cluster/Word Web 1 organizer. Write in the top bubble if you use the Goal/Reasons wheel. Brainstorm job-related details to fill the remaining bubbles. Use the resulting charts to write your essay. For example:

In the center or topic bubble: I want to join the police force to serve as an armed school resource officer. Below that, in bubbles One, Two and Three, you see: I completed three tours of duty with the United States Marine Corps between 2006 and 2018. I learned to face the enemy with courage, protect innocent lives and preserve the safety and security of U.S. interests abroad. Children shouldn't have to worry about their safety and security while in school. By patrolling the grounds and being a living shield, I can give these kids a chance to finish their educations without being paralyzed by fear. My combat experience ensures that you can rely on me to be where I'm needed most at all times. Through my vigilance, no child in this school will ever have to cower in a cupboard.

  • The Pen and the Pad: What Are the 5 Parts of an Essay?
  • WriteFix: Parts of an Essay
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America: Graphic Organizers

Jane Smith parlayed her B. S. Ed. degree into working on everything from job and housing services to selling water treatment systems. Wading into an underperforming position as a program manager, Smith recruited staff and inspected and approved enough provider homes to reduce wait times from two years to two months and increase service utilization by 30 percent per quarter. She helped her team sell over $350,000 in water treatment systems and security equipment in 2017, and currently partners with her daughter as an independent Avon Representative at Avon Beauty by Laura.

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  • Cover Letters

How to Write a Job Application Letter (With Examples)

how to start a job application essay

What Is a Job Application Letter?

Tips for writing a job application letter, how to get started.

  • Writing Guidelines
  • What to Include in Each Section

Simple Formatting Using a Template

Tips for writing an effective letter, sample job application letter, sending an email application, review more letter examples.

Do you need to write a letter to apply for a job? Most of the time, the answer is yes. Even when employers don’t require a job application letter , writing one will help you highlight your skills and achievements and get the hiring manager’s attention. The only time not to send one is when the job listing says not to do so. It can help, and it definitely won't hurt to include an application letter with your resume.

A job application letter, also known as a cover letter , should be sent or uploaded with your resume when applying for jobs. While your resume offers a history of your work experience and an outline of your skills and accomplishments, the job application letter you send to an employer explains why you are qualified for the position and should be selected for an interview.

Writing this letter can seem like a challenging task. However, if you take it one step at a time, you'll soon be an expert at writing application letters to send with your resume.

Melissa Ling / The Balance

Before you begin writing your job application letter, do some groundwork. Consider what information you want to include, and keep in mind that space is limited.

Remember, this letter is making a case for your candidacy for the position. But you should do more than just regurgitate your resume. Instead, highlight your most relevant skills, experiences, and abilities.

Analyze the Job Posting

To include the most convincing, relevant details in your letter, you'll need to know what the employer wants.

The biggest clues are within the job advertisement, so spend some time decoding the job listing . Next, match your qualifications with the employer's wants and needs.

Include Your Most Relevant Qualifications

Make a list of your relevant experience and skills. For instance, if the job ad calls for a strong leader, think of examples of when you've successfully led a team. Once you've jotted down some notes and have a sense of what you want to highlight in your letter, you're ready to start writing.

Writing Guidelines for Job Application Letters

Writing a job application letter is very different from a quick email to a friend or a thank-you note to a relative. Hiring managers and potential interviewers have certain expectations when it comes to the letter's presentation and appearance, from length (no more than a page) and font size to style and letter spacing . Keep these general guidelines in mind, but always stick to any explicit instructions in the job listing or application portal.

Length: A letter of application should be no more than one page long. Three to four paragraphs are typical.

Format and Page Margins: A letter of application should be single-spaced with a space between each paragraph. Use 1-inch margins and align your text to the left, which is the standard alignment for most documents.

Font: Use a traditional font such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri. The font size should be between 10 and 12 points.

What to Include in Each Section of the Letter

There are also set rules for the sections included in the letter, from salutation to sign-off, and how the letter is organized. Here's a quick overview of the main sections included in a job application letter:

Heading: A job application letter should begin with both your and the employer's contact information (name, address, phone number, email), followed by the date. If this is an email rather than an actual letter, include your contact information at the end of the letter, after your signature.

  •   Header Examples

Salutation: This is your polite greeting. The most common salutation is "Dear Mr./Ms." followed by the person's last name. Find out more about appropriate cover letter salutations , including what to do if you don't know the person's name or are unsure of a contact's gender.

Body of the letter: Think of this section as having three distinct parts.

In the first paragraph , you'll want to mention the job you are applying for and where you saw the job listing.

The next paragraph(s) are the most important part of your letter. Remember how you gathered information about what the employer was seeking, and how you could meet their needs? This is where you'll share those relevant details on your experience and accomplishments.

The third and last part of the body of the letter will be your thank you to the employer; you can also offer follow-up information.

Complimentary Close: Sign off your email or letter with a polite close, such as "Best," or "Sincerely," followed by your name.

  • Closing Examples

Signature: When you're sending or uploading a printed letter, end with your handwritten signature, followed by your typed name. If this is an email, simply include your typed name, followed by your contact information.

  • Signature Examples

Overwhelmed by all these formatting and organization requirements? One way to make the process of writing a job application easier is to use a template to create your own personalized letters. Having a template can help save you time if you are sending a lot of application letters.

Be sure that each letter you send is personalized to the company and position; do not send the same letter to different companies.

  • Always write one. Unless a job posting explicitly says not to send a letter of application or cover letter, you should always send one. Even if the company does not request a letter of application, it never hurts to include one. If they do ask you to send a letter, make sure to follow the directions exactly (for example, they might ask you to send the letter as an email attachment or type it directly into their online application system).
  • Use business letter format. Use a formal business letter format when writing your letter. Include your contact information at the top, the date, and the employer’s contact information. Be sure to provide a salutation at the beginning and your signature at the end.
  • Sell yourself. Throughout the letter, focus on how you would benefit the company. Provide specific examples of times when you demonstrated skills or abilities that would be useful for the job, especially those listed in the job posting or description. If possible, include examples of times when you added value to a company.

Numerical values offer concrete evidence of your skills and accomplishments.

  • Use keywords. Reread the job listing, taking note of any keywords (such as skills or abilities that are emphasized in the listing). Try to include some of those words in your cover letter. This will help the employer see that you are a strong fit for the job.
  • Keep it brief. Keep your letter under a page long, with no more than about four paragraphs. An employer is more likely to read a concise letter.
  • Proofread and edit. Employers are likely to overlook an application with a lot of errors. Read through your cover letter, and if possible, ask a friend or career counselor to review the letter. Proofread for any grammar or spelling errors.

This is a job application letter sample.  Download the letter template (compatible with Google Docs or Word Online) or read the example below.

Sample Job Application Letter (Text Version)

Elizabeth Johnson 12 Jones Street Portland, Maine 04101 555-555-5555 elizabethjohnson@emailaddress.com

August 11, 2024

Mark Smith Human Resources Manager Veggies to Go 238 Main Street Portland, Maine 04101

Dear Mr. Smith,

I was so excited when my former coworker, Jay Lopez, told me about your opening for an administrative assistant in your Portland offices. A long-time Veggies to Go customer and an experienced admin, I would love to help the company achieve its mission of making healthy produce as available as takeout.

I’ve worked for small companies for my entire career, and I relish the opportunity to wear many hats and work with the team to succeed. In my latest role as an administrative assistant at Beauty Corp, I saved my employer thousands of dollars in temp workers by implementing a self-scheduling system for the customer service reps that cut down on canceled shifts. I also learned web design and timesheet coding, and I perfected my Excel skills. 

I’ve attached my resume for your consideration and hope to speak with you soon about your needs for the role.

Best Regards,

Elizabeth Johnson (signature hard copy letter)

Elizabeth Johnson

When you are sending your letter via email include the reason you are writing in the subject line of your message:

Subject Line Example

Subject: Elizabeth Johnson – Administrative Assistant Position

List your contact information in your signature, rather than in the body of the letter:

Email Signature Example

Elizabeth Johnson 555-555-5555 email@emailaddress.com

Review more examples of professionally written cover letters for a variety of circumstances, occupations, and job types.

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Write a successful job application

Employers have countless job applications to sift through, so dashing off some answers and hoping for the best won't cut it. You'll need to carefully prepare and demonstrate sought-after skills

While for some jobs you will be asked to send a CV and cover letter, many graduate roles require you to fill in an application form instead.

You'll need to complete most job application forms online via the company's website, but paper forms are still accepted in some cases.

How do I prepare for making an application?

When you find a job you'd like to apply for, don't start filling in the application form straight away. Take some time to prepare, as this will make the task much easier.

Gather together all the information you'll need, including details of your academic achievements, employment history and contact information for your referees.

