Types of College Application Essays for Admissions Abroad


Mrunmayai Bobade
Updated on Jul 26, 2022 07:46 PM IST

Want to write the perfect college application essay to study abroad? Check out the article below to know the types of application essays, mistakes to avoid while writing college application essays and discover important tips to write essays.

Types of College Application Essays for Admissions Abroad

Studying abroad at top universities is a dream for many students. To achieve this dream, one has to go through a series of processes. One of these processes is the application process which can be strenuous and time-consuming. Students have to ensure that they meet all the academic requirements and submit all related documents within the deadline for a successful application. Various documents are required for the admissions process, such as academic transcripts, visa papers, finance proofs, etc. Among application documents, the resume, letters of recommendation (LORs) and a statement of purpose (SOP) are important aspects of your profile. Similarly, an application essay is equally crucial for the admissions process.

While some international universities require an SOP or a personal statement, others ask for an essay. Universities either provide candidates with several essay prompts from which they can pick one topic to write about or give specific instructions on what to include in the essay. They also provide certain guidelines for word limits and formatting so that it is easy for the applicant to draft an essay. Sometimes the universities can ask for both SOP and an essay, while at times, the university will require either of the two.

An admission essay can be of different types depending on the programme or course and even university requirements. In this article, we will discuss the types of essays that a university may require and some important tips for writing an application essay for admissions abroad.

No one can deny the fact that study abroad counsellors can boost the acceptance rate of an average application essay to an extraordinary level. Let our study abroad experts help you to uplift yours!

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What is an Application Essay?

Let us first understand what kind of essay is required for admission to universities abroad. An application essay also called an admission essay, is an opportunity to leave an impactful impression on the admissions committee through articulate writing skills. The application essay should reflect a student's determination and existing knowledge of the chosen subject or topic. This essay also highlights a candidate's writing skills and ability to express their ideas and views effectively.

Some students might find that an application essay is similar to a personal statement orstatement of purpose (SOP). However, it is not true. The essay reflects a more personal side of you as compared to the SOP orPersonal Statement. Another distinguishing factor about essays is that the university, at most times, will list pointers on what needs to be covered in the essay or directly give you a prompt (question). These types of essays are quite common during MBA admissions. For undergraduate admission as well, many universities like to ask personal development questions as essay prompts.

Types of College Application Essays

The primary reason to ask for an application essay during the application process is to understand the candidate's personality, thought process and purpose behind selecting a course and the university. The impression gained from the essay, apart from other documents, may heavily determine the decision by college authorities. There is a range ofcollege application essays to assess and understand a candidate's ability. Check out the types, of course, specific application essays below.

Undergraduate (UG) Admission Essay

Anundergraduate (UG) admission essay is for students applying for a bachelor's programme at a university abroad. This essay must describe a candidate's school education and how it has helped them gain knowledge about the subjects. Students can also list out how it will help them in their higher education. Two of the most common essays for undergraduate courses are:

  • Common App Essay: It is a personal statement a candidate needs to submit (if required) while applying to universities in the United States via Common Application. There is no strict word limit for this essay, but it is better to stick to around 650 words. Check out some common topics for theCommon App Essay here.

  • UCAS Application Essay: Students applying to UK universities via the UCAS portal need to write a personal statement for the application process. Candidates can write a maximum of 47 lines or 4,000 characters for aUCAS Application Essay.

Here are some of the topics found under the UG admission essay:

  • Tell us about yourself

  • Tell us about your academic interest

  • Why this course/university?

  • Post-programme goals

MBA Admission Essay

A majority of the universities ask for an essay for MBA admissions. Top universities like Harvard University, Oxford University, and Stanford University have specific essay prompts that MBA aspirants need to answer. This MBA essay prompts can be either very short (60-100 words), short (200-250 words), long (500 words), or very long (800-1000 words). Some universities have a lengthy questionnaire of essay prompts which includes a mix of all these essays. These essays usually concentrate on prior education, work experience, and future aspirations. Some of the main topics under this admission essay can be:

  • Career Progression Essay: It is a document that explains where the candidate has reached in their career, how they have progressed and what they have learned so far. If you need help regarding the same, check out our article on How to Answer A Career Progression Essay?

  • Goals Essay: In Career Goals Essay, the candidate can write about their short-term and long-term goals, and also, how they are planning to achieve them.

  • Leadership Essay: The word leadership here means the quality of leading people. So, in aleadership essay, candidates can write how well they have led a team and achieved the goals and objectives set by them.

