Admissions Essay Tip: Think About Your Audience

essay draftAs you’ve probably discussed in your homeschool English courses, knowing your audience is a vital part of effective writing. Understanding who reads college admissions essays and what they are looking for will help your student.

As you get started on your college essays start it may make sense to start with a few questions:

  • Why do I have to write this essay?
  • Is anyone even going to read it?
  • Will one out of place comma get me rejected?
  • Will using advanced vocabulary make me sound smart?
  • Should I try to be funny?

The Essay is an Opportunity
With all writing it is a good first step to figure out why you are writing and who is going to read it. Perhaps that seems obvious: you are writing the essay for people at the college because they require it. Let’s dig a bit deeper than that. The essay is an opportunity. Through your transcript, test scores and application you’ve shared some concrete pieces of information about yourself, but you haven’t had an opportunity to really reveal your personality, values and what makes you tick. The essay is your opportunity to give a more complete picture of who you are and what is important to you. Obviously, this is also an opportunity to show that you can write.

Your Audience
It may help you write a better essay if you consider who is reading your essay. Your reader may be an old timer who has worked in the admissions office for his whole career or she may be a recent college graduate who just joined the admissions office. Most likely your essay will be read by at least two admissions officers. While the age and experience of your readers may vary, most will share a similar desire to get to know you through your essay. Admissions officers are looking to create a class of students who will fit in well academically and socially at the college.  They are not looking to admit a class full of ideal clones, but instead to find a balance of students who help strengthen the college or university. As a homeschooler you have experienced a unique education and your essay is a place to share some part of that experience.

You Can Do This
The good news is that you are not expected to sound like a genius humanitarian who cures cancer in your spare time. You are not expected to write like you work for the New Yorker. You are not expected to come up with an entirely new witty take on the college essay.  Your assignment is much more simple. The essay should sound like you and reveal a real part of yourself. It should be well written and revised. It does not need to be perfect. So, I encourage you to think a bit about your audience and what they might enjoy learning about you… and start writing!

Learn more about essay writing:
College Essay Traps to Avoid
Common Application Essay Tips


  • “The essay should sound like you and reveal a real part of yourself. It should be well written and revised. It does not need to be perfect.”

    I’ve purchased several books about writing college application essays to help my son, but that is the best advice I’ve read. Thanks!

  • Some parents almost take over the essay-writing process. But I really think that sends the wrong message to the children, as college will be their responsibility, not the parents.

    • Great point Steve. Homeschooling parents do play a role both as guidance counselor and teacher so they do need some involvement, but it is really the student’s job to apply to college. I do suggest that students start earlier enough on their essays that they have time to share them with at least a couple of people to get feedback and help with proofreading.

    • Hello,
      Yes, your audience would be people who work in the admissions office. So you’ll write a bit differently than if you were writing for a friend or for a teacher who knows you.
      Best of luck!

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