You'll make a great first impression if you do your research - find out the aims of the company you're applying for, the sector they operate in and who their main competitors are. Browsing their social media channels is a good place to start.

Study the job description so you can refer back to the specific skills and qualities the employer is looking for as you complete the form.

Finally, read the instructions carefully to ensure that you complete the correct sections of the form and know when the deadline is.

What information should I include on an application form?

The application form should make the employer want to meet you to find out more and give you an opportunity to demonstrate your skills. Typical sections of an application form include:

  • Personal information - give basic details, such as name and email address.
  • Educational background - provide information on your academic achievements, including the institutions you've attended, courses taken and qualifications gained.
  • Work experience - list your employment history and describe your main duties and responsibilities in each role, emphasising those most closely related to the job you're applying for.
  • Competency-based questions - give specific examples of times when you've demonstrated the skills required for the role. Avoid being vague, and don't waste space writing about skills you have that aren't relevant - see example questions and answers for help.
  • Personal statement - write a well-structured, well-argued case that you are the right person for the job, again referring to the person specification set out in the advert.

Don't be afraid to sell yourself. Demonstrate your passion for the company or job and any past achievements you can relate to the role. When writing your answers, always consider what skills employers want and how you can show that you have them.

Most application forms will also require you to provide details of at least two people who can provide references. You may sometimes be asked to attach a CV and cover letter as well.

Never lie on your job application form. Not only is this dishonest, but there can be more serious consequences - for example, altering your classification from a 2:2 to a 2:1 is considered degree fraud and could result in a prison sentence.

How do I fine-tune my application?

Refining your writing style will improve the quality of your application. Employers are looking for confident applicants who can convince them of their capabilities - demonstrate your suitability by giving short, to the point and positive answers.

You should also:

  • use power verbs such as transformed, delivered, achieved and inspired
  • choose descriptive words like effective, consistent, determined and adaptable
  • focus on answering the questions and avoid waffling or being too vague
  • select appropriate examples of your achievements from past experience
  • demonstrate enthusiasm for the role
  • ensure your spelling and grammar is correct.

Ask somebody else, such as a careers adviser, parent or friend, to read through your application form. A second pair of eyes will help pick out errors that you may not have spotted.

Do I need to disclose personal information in a job application?

Many graduate employers are committed to promoting diversity and equal opportunities in the workplace and the Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society. Nine characteristics are protected by the Act:

  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnerships
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • sex (gender)
  • sexual orientation.

When making an application, it's important to remember that you're not obliged to give details of any of the above characteristics and that it's unlawful for recruiters to discriminate against applicants on these grounds. You might be asked to provide these details on a confidential equal opportunities form, usually the last page of an application, or on a separate form. This is used solely for monitoring the employer's commitment to equality and diversity. It shouldn't be seen by people involved in recruitment or used in the selection process. If you'd prefer not to answer some or all of these questions, there is usually a 'prefer not to say' option you can select.

While there's no legal obligation for you to disclose personal information to your employer, it's entirely up to you if you choose to do so. If you don't feel comfortable disclosing on an application form there will be other opportunities to do so, such as during an interview, after a job offer has been made or once you're in the workplace.

For example, if you want to disclose a disability at the application stage, our example cover letter shows you how. If you'd like to disclose that you're trans during an interview, you could ask what policies are in place around the treatment of trans employees or ask if there are any groups of initiatives you could get involved in.

You can make a complaint if you feel you have been discriminated against during the recruitment process. In the first instance, it might be useful to visit Acas , an independent public body that provide free, impartial advice on workplace issues.

How do I submit my application form?

You'll complete the majority of job application forms online. On most employers' websites registering your details means you can save your work as you go, meaning you don't have to finish the form in one sitting.

Typing your answers into a Word document, before copying and pasting them into the application form, is easier than typing directly into the web browser. You'll need to double-check your formatting as you copy and paste - for instance, if you've gone over the word count, the online form may simply cut off the ends of your answers - but going about your application this way means you won't risk losing your progress if your logged-in session times out.

Print the completed application form out and read it through before you submit, as it's much easier to spot spelling and grammatical errors on a printed page than on screen.

Finally, ensure you have attached any requested documents, such as your CV, and then submit your application. You should receive email confirmation that it has been received.

What happens if my application is successful?

Employers receive hundreds of applications per job and if they've chosen to progress yours on to the next step you should feel proud of yourself.

Depending on the role and employer you may be asked to complete a series of online exercises such as psychometric tests . Before inviting you to an in-person interview some recruiters may set up a telephone or video interview. Others may invite you to attend an assessment centre .

To find more advice on how to handle this stage of you application, see interview tips .

How do I respond to job rejection?

Whether the rejection comes at the application form stage or after an interview, everyone experiences it at some point. While it's disheartening and can have an impact on your confidence, especially if it happens a few times, the important thing to remember is that many others are in the same position.

You should email the company within a week of the rejection, politely thanking them for their time and asking that they retain your details for any future opportunities. Ask for feedback - the majority of employers will be happy to provide this. Enquire about what you did well and where your application fell down, as this can help you approach the next one more confidently.

If you're struggling to get to the interview stage, you need to develop an action plan of achievable mini-goals, such as:

  • improving your CV
  • gaining extra work experience
  • using social media to job hunt
  • meeting and connecting with new people.

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how to start a job application essay

How to Write the Common Application Essays 2023-2024 (With Examples)

The Common App essay is one of the most important parts of your application, but it can be extremely daunting if you’re not familiar with creative writing or what admissions officers are looking for.

In this blog post, we’ll provide advice on how to break down these prompts, organize your thoughts, and craft a strong, meaningful response that admissions officers will notice. If you’d like more free personalized help, you can get your essays reviewed and explore school-by-school essay help on CollegeVine.

Why the Common App Essay Matters

Admissions is a human process. While admissions committees look at grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, there are five students that have great qualifications in those areas for every spot in a university’s class. As an applicant, you need an admissions counselor to choose you over everyone else — to advocate specifically for you. 

This is where essays come in; they are an opportunity for you to turn an admissions counselor into an advocate for your application! Of your essays, the Common App is the most important since it is seen by most of the colleges to which you apply. It is also your longest essay, which gives you more space to craft a narrative and share your personality, feelings, and perspective.

It’s not hyperbole to say that getting the Common App essay right is the single most important thing you can do to improve your chances of admission as a senior. 

Overview of the Common App

The Common App essay is the best way for admissions committees to get to know you. While SAT scores, your past course load, and your grades provide a quantitative picture of you as a student, the Common App essay offers adcoms a refreshing glimpse into your identity and personality. For this reason, try to treat the essay as an opportunity to tell colleges why you are unique and what matters to you.

Since your Common App essay will be seen by numerous colleges, you will want to paint a portrait of yourself that is accessible to a breadth of institutions and admissions officers (for example, if you are only applying to engineering programs at some schools, don’t focus your Common App on STEM at the expense of your other applications — save that for your supplemental essays).

In short, be open and willing to write about a topic you love, whether it is sports, music, politics, food, or watching movies. The Common App essay is more of a conversation than a job interview.

What Makes a Great Common App Essay?

A great Common App essay is, first and foremost, deeply personal. You are relying on the admissions committee to choose you over someone else, which they are more likely to do if they feel a personal connection to you. In your essay, you should delve into your feelings, how you think about situations/problems, and how you make decisions.

Good essays also usually avoid cliche topics . A couple overdone themes include an immigrant’s journey (particularly if you’re Asian American), and a sports accomplishment or injury. It’s not that these topics are bad, but rather that many students write about these subjects, so they don’t stand out as much. Of course, some students are able to write a genuine and unique essay about one of these topics, but it’s hard to pull off. You’re better off writing about more nuanced aspects of your identity!

You should also, of course, pay close attention to your grammar and spelling, use varied sentence structure and word choice, and be consistent with your tone/writing style. Take full advantage of the available 650 words, as writing less tends to mean missed opportunities.

Finally, it’s a good practice to be aware of your audience – know who you are writing for! For example, admissions officers at BYU will probably be very religious, while those at Oberlin will be deeply committed to social justice.

See some examples of great Common App essays to get a better idea of what makes a strong essay.

How your Common App Essay Fits with Your Other Essays

The Common App is one part of a portfolio of essays that you send to colleges, along with supplemental essays at individual colleges. With all of your essays for a particular college, you want to create a narrative and tell different parts of your story. So, the topics you write about should be cohesive and complementary, but not repetitive or overlapping. 

Before jumping in to write your Common App essay, you should think about the other schools that you’re writing essays for and make sure that you have a strategy for your entire portfolio of essays and cover different topics for each. If you have strong qualifications on paper for the colleges you are targeting, the best narratives tend to humanize you. If you have weaker qualifications on paper for your colleges, the best narratives tend to draw out your passion for the topics or fields of study that are of interest to you and magnify your accomplishments. 