  • Culture Shock Essay: In this essay, international candidates can write on the impact of moving out from their own country or state, culture and family, and living in another country/state/city or social environment. Though cultural shock may be a common experience for almost every international student, writing an exceptional Cultural Shock Essay is a playfield for a few.

Other Admission Related Essay

Apart from UG and MBA admission essays, two other admission-related essays may be required to submit along with the application. These are not necessarily required to be submitted unless mentioned by the university as a mandatory requirement. These essays may include:

  • Scholarship Essay: Only through awell-written Scholarship Essay, a candidate can seek help for financial aid. If an applicant has written a well-crafted essay then the chances are high of them receiving a scholarship. For this, candidates should highlight academic excellence and achievements.

  • Gap Year Essay: In case there is a gap in the candidate's academic or professional profile, then universities may ask for an explanation for this gap. The Gap Year Essay is generally written to the admission committee to explain the gap in the journey of both academics and work. Students should write about the reason for a gap and what they did during that period to enhance their learning or gain experience.

Tips to Write Application Essay

To write an impactful essay, it is important to know how it is drafted. The college application essays are not like normal essays that students used to write during their exams in school. These kinds of essays should be written following a certain format. Candidates can check out some tips and tricks given below before writing their application essay:

Plan before writing

Yes, first lay out a plan before you start writing. Plan it thoroughly and make a structure. Start with your introduction. A compelling introduction can make admission officers stick to your essay. As universities look for authenticity, try to shape your essay on genuine beliefs, free from Common Mistakes of Application Essays. Include real-life experiences or examples to support your ideas with a clear viewpoint backed by evidence or accomplishments.

Determine Essay Goals

Your essay should have three main objectives:

  • To provide the admission committee with information that they cannot find in other documents.

  • To show what makes you unique and sets you apart from other applicants.

  • Last, but not least, share your life goals and inspirations and how your desired university can help you achieve your dreams.

Define X-factor

Point out what makes you stand out from the rest of the candidates. Highlight your uniqueness and facts that show you can be the best choice for the university.

Be Specific

Do not write anything out of the topic. Make sure you answer according to the topic you have been given. If there is a word limit, then stick to it and use a strongvocabulary in college admission essays. This will leave a good impression on the college authorities.

Focus on Grammar

Check for errors and grammar mistakes. This is important as you do not want to leave a bad impression on the admission board. If they see a lot of errors and grammatical mistakes in the essay, it may have an adverse effect on the selection process.


We know writing essays takes time and effort. A candidate needs to write, re-write and then check, but make sure to send it within the deadline specified. If the candidate fails to submit the essay on time, then it may no longer be useful and the university can also disqualify the applicant.

Mistakes to Avoid While Writing College Application Essay

Universities abroad ask for application essays for a reason that goes far beyond simply checking out the applicant's writing skills. With hundreds of applications having comparable credentials, there should be something that can bridge the gaps and swing the AdCom towards your profile; and the essay section might be a perfect proxy. Take a look at the following 10 mistakes you must avoid while writing your college application essay:

Focus on Your Accomplishments Rather than What You Wish to Accomplish

How have you surpassed expectations? What scholastic area do you focus on? What are the reasons behind your accomplishments? These are some questions your essay must replicate, rather than completely focusing on what you may achieve in the future.

Avoid Controversial Topics in Your Writing

There is a reason why certain things are controversial. It can be enticing to talk about newsworthy issues, yet doing so may have negative effects. However, some officials of a review board may welcome such a choice of writing, others may not, even if it grabs their attention.

Be a Specialist, Not a Generalist

You should be well-known for yourself, your interests, and your passions. Show the Admissions Committee your unique qualities and how they fit into the overall profile that the university is looking for while perusing various applications. Find a way to stand out from the competition by communicating about your passions. Admissions officers are interested in your background and your potential which adds to the overall benefit of the college student body.

Avoid Being Repetitive

Try not to over-stuff the essay with all of your interests, skillsets, accomplishments, and awards. The college application essay ought to reveal details about you that the admissions committee would not learn from reading the rest of your application or your Curriculum Vitae (CV).

Avoid Using SAT Words Frequently

Admissions officers do prefer straightforward, short essays. They are less likely to get impressed by applicants who try to dazzle them with their phraseology.

