4 months ago
Admissions Advice

Some help with essay...

Hey, I'm an international applicant. So I've applied to US for 2025, but I'm not certain that I'll get into a college. So I'll most probably apply for 2026 again next year. The question is that the essays that I used need a little improvement, but I think can be very strong. So is it adviced that I can use the same essays that I used for this year, but they will be more improved version?


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3 answers

4 months ago[edited]

Some things I have to say about improving your essays.

1.) Watch the free CollegeVine Streams that are about college-specific essays. So if you are applying to Stanford or UChicago or Northwestern, CV has experts who have created live streams that are recorded for you to watch and learn how to address the prompts and write effective college-specific essays.

2.) Once you get a handle on what you are supposed to do for each school, then put them through the Karma-based CV Peer Review. You pay your 10 or 20 Karma points and get your essay reviewed by an HS expert within 12 hours or something like that. Some reviewers are great, some lazy but most of them will give you at least a few practical pointers. Keep an open mind because some of these reviewers are expert writers and have already applied and been admitted to Ivys, so the worst thing you can do is be defensive about your writing. Yes, it's your own voice but like being a contestant on "America's Got Talent", if you can't sing, you need to pay attention.

3.) When you get down to finalizing your essays, make sure you have some adults like teachers read your essays to make sure they can clearly understand what you are saying and using proper grammar, and not making any spelling mistakes. I highly recommend installing "Grammarly" on your PC/MAC since it is a free grammar/spelling check application.

4.) Writing effective essays is not in my understanding an intelligence test but a true opportunity for you to use your voice and share something interesting about your life and how you think and what you value. It's an intimate peek inside your mind and heart so take advantage of the opportunity and be honest, truthful, and don't assume a different writing style or voice because you think the application reader wants to hear a story from a cooler, smarter, more mature person. Be 100% genuine and that will take you far. Also keep in mind that at some schools like Bowdoin and Brown, they are allowing applicants to upload short videos so they can present themselves in real life to the application officers. This to me is a great way to share who you really are without second-guessing.

5. Pease take advantage of many professional youtube videos on how to write a great essay or avoiding essay pitfalls and mistakes. I would start with someone respected and well known like Brooke Hanson (supertutortv) She went to Stanford and is an expert college prep tutor and video producer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAtFF47Ce4k&t=25s

6. Lastly, there are dozens of books on writing better essays you can order through Amazon or other online sellers. https://www.amazon.com/s?k=college+essays&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

I would be cautious about recycling essays. Some colleges change prompts every cycle and others like UChicago let you use the new prompts and any previous prompt for the last 50 years if you can find it. So my advice is to pay attention to what kind of student gets admitted by the schools and learn from past admits and their advice. A bad essay can put you in the "pass, no thank you pile" immediately so be careful about how you approach this for each and every school.

Good luck with your application journey.

4 months ago

Yes, you can reuse essays assuming that they still respond to the prompt. Admissions officers look at several applicants, so are not going to remember a specific essay. Therefore, if the essay is the best reflection of you, then you should use it.

In addition, you can use the peer review section of College Vine to get help with your essay. I have found this very helpful with my own essays. For more essay help, ask a trusted adult who knows you well. They can make sure your essay reflects your best self and is grammatically correct.

Good luck with your applications and have a nice day!

4 months ago

I'm in the same boat so here is how I am approaching this. Since you already have essays (but don't feel the best about them, this will hopefully help you out).

1.) Brainstorming. Give your essays to fresh eyes (people who have never seen your essay, preferably to teachers you didn't interact with a lot since they are in the spot many AOs will be) and set them aside for a bit. We will get back to them once you have semi-fresh eyes. For now, you can brainstorm on other ideas. Maybe the problem is the essay topics you have are good, but there are potentially better ones around. I'd also go back to the main idea and further brainstorm. Since, again, there may be a better way to do the writing. I've included links to resources at the bottom of this post. I'm not going to recommend the Collegevine videos/ articles unless you either:

a. Don't know/ understand the prompt. Basically, you either don't understand what the prompt wants, or you don't know how to respond.

b. You are stuck. The collegevine essay videos give you some pointers on where to go.

Admittedly, the collegevine videos don't do much. Yes, they may offer some insight but not much if you look at the brainstorming resources and know-how to read a prompt.

2.) Back to the old essays! Look at them now. What do you like, what do you hate? Look at them critically and pick them apart, if you can. I'm a writer, so I can easily self-critique my work. If you can't, don't stress yourself over it. Just rewrite them with the feedback you got from Step 1.

3.) Write out rough drafts of your new essay ideas. These don't have to be perfect but you are putting meat on those brainstorming bones. Present them (the old ones and new ones) to teachers. Ask specific questions like "Which one says more about me?", or "Which better communicates who I am?" Deep hitting questions that may expose weak points. If you need help, respond to this answer and I will provide more examples! You can give each teacher a physical copy of both pairs of essays and ask them to look at both.

4.) Pick the ones teachers consistently said are better. Don't discriminate. You may have put a lot of work into your previous essays but there is a chance new is better.

5.) Depending on the ones they picked, you may have to further tweak your essays to the feedback. REMEMBER, before we were critiquing not rewriting. Now we are rewriting with all the critique we got. You may want to look at examples of other essays (I will include links to them) to see how they did it well.

Brain-storming resources:


This dude is great at essay writing! I highly recommend him!


Not the best but does offer some good ways to brainstorm that I haven't seen anywhere else. If you are already good at creative writing and know several techniques for brainstorming, then this will not be a good resource. If you aren't, this is a good way to go further once you have the idea down.


A PDF with a great brainstorming technique. Questbridge is actually an application for low-income students to apply to Top Universities! So this may help a lot!


Link to further resources about brainstorming.


Great, interesting questions for brainstorming! I really liked working through this one.



Great place for free, online topic examples!

"50 Successful Havard/ Ivy League Application Essays"

I am lumping these together since they both are practically the same. They offer quite a bit of help, but they both feel similar save for their introductions. Buy "Ivy League" since it offers the most help and maybe more applicable to your situation.


Peterson's "Writing Successful College Applications"

I haven't seen many people talking about this one but it's meh for examples. I'm including this one because it's the best one I have read. Though it is skimpy on how the essays did/ didn't work. That is, however, covered elsewhere in this list.

"College Essay Essentials"

This book helped me the most. It covers everything, from simple choices such as making your essay more vivid to revising. One of the best books I have ever seen on this subject that is never highly recommended enough.


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