Strategy for Writing the Common App Essays

Because the Common App essay is 650 words long and has few formal directions, organizing a response might seem daunting. Fortunately, at CollegeVine, we’ve developed a straightforward approach to formulating strong, unique responses.

This section outlines how to: 1) Brainstorm , 2) Organize , and 3) Write a Common App essay.

Before reading the prompts, brainstorming is a critical exercise to develop high-level ideas. One way to construct a high-level idea would be to delve into a passion and focus on how you interact with the concept or activity. For example, using “creative writing” as a high-level idea, one could stress their love of world-building, conveying complex emotions, and depicting character interactions, emphasizing how writing stems from real-life experiences.

A different idea that doesn’t involve an activity would be to discuss how your personality has developed in relation to your family; maybe one sibling is hot-headed, the other quiet, and you’re in the middle as the voice of reason (or maybe you’re the hot-head). These are simply two examples of infinitely many ideas you could come up with.

To begin developing your own high-level ideas, you can address these Core Four questions that all good Common App essays should answer:

  • “Who Am I?”
  • “Why Am I Here?”
  • “What is Unique About Me?”
  • “What Matters to Me?”

The first question focuses on your personality traits — who you are. The second question targets your progression throughout high school (an arc or journey). The third question is more difficult to grasp, but it involves showing why your personality traits, methods of thinking, areas of interest, and tangible skills form a unique combination. The fourth question is a concluding point that can be answered simply, normally in the conclusion paragraph, i.e., “Running matters to me” or “Ethical fashion matters to me.”

You can brainstorm freeform or start with a specific prompt in mind.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to start by jotting down the 3-5 aspects of your personality or experiences you’ve had on a piece of paper. Play around with narratives that are constructed out of different combinations of these essential attributes before settling on a prompt. 

For example, you might note that you are fascinated by environmental justice, have had success in Model Congress, and are now working with a local politician to create a recycling program in your school district. You may also have tried previous initiatives that failed. These experiences could be constructed and applied to a number of Common App prompts. You could address a specific identity or interest you have associated with public advocacy, discuss what you learned from your failed initiatives, explore how you challenged the lack of recycling at your school, fantasize about solving waste management issues, etc. 

Selecting a prompt that you identify with

For example, consider the following prompt: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Perhaps you had been a dedicated and active member of your school’s debate team until one of your parents lost their jobs, leaving you unable to afford the high membership and travel dues. You decided to help out by getting a job after school, and responded to your familial hardship with grace and understanding (as opposed to anger). A few months later, and after speaking with your former debate coach and your parents, you set up a system to save up for your own trips so that you could still participate in debate!

In general, the most common mistake CollegeVine sees with Common App essays is that they aren’t deeply personal. Your essay should be specific enough that it could be identified as yours even if your name wasn’t attached. 

If you get stuck, don’t worry! This is very common as the Common App is often the first personal essay college applicants have ever written. One way of getting unstuck if you feel like you aren’t getting creative or personal enough is to keep asking yourself “why”

For example: I love basketball…

  • Because I like having to think on the fly and be creative while running our offense.

It can often help to work with someone and bounce ideas off them. Teachers are often a bad idea – they tend to think of essays in an academic sense, which is to say they often fail to apply the admissions context. Further, it is unlikely that they know you well enough to provide valuable insight. Friends in your own year can be a good idea because they know you, but you should be careful about competitive pressures applying within the same high school. Older friends, siblings, or neighbors who have successfully navigated the admissions process at your target universities (or good universities) strike that medium between no longer being competitive with you for admissions but still being able to help you brainstorm well because they know you.

Overall, there is no single “correct” topic. Your essay will be strong as long as you are comfortable and passionate about your idea and it answers the Core Four questions.

Common App essays are not traditional five-paragraph essays. You are free to be creative in structure, employ dialogue, and use vivid descriptions—and you should! Make sure that context and logic are inherent in your essay, however. From paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, your ideas should be clear and flow naturally. Great ways to ensure this are using a story arc following a few major points, or focusing on cause and effect.

The traditional approach

This involves constructing a narrative out of your experiences and writing a classic personal essay. You are free to be creative in structure, employ dialogue, and use vivid descriptions—and you should! Make sure that context and logic are inherent in your essay, however. From paragraph to paragraph, sentence to sentence, your ideas should be clear and flow naturally. Great ways to ensure this are using a story arc following a few major points, or focusing on cause and effect.

The creative approach

Some students prefer to experiment with an entirely new approach to the personal essay. For example, a student who is passionate about programming could write their essay in alternating lines of Binary and English. A hopeful Literature major could reimagine a moment in their life as a chapter of War and Peace, adopting Tolstoy’s writing style. Or, you could write about a fight with your friend in the form of a third person sports recap to both highlight your interest in journalism and reveal a personal story. Creative essays are incredibly risky and difficult to pull off. However, a creative essay that is well executed may also have the potential for high reward.

Your Common App essay must display excellent writing in terms of grammar and sentence structure. The essay doesn’t need to be a Shakespearean masterpiece, but it should be well-written and clear.

A few tips to accomplish this are:

  • Show, don’t tell
  • Be specific
  • Choose active voice, not passive voice
  • Avoid clichés
  • Write in a tone that aligns with your goals for the essay. For example, if you are a heavy STEM applicant hoping to use your Common App essay to humanize your application, you will be undermined by writing in a brusque, harsh tone.

“Show, don’t tell” is vital to writing an engaging essay, and this is the point students struggle with most.  Instead of saying, “I struggled to make friends when I transferred schools,” you can show your emotions by writing, “I scanned the bustling school cafeteria, feeling more and more forlorn with each unfamiliar face. I found an empty table and ate my lunch alone.”

In many cases, writing can include more specific word choice . For example, “As a kid, I always played basketball,” can be improved to be “Every day after school as a kid, I ran home, laced up my sneakers, and shot a basketball in my driveway until the sun went down and I could barely see.”

To use active voice over passive voice , be sure that your sentence’s subject performs the action indicated by the verb, rather than the action performing onto the subject. Instead of writing “this project was built by my own hands,” you would say “I built this project with my own hands.”

Finally, avoid clichés like adages, sayings, and quotes that do not bring value to your essay. Examples include phrases like “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (it’s also important to know that sayings like these are often seriously misquoted—Gandhi did not actually utter these words) and lavish claims like “it was the greatest experience of my life.”

A few tips for the writing (and re-writing!) process

  • If you have enough time, write a 950 word version of your personal statement first and then cut it down to the official word limit of 650. In many cases, the extra writing you do for this draft will contain compelling content. Using this, you can carve out the various sections and information that allow you to tell your story best. 
  • Revise your draft 3-5 times. Any more, you are probably overthinking and overanalyzing. Any less, you are not putting in the work necessary to optimize your Common App essay.
  • It can be easy for you to get lost in your words after reading and rereading, writing and rewriting. It is best to have someone else do your final proofread to help you identify typos or sentences that are unclear.

Deciding on a Prompt

This section provides insights and examples for each of the 7 Common App essay prompts for the 2023-2024 cycle. Each of these prompts lends itself to distinct topics and strategies, so selecting the prompt that best aligns with your idea is essential to writing an effective Common App essay.

Here are this year’s prompts (click the link to jump to the specific prompt):

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. how did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience, reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. what prompted your thinking what was the outcome, reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. how has this gratitude affected or motivated you, discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others., describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. why does it captivate you what or who do you turn to when you want to learn more, share an essay on any topic of your choice. it can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design..

This prompt offers an opportunity to engage with your favorite extracurricular or academic subject, and it allows you to weave a narrative that displays personal growth in that area. An essay that displays your personality and a unique interest can be attention-grabbing, particularly if you have an unconventional passion, such as blogging about Chinese basketball or unicycling.

Don’t feel intimidated if you don’t have a passion that is immediately “unique,” however. Even an interest like “arctic scuba diving” will fail as an essay topic if it’s not written with insight and personality. Instead of attempting to impress the Admissions Officer by making up unusual or shocking things, think about how you spend your free time and ask yourself why you spend it that way. Also think about your upbringing, identity, and experiences and ask yourself, “What has impacted me in a meaningful way?”

Here Are A Few Response Examples:

Background – A person’s background includes experiences, training, education, and culture. You can discuss the experience of growing up, interacting with family, and how relationships have molded who you are. A background can include long-term interactions with arts, music, sciences, sports, writing, and many other learned skills. Background also includes your social environments and how they’ve influenced your perception. In addition, you can highlight intersections between multiple backgrounds and show how each is integral to you.

