High School And College Essay

Are you a high school junior? Your college application is probably your first experience writing a personal statement. From purpose to audience, here’s a quick run-down of how college essays are different than the essays you write for English class.

1. Purpose

A high school essay generally demonstrates to your teacher what you know. An application essay should demonstrate who you are. Colleges want to find out what you're passionate about, and what you would add to the campus community.

2. Audience

When your English teacher grades your essays, she puts them into the context of every interaction she’s ever had with you. Your personal statement is your one chance to speak directly to the admissions committee and demonstrate who you are beyond grades and test scores. Help colleges learn something about you that they cannot discover when reading the rest of your application. (Tip: Don’t treat your essay like a resume!)

3. Show, Don't Summarize

College essay topics are often open-ended. (“Recount a time when you experienced failure.“) But at heart, all college essays are asking you to demonstrate the same things: your ability to reflect and think critically. Summaries are fine for book reports, but when writing your college essay take the opportunity to really examine how an experience taught you something you didn't previously know about yourself, got you out of your comfort zone, or forced you to grow.

4. Authenticity

On a high school essay, it's generally not appropriate to use the first-person. Not only is it fine to make “I” statements in your application essays, but colleges expect your essays to sound like you, too!  Always be yourself in your application, not the candidate you think admissions committees want to see.

5. Originality Counts

When your teacher asks you to analyze the causes of the Civil War, he is going to receive a lot of essays that sound basically the same. But your college essay should be unique and individual to you. College admissions officers tell us that they see many essays about eye-opening travel experiences, the death of a loved one, or “The Big Game.” You can still write about these experiences, but the trick is in the details. No one sees the world quite the way you do, so let your personality shine through.

Read more tips on applying to college.


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Everyone knows that the worlds of high school and college couldn’t be further apart. But, what parallels can be drawn between the two?

From childhood to adulthood, high school allows you to gain a sense of what it will be like to be an adult.

On the other hand, college allows you to fully take ownership of your time, responsibilities and who you want to become.

As long as you’re able to stay on track of the goal at hand, i.e. getting marvelous grades, keeping a smart schedule and studying like crazy, you’ll be just fine. In college, balance is the key. Work a lot, have a little fun.

If it sounds pretty great, that’s because it absolutely is.

Here are a few comparisons that you’ll experience during your transition into the college lifestyle:

  1. High School: In high school, you know everyone in your class.
    College: In college, you’re lucky to know one person in your class.
  2. High School High school books are provided are little to no cost.
    College: College textbooks cost a small fortune.

  3. High School: You have to live with your parents in high school.
    College: You get to live with your friends in college.

  4. High School: You wake up early in the morning for class in high school.
    College: You wake up for your first class (or whenever you want).

  5. High School: In high school, you were forced to learn all subjects.
    College: In college, you get to learn whatever you want to.

  6. High School: In high school, your time and schedule are dictated by others.
    College: In college, you take back ownership of time management.

  7. High School: In high school, teachers read from the textbooks they use.
    College: In college, professors refer to the textbooks they wrote.

  8. High School: In high school, you studied comfortably at home before a test.
    College: In college, the library becomes your home away from home.

  9. High School: In high school, you wrote notes to friends.
    College: In college, you take notes for yourself.

  10. High School: In high school, you’re able finish all your homework in one night.
    College: In college, that’s a near-to-impossible feat.

  11. High School: In high school, you have a full day of classes.
    College: In college, you plan your schedule to your liking.

  12. High School: In high school, you’re stuck with a set social hierarchy.
    College: In college, you get to choose who you spend time around.

  13. High School: In high school, assigned reading means a night off from homework.
    College: In college, you actually need to do the reading – and it takes all night.

  14. High School: In high school, everyone is required to be there.
    College: In college, everyone wants to be there.

  15. High School In high school, you worried about what “looked” cool.
    College: In college, you’re too busy to care about what other people think.

  16. High School: In high school, you’re stuck in a social “role” that others cast you in.
    College: In college, you can be whoever you want to be.

  17. High School: In high school, you have adults telling you what’s expected of you.
    College: In college, it’s just expected.

  18. High School: In high school, teachers gear classes towards average learners.
    College: In college, average is the bare (emphasis on bare) minimum.

  19. High School: High school attendance is mandatory.
    College: College attendance is (strongly) suggested.

  20. High School: In high school, you had a curfew you had to follow.
    College: In college, you use your own judgment for what you have time to do.

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