How to Be Both Bold and Brilliant When Writing Your College Essay

While college applications are mainly straightforward, the essay portion presents a major curve ball when it comes time to write all about yourself.

Should you show off your SAT vocabulary or speak casually? Should you let your passion and dedication border on desperate or sound aloof and too-cool-for-school? Should you play by the rulebook or let your creativity run wild?

The annoying and difficult answer is, well, both. If you're ready to go bold with your college essay but still desire to show off your brilliance, scroll below to find out how to walk the fine line:


SpongeBob writing his boating school essay

(SpongeBob SquarePants via Nickelodeon)

1. Reach Deep

You probably have a plethora of easy prompts at hand. You can dive into your commitment to basketball or talk about your dedication to a decade of Girl Scouts. But to be honest, these prompts are a tad dull.

Remember that these essay readers scan hundreds of papers and it's very easy to get lost in the pile. Shake up the routine with an essay that dives deep into your life. Whether you write about your desire of becoming a princess or you get personal with a tough family matter, go out on a limb. These stories are way more exciting than the discipline you learned from yada yada yada.

Sutton making a vision board

(The Bold Type via Freeform)

Rather than taking the easy way out, reach deep within yourself to find a specific memory that may have evolved over the years. It may not be easy, it may sound crazy, but if you're having these thoughts, then it's a good sign that this is the prompt you should pursue.

2. Don't Be Too On-the-Nose

While your essay should in ways recap the cause and effect of an event and how you learned from it, you want to stray away from being on the nose. This means that you refrain from statements such as, "Though I didn't always want to go to cheer practice, I learned dedication and commitment." Yawn!

Veronica standing up to Cheryl at Vixens practice

(Riverdale via The CW)

Tackle a subject and show rather than tell how you learned and grew from it. By doing so, you exemplify to the reader your mastery of subtlety and smarts all while being bold enough to craft your thesis into a metaphor.

Of course, use this tip wisely. By no means do you want the reader to be scratching their head due to your lack of detail, personal stakes and meaning.


3. Stray From Overdone Boldness

Certain bold essay tricks are tired. You may have heard stories of papers that include three pages of insane life events that never occurred. For example, lying about your real life by stating, "I've climbed Mount Everest, skydived without a parachute, set the triathlon record," etc. etc.

At one time, this method was brand new and completely bold. But by today's standards, it's just an easy way out that hardly nods towards creativity. Going bold doesn't mean lying or overexaggerating to your preferred college.


4. Always Meet the Criteria

Another way to be bold is by submitting a one-sentence essay that reads something along the lines of, "I'm really cool and you should be lucky to have me."

Bold, yes. Criteria met, no. Being bold also doesn't mean ignoring the required formatting. While you can totally harness your self-worth and own it in your essay, make sure to include a tad more detail and diction.


5. If You Go Sassy, Keep It Classy

While choosing to stylize the tone of your essay is a bold move, make sure you keep is classy and appropriate. You don't want to dismiss the school you're applying to or use unscholarly language.

But feel free to get stylish with your essay, whether you decide to channel the essence of your town, play with tense or show off your wit. But at the end of your essay, you still want to show how these stylized motifs work as metaphors for your point. Never be bold just for the shock value, but rather work it into the bigger picture of your piece.

Jane writing on laptop

(The Bold Type via Freeform)


6. Commit to One Bold Move

Overdoing it with the boldness will overwhelm the reader. Choose one major move to go bold with and keep the rest of your essay risk-free. You don't want to talk about your dreams of becoming a dragon trainer while speaking in Old English and using a font to match. That would just be… too much.

Instead select one of these things (or others) to show off your creativity and assert it confidently. You definitely want to stick the landing on this one and using too many out-of-the-box ideas will cause you to stumble.


All types of applications can be difficult to navigate. If you're about to apply to your first part time job, click HERE for fool-proof pointers.