One student wrote about how growing up in a poor Vietnamese immigrant family inspired her to seize big opportunities, even if they were risky or challenging. She describes the emotional demand of opening and running a family grocery store. (Note: Names have been changed to protect the identity of the author and subjects in all the examples.)

The callouses on my mother’s hands formed during the years spent scaling fish at the  market in Go Noi, Vietnam. My mother never finished her formal education because she  labored on the streets to help six others survive. Her calloused hands not only scaled fish, they  also slaved over the stove, mustering a meal from the few items in the pantry. This image  resurfaces as I watch my mother’s calloused hands wipe her sweat-beaded forehead while she  manages the family business, compiling resources to provide for the family. 

Living in an impoverished region of Vietnam pushed my parents to emigrate. My two  year-old memory fails me, but my mother vividly recounts my frightened eyes staring up at her on my first plane ride. With life packed into a single suitcase, my mother’s heart, though,  trembled more than mine. Knowing only a few words of English, my mother embarked on a  journey shrouded in a haze of uncertainty. 

Our initial year in America bore an uncanny resemblance to Vietnam – from making one  meal last the entire day to wearing the same four shirts over and over again. Through thin walls, I  heard my parents debating their decision to come to the United States, a land where they knew  no one. My grandparents’ support came in half-hearted whispers cracking through long-distance  phone calls. My dad’s scanty income barely kept food on the table. We lived on soup and rice for  what seemed an interminable time. 

However, an opportunity knocked on my parents’ door: a grocery store in the town of  Decatur, Mississippi, was up for rent. My parents took the chance, risking all of their savings.  To help my parents, I spent most of my adolescent afternoons stocking shelves, mopping floors,  and even translating. My parents’ voices wavered when speaking English; through every attempt to communicate with their customers, a language barrier forged a palpable presence in each  transaction. My parents’ spirits faltered as customers grew impatient. A life of poverty awaited us in Vietnam if the business was not successful. 

On the first day, the business brought in only twenty dollars. Twenty dollars. My mother and my father wept after they closed the shop. Seeing the business as a failure, my mom commenced her packing that night; returning to Vietnam seemed inevitable. 

The next business day, however, sales increased ten-fold. More and more customers  came each successive day. My mom’s tears turned into—well, more tears, but they were tears of  joy. My mother unpacked a bag each night. 

Fifteen years later, my parents now own Blue Bear Grocery. My parents work, work,  work to keep the shelves stocked and the customers coming. The grocery store holds a special  place in my heart: it is the catalyst for my success. My parents serve as my role-models, teaching  me a new lesson with every can placed on the shelf. One lesson that resurfaces is the importance  of pursuing a formal education, something that my parents never had the chance of. 

When the opportunity to attend the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science  (MSMS) presented itself, I took it and ran, as did my parents by leaving Vietnam and by buying  the store. Although I am not managing hundreds of products, I am managing hundreds of  assignments at MSMS – from Mu Alpha Theta tutoring to lab reports to student government to British literature. 

Had I not immigrated, my hands would be calloused from the tight grip of the knife  scaling fish rather than from the tight grip on my pencil. My hands would be calloused from scrubbing my clothes covered in fish scales rather than from long hours spent typing a research paper. 

Although the opportunities that my parents and I pursued are different, our journey is  essentially the same: we walk a road paved with uncertainty and doubt with the prospect of success fortified by our hearts and our hands.

Identity – this can mean racial identity, sexual orientation, gender, or simply one’s place within a specific community (even communities as unique as, say, players of World of Warcraft). With the topic of racial identity, it’s important to remember the audience (college admissions counselors often lean progressive politically), so this might not be the best place to make sweeping claims about today’s state of race relations. However, reflecting on how your culture has shaped your experiences can make for a compelling essay. Alternatively, focusing on a dominant personality trait can also make for a compelling theme. For example, if you’re extremely outgoing, you could explain how your adventurousness has allowed you to learn from a diverse group of friends and the random situations you find yourself in. One important thing to note: the topic of identity can easily lack originality if you cover a common experience such as feeling divided between cultures, or coming out. If such experiences are integral to who you are, you should still write about them, but be sure to show us your unique introspection and reflection.

One student detailed how growing up as an American in Germany led to feelings of displacement. Moving to America in high school only exacerbated her feelings of rootlessness. Her transcultural experiences, however, allowed her to relate to other “New Americans,” particularly refugees. Helping a young refugee girl settle into the US eventually helped the writer find home in America as well:

Growing up, I always wanted to eat, play, visit, watch, and be it all: sloppy joes and spaetzle, Beanie Babies and Steiff, Cape Cod and the Baltic Sea, football and fussball, American and German. 

My American parents relocated our young family to Berlin when I was three years old. My exposure to America was limited to holidays spent stateside and awfully dubbed Disney Channel broadcasts. As the few memories I had of living in the US faded, my affinity for Germany grew. I began to identify as “Germerican,” an ideal marriage of the two cultures. As a child, I viewed my biculturalism as a blessing. I possessed a native fluency in “Denglisch” and my family’s Halloween parties were legendary at a time when the holiday was just starting to gain popularity outside of the American Sector. 

Insidiously, the magic I once felt in loving two homes was replaced by a deep­rooted sense of rootlessness. I stopped feeling American when, while discussing World War II with my grandmother, I said “the US won.” She corrected me, insisting I use “we” when referring to the US’s actions. Before then, I hadn’t realized how directly people associated themselves with their countries. I stopped feeling German during the World Cup when my friends labeled me a “bandwagon fan” for rooting for Germany. Until that moment, my cheers had felt sincere. I wasn’t part of the “we” who won World Wars or World Cups. Caught in a twilight of foreign and familiar, I felt emotionally and psychologically disconnected from the two cultures most familiar to me. 

After moving from Berlin to New York state at age fifteen, my feelings of cultural homelessness thrived in my new environment. Looking and sounding American furthered my feelings of dislocation. Border patrol agents, teachers, classmates, neighbors, and relatives all “welcomed me home” to a land they could not understand was foreign to me. Americans confused me as I relied on Urban Dictionary to understand my peers, the Pledge of Allegiance seemed nationalistic, and the only thing familiar about Fahrenheit was the German after whom it was named. Too German for America and too American for Germany, I felt alienated from both. I wanted desperately to be a member of one, if not both, cultures. 

During my first weeks in Buffalo, I spent my free time googling “Berlin Family Seeks Teen” and “New Americans in Buffalo.” The latter search proved most fruitful: I discovered New Hope, a nonprofit that empowers resettled refugees, or “New Americans,” to thrive. I started volunteering with New Hope’s children’s programs, playing with and tutoring young refugees. 

It was there that I met Leila, a twelve-­year-­old Iraqi girl who lived next to Hopeprint. In between games and snacks, Leila would ask me questions about American life, touching on everything from Halloween to President Obama. Gradually, my confidence in my American identity grew as I recognized my ability to answer most of her questions. American culture was no longer completely foreign to me. I found myself especially qualified to work with young refugees; my experience growing up in a country other than that of my parents’ was similar enough to that of the refugee children New Hope served that I could empathize with them and offer advice. Together, we worked through conflicting allegiances, homesickness, and stretched belonging. 

Forging a special, personal bond with young refugees proved a cathartic outlet for my insecurities as it taught me to value my past. My transculturalism allowed me to help young refugees integrate into American life, and, in doing so, I was able to adjust myself. Now, I have an appreciation of myself that I never felt before. “Home” isn’t the digits in a passport or ZIP code but a sense of contentedness. By helping a young refugee find comfort, happiness, and home in America, I was finally able to find those same things for myself.

The above essay was written by Lydia Schooler, a graduate of Yale University and one of our CollegeVine advisors. If you enjoyed this essay and are looking for expert college essay and admissions advice, consider booking a session with Lydia .

Interests – Interest are basically synonymous to activities, but slightly broader (you could say that interests encompass activities); participation in an interest is often less organized than in an activity. For instance, you might consider cross country an activity, but cooking an interest. Writing about an interest is a way to highlight passions that may not come across in the rest of your application. If you’re a wrestler for example, writing about your interest in stand-up comedy would be a refreshing addition to your application. You should also feel free to use this topic to show what an important activity on your application really means to you. Keep in mind, however, that many schools will ask you to describe one of your activities in their supplemental essays (usually about 250 words), so choose strategically—you don’t want to write twice on the same thing.

Read a successful essay answering this prompt.

This prompt lends itself to consideration of what facets of your personality allow you to overcome adversity. While it’s okay to choose a relatively mundane “failure” such as not winning an award at a Model UN conference, another (perhaps more powerful) tactic is to write about a foundational failure and assess its impact on your development thereafter.

There are times in life when your foundation is uprooted. There are times when you experience failure and you want to give up since you don’t see a solution. This essay is about your response when you are destabilized and your actions when you don’t see an immediate answer.