Avoid Rambling

Do not deviate from the topic to fill up your document with words. Stick to the point and only explain what is necessary. The reader loses interest if the essay gets side-tracked or too lengthy. Keeping this in mind, you must grab the attention of the admissions committee with a catchy introduction and stick to the essay topic.

Avoid Last-Minute Rushes

Start writing your essay as soon as possible so that you can connect it to your college application. You can focus on the rest of your application after the essay has finished writing. For this, start in advance and allow yourself plenty of time for planning and plotting.

Never Lie

It is not necessary to exaggerate or inflate your successes. A quality that admissions staff seek in applicants is truthfulness and honesty. They can quickly discover obnoxious claims and hyperbolic sentences in essays. AdComs can easily recognise where applicants might be twisting the truth. In certain circumstances, they could ask for proof or explanation of anything the applicants have mentioned in the essay.

Do Not Underestimate Brawn of Proofreading

This goes beyond simply using spellcheck. Observe how you punctuate your sentences and other effective writing techniques. Request friends, family members, college advisors, or professors to assist you to edit your college essay. They often might uncover mistakes that you missed or forgot to add.

The finest piece of advice is to use your college application essay to tell a college something that is not included in the rest of the application. Candidates should make sure that they researched well regarding the topic. If possible, they should also look for samples online only from trusted websites. Most importantly, try to avoid common mistakes in the application essay as much as possible to leave a good impression on the college authorities.

Need more information regarding the college application process for admissions abroad? Write to us at abroad@collegedekho.com.

Get Expert Help to Write Essays for Your Desired University!


How do you start writing a college admissions essay?

You can start writing a college admissions essay by presenting an eye-catching introduction paragraph. Your essay's introduction ought to both explain to the reader what the essay is about and grab their curiosity. You might start your essay with a funny anecdote or a captivating tale that highlights the best aspects of your depth of character while providing the admissions committee with a window into your personality.

What are the features of an application essay for college admission?

The following are the seven features of an application essay for college admission:

  • Honesty

  • Well-written

  • Succinct and concise

  • Unconventional and distinct

  • Introspective and reflective

  • Descriptive and engaging

  • Proper conclusion

  • Plagiarism and error-free

What are the five common types of essays required by universities abroad?

The following are the five common types of essays required by universities abroad:

  • Argumentative/Persuasive Essay

  • Personal Essay

  • Definition Essay

  • Analytical Essay

  • Research Paper

However, the essay questions given to you will also be based on your major. There will probably be differences in essay content and writing styles across various majors.

How long should a college application essay be?

The college application essay should be one page long and single-spaced. At the top of the page, enter your name as well as the programme to which you are applying. Although many words used by universities abroad are similar to one another in some respects, each has unique qualities that set it apart from the others.

How do I make my college application essay stand out?

You can make your college application essay stand out by following the pointers mentioned below:

  • Write about something that had a positive impact on your life.

  • Reflect on your hard times and experiences gained.

  • Do not try to sound funny.

  • Start writing well in advance and write several drafts before writing the final one.

  • Do not repeat something already written or submitted.

  • Answer the question in the most concise manner possible.

  • Check your essay several times before submitting it.

What I should not include in a college application essay?

There are many things that you should not include in a college application essay or use in the least possible way. Anything that is really private or a touchy subject should also be avoided as a topic for a college essay. For instance, refrain from writing an article that goes into excessive detail on a condition, injury, or especially one that is severe.

Should your college application essay relate to your major?

It depends on whether your college application essay should relate to your major. Your main application essay should unquestionably be related to your future major or area of focus if you are applying to graduate school. This is because you typically already have a field of study selected, or for direct admission to an undergraduate institution like the College of Education at X University.

What do the admissions committee look for in a college application essay?

In a college application essay, the admissions committee look for applicants whose essays demonstrate their character and worldview through their actual experiences, not made-up scenarios. According to admissions officers, the application essays should paint a picture of the person the applicant really is, rather than write what the students think may impress the AdCom. Being yourself while writing an application essay is one of the most important things to remember.

Can I copy and paste college application essays?

No, you cannot copy and paste college application essays as plagiarism is considered a serious offence in universities and colleges abroad. Even though students can use the same primary or main essay on the Common App for several colleges, it is advisable that they customise their supplemental essays separately for each college to which they are applying.

What type of essay should you use for a college application?

You should use traditional college application essays for admissions abroad. This is because a standard or traditional college application essay typically involves an open-ended personal statement where you can share your views in response to general or broad prompts, such as narrating a story, reminiscing on an event, or discussing a topic.

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