Your admission essay serves as the cover letter to your college application. In 500-750 words, you will tell the admissions officer who you are beyond your resume and transcript. However, it’s easy to make many mistakes in so few words. Below are recommendations on how to write a admission essay that will stand out from the crowd—or stack, really.

1.     Stay within the parameters of the essay prompt. If the word limit is 750, don’t try to get away with 825, admissions officers can tell the difference. Make sure you fully address or answer the question in the prompt. Also, don’t try to be too creative with the essay, like opting for poetry over prose, as this can be more distracting than distinguishing.

2.     Be yourself. An admissions officer isn’t interested in an essay that tells them what you think they want to read. Write about something that is able to convey who you are as person, in your own voice. Using flowery language, an overly impressive vocabulary, or covering topics with which you are not fully familiar won’t ring true. Don’t be afraid to show off your personality.

3.     Pick a topic that is both distinct and can be reasonably tackled within the word limit. The death of a loved one or an eye-opening mission trip may seem like great topics when writing about “a meaningful or personal identity developing experience,” except admissions officers have read thousands (probably more like tens of thousands) of these essays. Rather, pick something that reflects what you want to study and why. Maybe there was a moment in your chemistry class that you realized you want to research alternative fuel sources? Perhaps you discovered your passion for social justice while knocking on doors for a local campaign? It’s also not a bad idea to remind the admissions office why you want to go to their institution.

4.     Proof read, proof read, proof read! It’s tempting to call it good when you’ve spent so much time carefully crafting and writing your essay, but no one’s first or second draft is perfect. Moreover, it’s hard to catch your own mistakes. Have someone else take a look at your essay to provide you feedback and give it a once-over for grammatical or mechanical errors. If you’re using the same essay for multiple applications, make sure you remove or change any institution-specific information.

5.     Don’t be redundant. Remember, your admission essay is one more opportunity to remind the admissions office why you would be an excellent addition to their freshman class. Why would you waste it on telling them information you’ve already given them? They don’t need you to regurgitate your resume or your test scores—they need you to complete the picture of who you are beyond your accomplishments and scholastic ability.

Want more information on how to write an outstanding admission essay? There are many online tutorials or guides, but we recommend checking out Khan Academy’s Applying to College Course.