For example, if you lost a friend due to an argument, you can analyze the positions from both sides, evaluate your decisions, and identify why you were wrong. The key is explaining your thought process and growth following the event to highlight how your thinking has changed. Did you ever admit your fault and seek to fix the problem? Have you treated others differently since then? How has the setback changed the way you view arguments and fights now? Framing the prompt in this way allows you to tackle heavier questions about ethics and demonstrate your self-awareness.

If you haven’t experienced a “big” failure, another angle to take would be to discuss smaller, repeated failures that are either linked or similar thematically. For example, if you used to stutter or get nervous in large social groups, you could discuss the steps you took to find a solution. Even if you don’t have a massive foundational challenge to write about, a recurring challenge can translate to a powerful essay topic, especially if the steps you took to overcome this repeated failure help expose your character.

One student described his ignorance of his brother’s challenges — the writer assumed that because his brother Sam was sociable, Sam  was adjusting fine to their family’s move. After an angry outburst from Sam  and a long late-night conversation, the writer realizes his need to develop greater sensitivity and empathy. He now strives to recognize and understand others’ struggles, even if they’re not immediately apparent.

“You ruined my life!” After months of quiet anger, my brother finally confronted me. To my shame, I had been appallingly ignorant of his pain.

Despite being twins, Max and I are profoundly different. Having intellectual interests from a young age that, well, interested very few of my peers, I often felt out of step in comparison with my highly-social brother. Everything appeared to come effortlessly for Max and, while we share an extremely tight bond, his frequent time away with friends left me feeling more and more alone as we grew older.

When my parents learned about The Green Academy, we hoped it would be an opportunity for me to find not only an academically challenging environment, but also – perhaps more importantly – a community. This meant transferring the family from Drumfield to Kingston. And while there was concern about Max, we all believed that given his sociable nature, moving would be far less impactful on him than staying put might be on me.

As it turned out, Green Academy was everything I’d hoped for. I was ecstatic to discover a group of students with whom I shared interests and could truly engage. Preoccupied with new friends and a rigorous course load, I failed to notice that the tables had turned. Max, lost in the fray and grappling with how to make connections in his enormous new high school, had become withdrawn and lonely. It took me until Christmas time – and a massive argument – to recognize how difficult the transition had been for my brother, let alone that he blamed me for it.

Through my own journey of searching for academic peers, in addition to coming out as gay when I was 12, I had developed deep empathy for those who had trouble fitting in. It was a pain I knew well and could easily relate to. Yet after Max’s outburst, my first response was to protest that our parents – not I – had chosen to move us here. In my heart, though, I knew that regardless of who had made the decision, we ended up in Kingston for my benefit. I was ashamed that, while I saw myself as genuinely compassionate, I had been oblivious to the heartache of the person closest to me. I could no longer ignore it – and I didn’t want to.

We stayed up half the night talking, and the conversation took an unexpected turn. Max opened up and shared that it wasn’t just about the move. He told me how challenging school had always been for him, due to his dyslexia, and that the ever-present comparison to me had only deepened his pain.

We had been in parallel battles the whole time and, yet, I only saw that Max was in distress once he experienced problems with which I directly identified. I’d long thought Max had it so easy – all because he had friends. The truth was, he didn’t need to experience my personal brand of sorrow in order for me to relate – he had felt plenty of his own.

My failure to recognize Max’s suffering brought home for me the profound universality and diversity of personal struggle; everyone has insecurities, everyone has woes, and everyone – most certainly – has pain. I am acutely grateful for the conversations he and I shared around all of this, because I believe our relationship has been fundamentally strengthened by a deeper understanding of one another. Further, this experience has reinforced the value of constantly striving for deeper sensitivity to the hidden struggles of those around me. I won’t make the mistake again of assuming that the surface of someone’s life reflects their underlying story.

This prompt is difficult to answer because most high schoolers haven’t participated in the types of iconoclastic protests against societal ills that lend themselves to an awe-inspiring response. A more tenable alternative here could be to discuss a time that you went against social norms, whether it was by becoming friends with someone who seemed like an outcast or by proudly showing off a geeky passion.

And if you ever participated in a situation in tandem with adults and found some success (i.e., by blogging, starting a tutoring organization, or participating in political campaigns), you could discuss your experiences as a young person without a college degree in professional circles. However, avoid sounding morally superior (as if you’re the only person who went against this convention, or that you’re better than your peers for doing so).

Another way to answer this prompt is to discuss a time when you noticed a need for change. For example, if you wondered why medical records are often handwritten, or why a doctor’s visit can be long and awkward, maybe you challenged the norm in healthcare by brainstorming an electronic-recording smartphone app or a telemedicine system. In a similar way, if you led a fundraiser and recognized that advertising on social media would be more effective than the traditional use of printed flyers, you could write about a topic along those lines as well. Focus on what action or experience caused you to recognize the need for change and follow with your actions and resulting outcome.

As a whole, this prompt lends itself to reflective writing, and more specifically, talking the reader through your thought processes. In many cases, the exploration of your thought processes and decision-making is more important than the actual outcome or concept in question. In short, this essay is very much about “thinking,” rumination, and inquisition. A good brainstorming exercise for this prompt would be to write your problem on a sheet of paper and then develop various solutions to the problem, including a brief reason for justification. The more thorough you are in justifying and explaining your solutions in the essay, the more compelling your response will be.

While this prompt may seem to be asking a simple question, your answer has the potential to provide deep insights about who you are to the admissions committee. Explaining what you are grateful for can show them your culture, your community, your philosophical outlook on the world, and what makes you tick. 

The first step to writing this essay is to think about the “something” and “someone” of your story. It is imperative to talk about a unique moment in your life, as the prompt asks for gratitude that came about in a surprising way. You will want to write about a story that you are certain no one else would have. To brainstorm, ask yourself: “if I told a stranger that I was grateful for what happened to me without any context, would they be surprised?” 

Note that the most common answers to this prompt involve a family member, teacher, or sports coach giving the narrator an arduous task ─ which, by the end of the story, the narrator becomes grateful for because of the lessons they learned through their hard work. Try to avoid writing an essay along these lines unless you feel that your take on it will be truly original.

Begin your essay by telling a creative story about the “something” that your “someone” did that made you thankful. Paint a picture with words here ─ establish who you were in the context of your story and make the character development of your “someone” thorough. Show the admissions committee that you have a clear understanding of yourself and the details of your world. 

Keep in mind, however, that the essay is ultimately about you and your growth. While you should set the scene clearly, don’t spend too much time talking about the “something” and “someone.”

Your story should then transition into a part about your unexpected epiphany, e.g. “Six months after Leonard gave me that pogo stick, I started to be grateful for the silly thing…” Explain the why of your gratitude as thoroughly as you can before you begin to talk about how your gratitude affected or motivated you. Have a Socratic seminar with yourself in your head ─ ask yourself, “why am I grateful for the pogo stick?” and continue asking why until you arrive at a philosophical conclusion. Perhaps your reason could be that you eventually got used to the odd looks that people gave you as you were pogoing and gained more self-confidence. 

Finally, think about how learning to be grateful for something you would not expect to bring you joy and thankfulness has had a positive impact on your life. Gaining more self-confidence, for example, could motivate you to do an infinite number of things that you were not able to attempt in the past. Try to make a conclusion by connecting this part to your story from the beginning of the essay. You want to ultimately show that had [reference to a snippet of your introduction, ideally an absurd part] never have happened, you would not be who you are today.

Remember to express these lessons implicitly through the experiences in your essay, and not explicitly. Show us your growth through the changes in your life rather than simply stating that you gained confidence. For instance, maybe the pogo stick gift led you to start a pogo dance team at your school, and the team went on to perform at large venues to raise money for charity. But before your pogo days, you had crippling stage fright and hated even giving speeches in your English class. These are the kinds of details that make your essay more engaging. 

This prompt is expansive in that you can choose any accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked personal growth or new understanding.

One option is to discuss a formal accomplishment or event (whether it is a religious ritual or social rite of passage) that reflects personal growth. If you go this route, make sure to discuss why the ritual was meaningful and how specific aspects of said ritual contributed to your personal growth. An example of this could be the meaning of becoming an Eagle Scout to you, the accomplishment of being elected to Senior Leadership, or completing a Confirmation. In the case of religious topics, however, be sure to not get carried away with details, and focus on the nature of your personal growth and new understanding — know your audience.

Alternatively, a more relaxed way to address this prompt is using an informal event or realization, which would allow you to show more personality and creativity. An example of this could be learning how to bake with your mother, thus sparking a newfound connection with her, allowing you to learn about her past. Having a long discussion about life or philosophy with your father could also suffice, thus sparking more thoughts about your identity. You could write about a realization that caused you to join a new organization or quit an activity you did not think you would enjoy, as doing so would force you to grow out of your comfort zone to try new things.

The key to answering this prompt is clearly defining what it is that sparked your growth, and then describing in detail the nature of this growth and how it related to your perception of yourself and others. This part of the essay is crucial, as you must dedicate sufficient time to not undersell the description of how you grew instead of simply explaining the experience and then saying, “I grew.” This description of how you grew must be specific, in-depth, and it does not have to be simple. Your growth can also be left open-ended if you are still learning from your experiences today.

One student wrote about how her single mother’s health crisis prompted her to quickly assume greater responsibility as a fourteen-year-old. This essay describes the new tasks she undertook, as well as how the writer now more greatly cherishes her time with her mother.

Tears streamed down my face and my mind was paralyzed with fear. Sirens blared, but the silent panic in my own head was deafening. I was muted by shock. A few hours earlier, I had anticipated a vacation in Washington, D.C., but unexpectedly, I was rushing to the hospital behind an ambulance carrying my mother. As a fourteen-year-old from a single mother household, without a driver’s license, and seven hours from home, I was distraught over the prospect of losing the only parent I had. My fear turned into action as I made some of the bravest decisions of my life. 

Three blood transfusions later, my mother’s condition was stable, but we were still states away from home, so I coordinated with my mother’s doctors in North Carolina to schedule the emergency operation that would save her life. Throughout her surgery, I anxiously awaited any word from her surgeon, but each time I asked, I was told that there had been another complication or delay. Relying on my faith and positive attitude, I remained optimistic that my mother would survive and that I could embrace new responsibilities.

My mother had been a source of strength for me, and now I would be strong for her through her long recovery ahead. As I started high school, everyone thought the crisis was over, but it had really just started to impact my life. My mother was often fatigued, so I assumed more responsibility, juggling family duties, school, athletics, and work. I made countless trips to the neighborhood pharmacy, cooked dinner, biked to the grocery store, supported my concerned sister, and provided the loving care my mother needed to recover. I didn’t know I was capable of such maturity and resourcefulness until it was called upon. Each day was a stage in my gradual transformation from dependence to relative independence.

Throughout my mother’s health crisis, I matured by learning to put others’ needs before my own. As I worried about my mother’s health, I took nothing for granted, cherished what I had, and used my daily activities as motivation to move forward. I now take ownership over small decisions such as scheduling daily appointments and managing my time but also over major decisions involving my future, including the college admissions process. Although I have become more independent, my mother and I are inseparably close, and the realization that I almost lost her affects me daily. Each morning, I wake up ten minutes early simply to eat breakfast with my mother and spend time with her before our busy days begin. I am aware of how quickly life can change. My mother remains a guiding force in my life, but the feeling of empowerment I discovered within myself is the ultimate form of my independence. Though I thought the summer before my freshman year would be a transition from middle school to high school, it was a transformation from childhood to adulthood.

This prompt allows you to expand and deepen a seemingly small or simple idea, topic, or concept. One example could be “stars,” in that you could describe stargazing as a child, counting them, recognizing constellations, and then transforming that initial captivation into a deeper appreciation of the cosmos as a whole, spurring a love of astronomy and physics.

Another example could be “language,” discussing how it has evolved and changed over the course of history, how it allows you to look deeper into different cultures, and how learning different languages stretches the mind. A tip for expanding on these topics and achieving specificity is to select particular details of the topic that you find intriguing and explain why.

For example, if you’re passionate about cooking or baking, you could use specific details by explaining, in depth, the intricate attention and artistry necessary to make a dish or dessert. You can delve into why certain spices or garnishes are superior in different situations, how flavors blend well together and can be mixed creatively, or even the chemistry differences between steaming, searing, and grilling.

Regardless of your topic, this prompt provides a great opportunity to display writing prowess through elegant, specific descriptions that leverage sensory details. Describing the beauty of the night sky, the rhythms and sounds of different languages, or the scent of a crème brûlée shows passion and captivation in a very direct, evocative way.

The key to writing this essay is answering the question of why something captivates you instead of simply ending with “I love surfing.” A tip would be to play off your senses (for applicable topics), think about what you see, feel, smell, hear, and taste.

In the case of surfing, the salty water, weightlessness of bobbing over the waves, and fresh air could cater to senses. Alternatively, for less physical topics, you can use a train of thought and descriptions to show how deeply and vividly your mind dwells on the topic.

Well-executed trains of thought or similar tactics are successful ways to convey passion for a certain topic. To answer what or who you turn to when you want to learn more, you can be authentic and honest—if it’s Wikipedia, a teacher, friend, YouTube Channel, etc., you simply have to show how you interact with the medium.

When brainstorming this particular essay, a tip would be to use a web diagram, placing the topic in the middle and thinking about branching characteristics, themes, or concepts related to the topic that are directly engaging and captivating to you. In doing so, you’ll be able to gauge the depth of the topic and whether it will suffice for this prompt.

In the following example, a student shares their journey as they learn to appreciate a piece of their culture’s cuisine.

As a wide-eyed, naive seven-year-old, I watched my grandmother’s rough, wrinkled hands pull and knead mercilessly at white dough until the countertop was dusted in flour. She steamed small buns in bamboo baskets, and a light sweetness lingered in the air. Although the mantou looked delicious, their papery, flat taste was always an unpleasant surprise. My grandmother scolded me for failing to finish even one, and when I complained about the lack of flavor she would simply say that I would find it as I grew older. How did my adult relatives seem to enjoy this Taiwanese culinary delight while I found it so plain?

During my journey to discover the essence of mantou, I began to see myself the same way I saw the steamed bun. I believed that my writing would never evolve beyond a hobby and that my quiet nature crippled my ambitions. Ultimately, I thought I had little to offer the world. In middle school, it was easy for me to hide behind the large personalities of my friends, blending into the background and keeping my thoughts company. Although writing had become my emotional outlet, no matter how well I wrote essays, poetry, or fiction, I could not stand out in a sea of talented students. When I finally gained the confidence to submit my poetry to literary journals but was promptly rejected, I stepped back from my work to begin reading from Whitman to Dickinson, Li-Young Lee to Ocean Vuong. It was then that I realized I had been holding back a crucial ingredient–my distinct voice. 

Over time, my taste buds began to mature, as did I. Mantou can be flavored with pork and eggplant, sweetened in condensed milk, and moistened or dried by the steam’s temperature. After I ate the mantou with each of these factors in mind, I noticed its environment enhanced a delicately woven strand of sweetness beneath the taste of side dishes: the sugar I had often watched my grandmother sift into the flour. The taste was nearly untraceable, but once I grasped it I could truly begin to cherish mantou. In the same way the taste had been lost to me for years, my writer’s voice had struggled to shine through because of my self-doubt and fear of vulnerability.

As I acquired a taste for mantou, I also began to strengthen my voice through my surrounding environment. With the support of my parents, peer poets, and the guidance of Amy Tan and the Brontё sisters, I worked tirelessly to uncover my voice: a subtle strand of sweetness. Once I stopped trying to fit into a publishing material mold and infused my uninhibited passion for my Taiwanese heritage into my writing, my poem was published in a literary journal. I wrote about the blatant racism Asians endured during coronavirus, and the editor of Skipping Stones Magazine was touched by both my poem and my heartfelt letter. I opened up about being ridiculed for bringing Asian food to school at Youth Leadership Forum, providing support to younger Asian-American students who reached out with the relief of finding someone they could relate to. I embraced writing as a way to convey my struggle with cultural identity. I joined the school’s creative writing club and read my pieces in front of an audience, honing my voice into one that flourishes out loud as well.

Now, I write and speak unapologetically, falling in love with a voice that I never knew I had. It inspires passion within my communities and imparts tenacity to Asian-American youth, rooting itself deeply into everything I write. Today, my grandmother would say that I have finally unearthed the taste of mantou as I savor every bite with a newfound appreciation. I can imagine her hands shaping the dough that has become my voice, and I am eager to share it with the world.

Your GPA and SAT don’t tell the full admissions story

We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools!

This prompt allows you to express what you want to express if it doesn’t align directly with the other prompts. While this prompt is very open-ended, it doesn’t mean you can adapt any essay you’ve written and think it will suffice. Always refer back to the Strategy section of this article and make sure the topic and essay of your choice addresses the Core Four questions necessary for a good Common App essay.

This prompt, more than the others, poses a high risk but also a high-potential reward. Writing your own question allows you to demonstrate individuality and confidence. Here, you can craft an innovative essay that tackles a difficult topic (for example, whether to raise or lower taxes) or presents information with a unique format (such as a conversation with an historical figure).

We encourage you to try something unconventional for this prompt, like comparing your personality to a Picasso painting, using an extended philosophical metaphor to describe your four years of high school, or writing in a poetic style to display your love of poetry. If you are extremely passionate about a topic or an expert in a certain area, for example Renaissance technology or journalism during World War II, you can use this prompt to show your authority on a subject by discussing it at a high level.

Be careful to frame the essay in a way that is accessible to the average reader while still incorporating quality evidence and content that would qualify you as an expert. As always, exercise caution in writing about controversial social or political topics, and always make sure to consider your audience and what they’re looking for in a student.

Sometimes an unconventional essay can capture Admissions Officers’ attention and move them in a profound way; other times, the concept can fly completely over their heads. Be sure to execute the essay clearly and justify your decision by seeking high-quality feedback from reliable sources. As always, the essay should demonstrate something meaningful about you, whether it is your personality, thought process, or values.

Here’s what the experts have to say about this prompt…

This prompt, like the others, is really asking you to tell the story of who you are. Your essay should be personal and should talk about something significant that has shaped your identity.

Here are a few broad themes that can work well: academic interest; culture, values, and diversity; extracurricular interests; and your impact on the community. You should highlight one of these themes using creative, vividly descriptive narrative. Make sure to not fall into the common pitfall of talking about something else -- an extracurricular activity, for example -- more than yourself.

A student I advised had a great idea to respond to this prompt -- an essay about how they do their best thinking while sitting on a tree branch near their home. Not only was it unique and personal, but it allowed the student to show what they think about, dream about, and value. That's the main goal for any applicant responding to prompt 7.

how to start a job application essay

Alex Oddo Advisor on CollegeVine

All of the Common App prompts are broad in scope, but this one really takes the cake! I typically advise using the first six prompts as guardrails for your brainstorm, but in doing so, you may come up with a topic that doesn’t cleanly fit with any of the first six prompts. That’s where this prompt can come in handy.

Or, you might have an idea that’s really out there (like writing about your love of sonnets as a series of sonnets). Essentially, this prompt is a good fit for essays that are anywhere from slightly unconventional to extremely atypical.

If this all feels a bit confusing - don’t worry! How you write your story is much more important than what prompt you end up choosing. At the end of the day, these are just guides to help you cultivate a topic and are not meant to stress you out.

how to start a job application essay

Priya Desai Advisor on CollegeVine

Students who want to complete the CommonApp’s seventh prompt need to have already gone through the other prompts and determined that their story cannot fit with those. Thus, generally speaking, I advise my students to not use the final prompt unless it is absolutely necessary.

If an admission officer believes that your essay could have been used with one of the other prompts, this may lead them to have a perception about you as a student that might not be accurate.

Nevertheless, as my colleagues have pointed out, what matters is the essay the most and not necessarily the prompt. That being said, the test of whether or not you as a student can follow directions is part of the prompt selection and how well you answer it. If you choose the final prompt and yet your answer could work with another available prompt, this will not put you in your best light.

In conclusion, only use this prompt when absolutely necessary, and remember that the purpose of the personal statement is to give the admissions officers a glimpse into who you are as a person, so you want to use this space to showcase beautiful you.

how to start a job application essay

Veronica Prout Advisor on CollegeVine

Where to get your common app essay edited.

At selective schools, your essays account for around 25% of your admissions decision. That’s more than grades (20%) and test scores (15%), and almost as much as extracurriculars (30%). Why is this? Most students applying to top schools will have stellar academics and extracurriculars. Your essays are your chance to stand out and humanize your application. That’s why it’s vital that your essays are engaging, and present you as someone who would enrich the campus community.

Before submitting your application, you should have someone else review your essays. 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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how to start a job application essay

Writing a job application

Developing a strong application is the first step towards securing a job. Learn how to create a tailored resume and cover letter, and clearly address the selection criteria for the role.

Your job application is often your first contact with a potential employer. The key to developing a strong application lies in tailoring your documents specifically to the requirements of the role and the target organisation. Consider the application an opportunity to clearly demonstrate how your qualifications, skills, abilities and experience are a solid match for the role.

What should I include in my application?

Application requirements will vary from organisation to organisation, so read, understand and follow the instructions provided by the employer. They may ask for some or all of the following documents:

  • cover letter
  • statement addressing selection criteria
  • online application form
  • supporting documentation, eg, academic transcripts.

For emailed applications, you’ll need to write a short introduction within the body of the email and attach the requested documents. Your email should make it clear which job you are applying for and draw the reader’s attention to the attached documents. It’s also a good idea to include your contact details and let the employer know you are available for an interview. Do not duplicate your cover letter – keep it succinct.

Job application tips

Self-assessment  involves thinking about your interests, values, skills and strengths, to identify the types of jobs and organisations that are right for you. Note your main strengths and the situations where you have developed or used those strengths. For example, you may have acquired strong verbal communication skills by giving presentations and working in a casual sales job. You’ll need to clearly articulate your  relevant attributes  in the job application.

Analyse the job ad.  Most employers will use the job advertisement to explain what they are looking for in a candidate. The  selection criteria  (requirements for the role) may be clearly listed or ‘hidden’ within the text of the advertisement. Look for any keywords that denote skills, experience, education or attributes. Pay particular attention to repeated keywords or phrases.

Do your research  so you understand what the organisation does and how it presents itself. Check its website for annual reports and information about services or products, values and mission statement, structure and culture. Use the University Library’s resource guide for  researching organisations and industries , and search  Factiva  to find references to the organisation in the media. If possible, talk to people who work in your target organisation at a  careers fair ,  employer event  or  information interview .  

Write a targeted application  that is specific to the job role and organisation. Your application should reflect your interest in the employer and offer evidence that you meet the requirements of the role. Focus on the skills and attributes listed in the job advertisement or uncovered through your research when writing your application documents, and always provide proof of your skillset (ie, where/how you have developed/used that particular skill and for what outcome).

Follow employer instructions . Include all documents and information requested by the employer, and fill in all fields if you are applying via an online form. An incomplete application is unlikely to be considered. If you’re unsure about any aspects of the application procedure, contact the employer for more information.

Apply for jobs now

Register for workshops and events, how to write a resume.

A clear, tailored and professional resume is essential for any job application. It should aim to convince an employer that your qualifications, work experience and skillset make you a strong match for the job.

How to write a cover letter

A cover letter is your first introduction to a potential employer, so it needs to show that you’re a suitable candidate.

Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

Find the right college for you.

Writing an essay for college admission gives you a chance to use your authentic voice and show your personality. It's an excellent opportunity to personalize your application beyond your academic credentials, and a well-written essay can have a positive influence come decision time.

Want to know how to draft an essay for your college application ? Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing.

Tips for Essay Writing

A typical college application essay, also known as a personal statement, is 400-600 words. Although that may seem short, writing about yourself can be challenging. It's not something you want to rush or put off at the last moment. Think of it as a critical piece of the application process. Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor.

1. Start Early.

Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school. That way, you have ample time to think about the prompt and craft the best personal statement possible.

You don't have to work on your essay every day, but you'll want to give yourself time to revise and edit. You may discover that you want to change your topic or think of a better way to frame it. Either way, the sooner you start, the better.

2. Understand the Prompt and Instructions.

Before you begin the writing process, take time to understand what the college wants from you. The worst thing you can do is skim through the instructions and submit a piece that doesn't even fit the bare minimum requirements or address the essay topic. Look at the prompt, consider the required word count, and note any unique details each school wants.

3. Create a Strong Opener.

Students seeking help for their application essays often have trouble getting things started. It's a challenging writing process. Finding the right words to start can be the hardest part.

Spending more time working on your opener is always a good idea. The opening sentence sets the stage for the rest of your piece. The introductory paragraph is what piques the interest of the reader, and it can immediately set your essay apart from the others.

4. Stay on Topic.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep to the essay topic. If you're applying to 10 or more colleges, it's easy to veer off course with so many application essays.

A common mistake many students make is trying to fit previously written essays into the mold of another college's requirements. This seems like a time-saving way to avoid writing new pieces entirely, but it often backfires. The result is usually a final piece that's generic, unfocused, or confusing. Always write a new essay for every application, no matter how long it takes.

5. Think About Your Response.

Don't try to guess what the admissions officials want to read. Your essay will be easier to write─and more exciting to read─if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about your subject. Here’s an example: If all your friends are writing application essays about covid-19, it may be a good idea to avoid that topic, unless during the pandemic you had a vivid, life-changing experience you're burning to share. Whatever topic you choose, avoid canned responses. Be creative.

6. Focus on You.

Essay prompts typically give you plenty of latitude, but panel members expect you to focus on a subject that is personal (although not overly intimate) and particular to you. Admissions counselors say the best essays help them learn something about the candidate that they would never know from reading the rest of the application.

7. Stay True to Your Voice.

Use your usual vocabulary. Avoid fancy language you wouldn't use in real life. Imagine yourself reading this essay aloud to a classroom full of people who have never met you. Keep a confident tone. Be wary of words and phrases that undercut that tone.

8. Be Specific and Factual.

Capitalize on real-life experiences. Your essay may give you the time and space to explain why a particular achievement meant so much to you. But resist the urge to exaggerate and embellish. Admissions counselors read thousands of essays each year. They can easily spot a fake.

9. Edit and Proofread.

When you finish the final draft, run it through the spell checker on your computer. Then don’t read your essay for a few days. You'll be more apt to spot typos and awkward grammar when you reread it. After that, ask a teacher, parent, or college student (preferably an English or communications major) to give it a quick read. While you're at it, double-check your word count.

Writing essays for college admission can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be. A well-crafted essay could be the deciding factor─in your favor. Keep these tips in mind, and you'll have no problem creating memorable pieces for every application.

What is the format of a college application essay?

Generally, essays for college admission follow a simple format that includes an opening paragraph, a lengthier body section, and a closing paragraph. You don't need to include a title, which will only take up extra space. Keep in mind that the exact format can vary from one college application to the next. Read the instructions and prompt for more guidance.

Most online applications will include a text box for your essay. If you're attaching it as a document, however, be sure to use a standard, 12-point font and use 1.5-spaced or double-spaced lines, unless the application specifies different font and spacing.

How do you start an essay?

The goal here is to use an attention grabber. Think of it as a way to reel the reader in and interest an admissions officer in what you have to say. There's no trick on how to start a college application essay. The best way you can approach this task is to flex your creative muscles and think outside the box.

You can start with openers such as relevant quotes, exciting anecdotes, or questions. Either way, the first sentence should be unique and intrigue the reader.

What should an essay include?

Every application essay you write should include details about yourself and past experiences. It's another opportunity to make yourself look like a fantastic applicant. Leverage your experiences. Tell a riveting story that fulfills the prompt.

What shouldn’t be included in an essay?

When writing a college application essay, it's usually best to avoid overly personal details and controversial topics. Although these topics might make for an intriguing essay, they can be tricky to express well. If you’re unsure if a topic is appropriate for your essay, check with your school counselor. An essay for college admission shouldn't include a list of achievements or academic accolades either. Your essay isn’t meant to be a rehashing of information the admissions panel can find elsewhere in your application.

How can you make your essay personal and interesting?

The best way to make your essay interesting is to write about something genuinely important to you. That could be an experience that changed your life or a valuable lesson that had an enormous impact on you. Whatever the case, speak from the heart, and be honest.

Is it OK to discuss mental health in an essay?

Mental health struggles can create challenges you must overcome during your education and could be an opportunity for you to show how you’ve handled challenges and overcome obstacles. If you’re considering writing your essay for college admission on this topic, consider talking to your school counselor or with an English teacher on how to frame the essay.

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  1. How to Write a Job Application Essay: 13 Steps (with Pictures)

    2. State your theme or thesis statement upfront. If the potential employer has specified what your essay should be about, your essay as a whole should focus on that theme. If they've given you leeway to choose your own theme, choose something that is tailored to the position you're applying for. [4]

  2. Application Essays

    One of the basic tasks of the application essay is to follow the directions. If you don't do what they ask, the reader may wonder if you will be able to follow directions in their program. Make sure you follow page and word limits exactly—err on the side of shortness, not length. The essay may take two forms:

  3. How To Write an Application Letter (With Template and Example)

    Follow these steps to compose a compelling application letter: 1. Research the company and job opening. Thoroughly research the company you're applying to and the specifications of the open position. The more you know about the job, the better you can customize your application letter. Look for details like:

  4. How to Write a Job Application Essay: Tips and Guidelines

    Highlight Your Strengths and Experiences. In the body of your job application essay, focus on highlighting your strengths, experiences, and achievements that make you the perfect fit for the position. Provide specific examples of how your skills and experiences have prepared you for the role, and explain how you can contribute to the company ...

  5. How to Write a Job Application Essay

    Read the prompt of the essay you are required to write. Look at the features that the hiring authority expects to see from your paper. Identify the keywords that should be included in your paper based on the prompt. The most common keywords are specific skills you will be bringing to the position.

  6. Starting Your Application Essay: Three Tips

    Here are three essential steps to help you achieve that goal. 1. Make an outline. An outline can be formal or informal, but start with one as a foundation. A formal outline will have clearly delineated categories and subcategories, while an informal outline can simply be a list of the main points you want to cover.

  7. How To Write a Personal Essay in 8 Simple Steps (With Tips)

    Write the introduction. Write the body. Write the conclusion. 1. Make preparations. When preparing to write your personal essay, first consider who your audience is and what you want them to know. Ask yourself questions to determine how your story relates to your goals for writing it.

  8. How To Write a Great Career Goals Essay

    1. Understand the concept of career goals. Before you write your career goals essay, you must first identify your career ambitions. Career goals are a form of personal development. Focus on the professional or educational goals you would like to achieve aside from a high salary. The qualities of your goals are a more accurate measure of success ...

  9. How to Write a Job Application Essay

    Write in the top bubble if you use the Goal/Reasons wheel. Brainstorm job-related details to fill the remaining bubbles. Use the resulting charts to write your essay. For example: In the center or topic bubble: I want to join the police force to serve as an armed school resource officer.

  10. How to Write a Job Application Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide

    Always thank the possible employer for taking the time to read your paper. Indicate how you plan to proceed. It is best, to begin with, the word "sincere" and then end with your signature and typo. Using such tips you will definitely create the best job appliance essay.

  11. How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction

    Good example. I wiped the sweat from my head and tried to catch my breath. I was nearly there—just one more back tuck and a strong dismount and I'd have nailed a perfect routine. Some students choose to write more broadly about themselves and use some sort of object or metaphor as the focus.

  12. How to Write a Job Application Letter (With Examples)

    Tips for Writing an Effective Letter. Sample Job Application Letter. Sending an Email Application. Review More Letter Examples. Photo: Dan Dalton / Getty Images. Melissa Ling / The Balance. A job application letter is sent or uploaded with a resume when applying for jobs.

  13. Write a successful job application

    choose descriptive words like effective, consistent, determined and adaptable. focus on answering the questions and avoid waffling or being too vague. select appropriate examples of your achievements from past experience. demonstrate enthusiasm for the role. ensure your spelling and grammar is correct.

  14. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Table of contents. 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.

  15. 30 Better Ways to Start a Cover Letter

    Communicate that you'll bring something to the company: You'll get more into the details after your opening, of course. But your cover letter opener should still tell the reader, "This person can do something for us ," rather than, "This job would really help them .". Stick to the point: Your opener, while creative, should still be ...

  16. How to Write the Common Application Essays 2023-2024 ...

    Be specific. Choose active voice, not passive voice. Avoid clichés. Write in a tone that aligns with your goals for the essay. For example, if you are a heavy STEM applicant hoping to use your Common App essay to humanize your application, you will be undermined by writing in a brusque, harsh tone.

  17. 16 Winning Personal Statement Examples (And Why They Work)

    Here are 16 personal statement examples—both school and career—to help you create your own: 1. Personal statement example for graduate school. A personal statement for graduate school differs greatly from one to further your professional career. It is usually an essay, rather than a brief paragraph. Here is an example of a personal ...

  18. Writing a job application

    5. Follow employer instructions. Include all documents and information requested by the employer, and fill in all fields if you are applying via an online form. An incomplete application is unlikely to be considered. If you're unsure about any aspects of the application procedure, contact the employer for more information. Ensure your job ...

  19. Tips for Writing an Effective Application Essay

    Follow these tips to write an impactful essay that can work in your favor. 1. Start Early. Few people write well under pressure. Try to complete your first draft a few weeks before you have to turn it in. Many advisers recommend starting as early as the summer before your senior year in high school.

  20. How to Write a College Essay

    Making an all-state team → outstanding achievement. Making an all-state team → counting the cost of saying "no" to other interests. Making a friend out of an enemy → finding common ground, forgiveness. Making a friend out of an enemy → confront toxic thinking and behavior in yourself.

  21. PDF Writing a Graduate School Application Essay

    Writing a Graduate School Application Essay . Getting Started . Every graduate school requires applicants to submit either a personal statement or astatement of purpose (sometimes called a research statement). This handout details some of the main differences between the two types of documents, and provides

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    A personal statement, also known as a 'professional summary' or a 'CV summary', is one of the most important components of an application for universities or a job. Having an exceptional personal statement can increase your chances of being accepted or receiving a job offer. It shows a potential employer or university that your skills ...

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    Add Statistics. Numbers and facts are powerful essay hooks because they demonstrate your awareness on the subject. When reading facts from the jump of your paper, the audience assumes that the entire essay will be well-researched and fact-based. Statistics give tone and set the style to the whole document. Example: