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15 Tips to Help You Write a Stellar Essay
Essay-writing can be easier than you might think if you have a grasp of the basics and a willingness to engage with the subject matter. Here are 15 top tips for writing a stellar essay.
Do Your Research
This is one of the most important tips you’ll ever receive. Research thoroughly, even if it means you have too many notes. It’s better to have to leave stuff out than not have enough to write about.
Make an Outline
Without a properly structured outline (with an intro, a four- to five-point body and a conclusion), your essay may be hard to write and to follow.
While you might just be writing your essay for a teacher or professor that is paid to read it, it still pays to grab their attention. A “hook” like a quote or surprising statistic in your intro can make your reader want to read on.
Lay Out Your Thesis
The intro isn’t all about flair and grabbing attention. It’s also about laying out your thesis. Make your main argument clear in the first few sentences, setting up a question to answer or statement to prove.
Avoid Passive Voice
If you want your writing to be persuasive, passive voice should be avoided. (That sentence was full of it, by the way. For example, “You should avoid passive voice” is a more convincing way to say “passive voice should be avoided.”)
Avoid First-Person Voice
If you’re writing an academic essay, you should almost certainly avoid first-person voice. In other words, avoid saying “I” or “my.” Also restrict your use of the second-person voice (e.g., don’t use “you” unless it’s necessary).
Start With Your Strongest Point
In general, it’s a good idea to start with your strongest argument in your first body paragraph. This sets the scene nicely. However, this might not be appropriate if you are structuring your essay points chronologically.
Relate All Points Back to Your Thesis
Make it clear to your reader how each point you make relates back to your thesis (i.e., the question or statement in your introduction, and probably your title too). This helps them to follow your argument.
Contextualize Without Losing Focus
Add contextualizing information for a richer presentation of your topic. For example, it’s fine (or even desirable) to discuss the historical background for certain events. Just don’t get bogged down by irrelevant details.
Use Transition Phrases
Transition phrases, such as “furthermore,” “by contrast” and “on the other hand,” can also help your reader to follow your argument. But don’t overuse them at the cost of clarity. Read your essay aloud to gauge how it flows.
Conclude With a Return to Your Thesis
A conclusion can do many things, but it’s useful to think of it as an answer to the question or statement in your intro. It’s sensible to summarize your key points, but always relate back to your thesis.
Make Your Conclusion Seem Obvious
Restating your thesis in your conclusion (after having made all of your points and arguments in the body) can be persuasive. Aim to make your conclusion feel irrefutable (at least if it’s a persuasive essay).
If your spelling is sloppy, it’s natural for your reader to assume your approach to writing the essay was too. This could harm the strength of an otherwise persuasive essay.
Grammar is also important, for the same reason. It’s usually easy to pick up on dodgy grammar if you read your essay aloud. If you’re not a native English speaker, however, you might want to ask someone who is to check your essay.
To avoid harming your persuasiveness and authority, it’s fundamentally important to use the right words. Overly obscure language can detract from the clarity of your argument, but if you feel you have to use it, then you better know what it means.
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Quickest way to enroll in a community college.
Unlike universities that require you to write long demanding essays, have competitive GPAs, and a host of other admission prerequisites, community colleges are very simple to get into .
The primary reason why the US government created community colleges is that it realized the private education system was too demanding financially, procedurally, and curriculum-wise for the average American.
All of this, of course, restricted access to education to a large portion of American society. To counterbalance this problem, community colleges were opened up throughout the country. They came with a promise to make education easily available for all.
This should help explain why community colleges are so easy to apply to and to study at.
Today 12.4 million American students use the community college network to get quality higher education. This guide will take you through easy-to-follow steps that will get you admitted to a good community college of your choice. So let’s get started!
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The quickest way to get into a community college
Everything that you need to do to get into community college has been broken down into four simple to follow steps below.
If you want to find out what are some great benefits of attending community college give this article a read.
Community college vs university
First, let us quickly explain what a community college is vs a university.
The difference is basically in the degrees they offer. Community colleges offer a two-year associate’s degree while a university offers a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Here is a great article re: the difficulty levels of community college vs university that you should be going through later.
The quickest way to enroll in a community college, if done right, takes only four steps and I have explained them below:
Step 1: Choose a community college
For most people choosing a community college is a quick and simple exercise - just ask what are the community colleges near me that offer a course I am interested in. Most community colleges offer all the courses that are currently in demand.
Unmudl Tip: You should browse websites to see which college offers which courses or alternatively, a better way is to search Unmudl for a community college nationwide .
Unlike typical universities, community colleges are more focused on the workforce requirements of the surrounding communities. They know the jobs employers need filling and the supply and demand shortages in the workforce.
Because of this, the courses they offer are all relevant and get you employed quickly.
Relevant: If you are looking at changing your career , community colleges are a great way to get the right credentials to do that quickly.
Since community colleges are open to all, you simply need to apply to the one that is closest to you. This is usually the case since students are commuting from home to take classes as most community colleges do not offer lodgings and accommodation .
In the event that you want to apply for a course that is not available anywhere near you then you might want to look further away but within your state.
If you want to apply to a state different than that of your residence, just keep in mind that most community colleges have higher tuition for out-of-state students vs in-state students.
Step 2: Submit the online application
Online applications for community colleges are neither complicated nor lengthy like typical university applications. They just require you to submit basic information about yourself. The whole thing can be done in 20 to 30 minutes max.
Unmudl Tip: Make sure you have all the documents handy in one place so you can quickly fill out the application without hassle.
Depending on what state you are in you can quicken the process even further because some states allow you to submit a single application to apply at all the community colleges in that state… let me explain.
States like California have a combined application that will automatically help you apply to any community college within the state. It is very easy to fill out and you can find it here CCCApply .
The state of New York also has a similar combined application system and is called SUNY . Not all states, however, have a combined application system.
Most community colleges have their own online application, however, and as I had mentioned earlier, the good news is that they are very simple to fill out compared to a typical university application.
Community college requirements are more or less the same. They simply want to know your basic information like your full name, address, nationality, residency, the high school you went to, and what you want to major in.
Unmudl Tip: To speed up your application process, make sure you submit your documents along with the application. This will save a lot of unnecessary back and forth.
While you are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores, you will be expected to show your High School Diploma, GED, or in case you still haven’t received them, a set of transcripts from your school.
Step 3: For in-state residents, provide proof of residency
Also, make sure to provide proof of residence in the application if they ask for it. In most cases, your high school diploma should be more than enough to prove you are a resident of the same state.
But alternate documents may be sometimes required and these could simply be a driver’s license number, vehicle registration, voter registration, state or federal tax returns from a local address, etc.
Why this is specifically important is because it will determine your tuition. Community colleges have different tuition for residents and for out-of-state students. In some cases, these tuition rates may triple in cost.
Alternatively, in case you are a dependent, you can simply submit a document from your parent or guardian.
Step 4: Finally, take any academic skills assessments
While you are not required to submit any SATs or ACTs, community colleges may require you to take an assessment test especially if you had a low GPA in high school.
This test is basically to determine your math and English abilities and to see if you need any remedial classes for either of them.
You can always skip these tests if you already have a decent SAT score, 450 on both math and reading, or an ACT score with 47 on English and 22 on math.
That’s it. You are done!
Following these four simple steps will get you into community college quickly and without hassle.
Unmudl Bonus Tips: The three Don’ts of applying to community college
We always recommend that you ensure not to make these three mistakes as they slow down your admissions process considerably. We call them the three Dont’s of applying to community college.
1. Don't delay until spring to submit your application
When you find out that your community college application deadline can be as late as two to three weeks before the term begins, you tend to get lazy and delay it till then. Does community college have 100 percent acceptance rate?
Well yes to a great degree but the problem with this is that more and more students are now choosing community college as their choice of higher education. This means that a lot of applications are now coming in for each college.
Now while community colleges are not difficult to get into, they do have limited seats. If they receive more applications than the capacity they have they will have to pick and choose students.
Because of this, it is always best to apply as early as possible so that you have a better chance of getting in.
2. Don’t forget to submit or delay your documents with your application
Remember that we told you about school transcripts? Well, if you have completed your high school and have still not received your diploma then ask your school for transcripts.
All high schools are happy to provide you with them and all community colleges readily accept these as temporary replacements to your final documents.
The reason why we are emphasizing this a lot is because not submitting your documents leads to delays and you might even miss out on the current term of enrollments.
3. Don’t delay your FAFSA or other scholarship applications
As we had mentioned earlier you can start the FAFSA application as early as the 1st of January, even before you have picked a college yet. Almost every student that goes to community college tries to apply for some financial assistance.
With limited federal and state resources it is not a smart thing to do to keep applications till the last minute. Work with your high school or college advisor to figure out which scholarship and grants you might be eligible for and apply as early as possible.
Tips to quicken things further after admission
Apply for financial aid early.
Different students have different reasons for getting into community college but by far the most popular one is their affordability. This affordability comes in the form of federal and state financial assistance.
The most important source of federal financial assistance is FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and the thing you have to remember is to apply as early as possible.
Keep in mind that every student that applies for federal aid is going to apply with FAFSA so you need to be smart and apply soon after the January 1 applications opening date every year.
In some cases, this will mean that you will apply for FAFSA even before you have locked a community college. This is completely normal as FAFSA will be automatically utilized by any community college you finally do settle on.
Besides FAFSA there are many other state and private scholarships, grants, and financial aid options available to you.
Both your former high school and your new community college can help you shortlist which financial assistance programs you can apply to. Just remember that applying early increases the chances of getting aid dramatically.
Also, having financial aid sorted out will help make the enrollment process quicker.
Related: Do Community Colleges Have Payment Plans?
Proactively arrange proof of immunization
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some states require that community colleges ask for immunization records for all full-time students taking twelve or more credits to ensure they have been vaccinated against specific diseases.
You may be asked to show immunization for the following, but get in touch with your college to see what exactly they require from you and make sure you have proof of immunization ready.
- Tdap (booster within last 10 years)
- Three doses of Hepatitis B
- Two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Two doses of varicella (chickenpox)
- Meet your community college advisor
Unless you are very clear on what you want to do in college and beyond, and most students at that age are not, you should go meet your advisor. These trained professionals will help save hours of research on your end.
The academic advisor is the most important person you will work with before and while at community college as they will help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and see what courses you can excel in.
People who are extroverts and good at people skills may want to look into sales and marketing, for example.
The advisor also helps you plan your curriculum while at community college because he can look at what specific jobs you would want to apply to in the future or any specific course requirements towards a transfer to a university .
Start scheduling your time with them as soon as possible so that you don’t have to wait long for open slots. That way you can get all the information you need to enroll quickly.
Orientations are exactly what the name suggests, they help you get your bearings at your new institution quickly. Going to a new college can be a bit overwhelming with class schedules, locations of different classes and departments, etc.
The best way to take in all this information is to attend the orientation which usually lasts a day or two.
Sometimes you can get all this information online which can speed up the process for you.
Register for classes at the end
We suggest you register for classes at the very end because it is important that you are fully armed with all the information from your advisor and the orientation to take a call on what classes and how many to register for.
Remember that one of the great features of community college is that you can pace your studies. You should not try to register for as many courses as you can but instead focus on getting just enough to get the best grades possible.
No one understands you better than you so aim for a quality outcome rather than rushing things. This will be very important post your community college when you are applying for jobs or a transfer to a university.
Related: How Long Is Community College?
Applying to a community college is a breeze. You just need to follow our four easy steps and avoid the 3 Dont’s listed above. Unlike applying to a university you don’t need any essays or SAT scores.
Community colleges simply want to help you build your future and for that, they will need you to furnish the most basic requirements like your personal details (name, address, residency) and a high school diploma or equivalent. They will even help you get some form of financial assistance.
Good luck with your application!
Frequently Asked Questions
How to apply for community college after high school, what are community college requirements, when to apply for community college.
Do Community Colleges Require The SAT or ACT?
Can you take just a single class at a community college?
How Much Does Community College Cost in Texas?
Choose Your Test
Sat / act prep online guides and tips, how to apply for community college: 9-step guide.
Did you know that almost half of all undergrads in the U.S. go to community college? In fact, there are 1,100 community colleges nationwide, and they enroll 13 million students!
If you're looking to make that 13 million and one, read on to learn how to apply for community college: from deciding where to apply to enrolling in classes. Before getting the ball rolling, let's review what community colleges offer their students and some good reasons to apply.
What Can Community Colleges Offer to Students?
Most community colleges offer two-year Associate's degree programs in a wide variety of academic and pre-professional fields. A growing number also offer Bachelor's degrees, though most of these programs are relatively new and limited in options.
People who run community colleges know that not every student wants to stop at their Associate's degree; in fact, many students attend community college to earn credits and transfer to a four-year college . To ease this transition, lots of community colleges have "articulation agreements" with their local state school system.
These agreements allow a student to transfer credits smoothly from community college and enter as a junior in a 4-year program. Students can also apply to schools outside of this agreement, but they may need to put a bit more individual effort into making sure their credits will transfer.
This plan, often referred to as a "2 + 2" plan , can have serious financial benefits. Community colleges tend to be more affordable than 4-year institutions, and their flexible class times make it easier for students to work part-time or even full-time jobs.
Most community colleges are open access , meaning that all students can enroll (with the exception of a few programs, like nursing and engineering). Many students appreciate the typically small class sizes and attentive professors, who tend to spend most of their time teaching rather than doing research, as with many of their counterparts at research universities.
While most community colleges are commuter schools without residential facilities, they often offer clubs, sports teams, and support services that allow students to connect with one another and school staff. These benefits form the basis of the main reasons that students apply to community college. Let's break down these reasons in a little more detail.
It's always good to clarify your reasons before taking a big leap.
Why Do Students Choose Community College?
Students apply to community college for a number of reasons. Some high school students choose a dual enrollment track , in which they take community college classes to fulfill high school graduation requirements. Some adult students return to school after working for several years to further their education or pursue a new degree or career change. While students at 4-year colleges tend to be around 18 to 22, the average age of students at community college is a little older at 28.
For the purposes of this guide, let's go over the common reasons that students who are about to or who have recently graduated high school choose community college, starting with those looking for professional training.
To Get an Associate's Degree or Professional License
Community colleges are an ideal option for students who know they want to go into certain professional fields and are seeking the training or credentials to do so. Some of these occupations include nursing, medical assistants, police officers, engineering technicians, and dental hygienists, among many others.
As mentioned above, a few programs, like nursing and electrical engineering, may ask for certain prerequisites from applicants . Usually, these are specific math and science classes in high school and a minimum GPA. Otherwise, the programs are open enrollment.
While some students apply with the goal of an Associate's degree or other certification, others enter community college intending to transfer after a year or more commonly, two years. These next three reasons apply to students looking to transfer and ultimately earn their Bachelor's degree.
Maybe your GPA needs a workout before applying to 4-year colleges.
To Strengthen Their GPA
For students planning to transfer to a 4-year college, attending community college can be a smart and strategic way to strengthen their GPA. Most 4-year colleges require a GPA of at least 2.0 or 2.5 to apply. For students who had lower grades in high school, taking community college classes can be an opportunity to bring up their grades.
They can raise their GPA, earn credits, and transfer to a college to which they may not have been accepted immediately after high school. For students looking to develop their writing and math skills, they can take the time to do so in remedial classes. Any ESL students, furthermore, can hone their language skills in English language classes.
Once students have completed a minimum number of credits (usually two years worth), they typically don't have to send SAT or ACT scores to transfer . This can also help students get into colleges they might not have been able to right after high school.
A couple of years in community college can help students strengthen their academic skills and renew their commitment to further education before transferring to a Bachelor's program.
To Figure Out What They Want to Study
On a similar note, a year or two in community college can be a good way to figure out what exactly you want to study. Rather than jumping into college feeling unsure about their direction, some students take community classes to explore their options. Since community colleges tend to be a lot less financially burdensome, they make this kind of exploration more feasible.
While most community colleges want students to apply to a specific track of study, they do allow you to switch if you want to pursue a different field of study. If you're planning to transfer, you'd just want to work closely with your advisor to ensure that you're earning the right credits for a future Bachelor's degree major.
Community colleges tend to be a lot less expensive than 4-year schools, as any financial advisor/ceramic pig worth his weight in pennies will tell you.
To Minimize the Financial Burden
I've mentioned a few times that community colleges tend to be less expensive than 4-year colleges. Exactly how much less expensive are they?
According to the National Center for Education, the average community college cost for a year (tuition, materials, other fees) was $9,574 in 2013. While this is a significant sum, it's less than half of the average for 4-year schools of $23,872.
In addition to saving money on tuition, community college students are eligible for financial aid , including federal grants, federal loans, state aid, and institutional aid. Plus they may be able to choose evening, weekend, or online classes that allow for a part-time or full-time job.
Students considered "in-state residents" get in-state tuition , which is why most community college students choose schools close to home (along with the convenience of the location). If they transfer to a state school through an articulation agreement, then they further save money with in-state tuition. Ultimately, their diploma comes from the institution from which they graduated, same as any student who attended for four straight years.
Now that we've gone over the main reasons that students attend community college, let's go over how you can apply!
Do as the Atlantic puffins do. Take things one step at a time.
How to Apply For Community College, Step by Step
As discussed above, most community colleges are open enrollment, so they don't require as much documentation as do applications to 4-year schools. Every school I know of lets you apply online. Your first step, though, is deciding where to go.
Step 1: Decide Where to Apply
Since community colleges are open access, you don't have to send applications to a few different safety , target, and reach schools as you would for other colleges. Instead, unless you're applying to an especially selective track, you can figure out where you want to go and just apply there.
If your main concern is staying close to home, as it is for many students who will be commuting, then you may simply choose the school in the most convenient location. Most states have several community colleges; Massachusetts has 15 in 24 locations, New York and Texas have over 30, and California has 113! Chances are, you shouldn't have too much trouble finding local community colleges.
Of course, you also want to make sure that the school has the program(s) you want. Research its website, email the admissions office, go on a tour, and attend information sessions. These should be available throughout the year, and usually, you can sign up through the school's website. Simply go to the website and find the "Visit Us" or "Information Session" page. That way you can make sure you find the best community colleges with the programs and resources you need.
Once you've figured out where to enroll, you can find its online application.
Step 2: Fill Out and Submit Your Online Community College Application
While many 4-year schools use the Common Application or Universal Application, most community colleges have their own online application portals. A few states offer one system for all of their community colleges, such as California with its " CCCApply " site.
Every college designs its own website, but most will have a tab where you can click "Apply." You can see a few examples of the application pages of this northeast community college, Bunker Hill Community College , along with the Community College of Philadelphia and City Colleges of Chicago (note that the Chicago schools have you fill out an initial form and then send you a student ID number to fill out the rest).
While they have some differences in design, most community college applications ask for the same details: your name, address, citizenship, residency, high school, and intended major. Most ask for your overall goal , whether you want to earn an Associate's degree or certificate, acquire personal or professional skills, transfer to a 4-year institution, or enter the workforce.
If you've already taken some college courses, then you may be able to transfer credits. Additionally, these applications ask if you're applying for financial aid. Your last step will be providing your electronic signature and hitting submit.
As for when to apply for community college, most applications are processed within 24 to 48 hours , allowing you to enroll as late as two weeks before the start of classes! I wouldn't recommend leaving your application this last minute, especially if you're applying for financial aid, but it's a nice back up in case some other plans fall through.
As you can see, you typically don't need to write essays, gather recommendations, or send SAT / ACT scores to community colleges . Generally speaking, the only document you need to provide from your high school is your diploma, GED, or transcript.
Step 3: Provide Your High School Diploma, GED, or Transcript
Community colleges want to see proof of past or upcoming high school graduation. If you don't have your diploma from graduation yet or a GED, you should send a copy of your transcript. This will show your expected date of graduation and provide evidence that you're working toward fulfilling your high school requirements.
You can get your transcript from your guidance counseling department. Then you can upload it to your online application, mail, or deliver it to the college in person . If you do have your diploma or GED, you usually don't need to send your transcript, except for the select programs with their own requirements. You can just send one of those documents.
If your school needs your ID, make sure yours has a first name.
Step 4: Provide Proof of State Residency, If Applicable
If you're applying for in-state tuition , then you may need to provide proof of in-state residency. Students who have attended high schools in the same state as the community college for more than a year usually don't need to send any further evidence. Your transcript will show that you lived and attended school in-state.
If you didn't attend high school in the state or the college asks for further documentation, you could send a state driver's license, local bank account, vehicle registration, voter registration, or state or federal income taxes with in-state residential addresses. All of these should be dated at least a year previous.
If you're a dependent, then the document you send should belong to a parent . If you're an independent, then it should belong to you .
If you're not sure what steps you need to take here, you should contact the community college to get their advice. You wouldn't want to miss out on financial aid due to confusion with the application. The community college should contact you if there are any issues, but it's still worthwhile to be proactive and ask them for guidance.
Step 5: Submit Your FAFSA
Another important financial consideration is applying for federal financial aid with the FAFSA . Your timeline for this may actually fall earlier than your application to community college. The FAFSA application opens up on January 1. As the U.S. Department of Education itself suggests, you should submit your FAFSA as early as possible "to ensure that you do not miss out on available aid."
Financial aid is another good reason to plan early for college. The FAFSA will ask you to list the colleges to which you're applying so it can send them your calculated financial need and estimated contribution. If you change your plans, you can sign back in and add a recipient. However, the smoothest plan is to list your community college at the time you apply to FAFSA.
In addition to applying for federal financial aid, you might search for and apply to other external scholarships . There are all sorts of scholarships out there with different requirements, so you might find one that seems made just for you!
The new student orientation will give you a chance to learn about the school, meet new people, and not have to worry about forgetting anybody's name.
Step 6: Attend a New Student Orientation
As mentioned above, it's a good idea to attend a campus tour and an information session before you apply to learn more about your prospective school. Many community colleges also hold orientations for new students. These usually span a day or two and give you information about financial aid, placement testing, student and campus resources and policies, and academic guidance.
They may also have you set up a school account and email address. If your school offers its own online portal, then you'll probably do your class registration and other communication through that.
Step 7: Take Placement Tests in Math and English
One unique requirement of community colleges is their placement tests. After the college processes your application, you'll be invited to take placement tests to determine your level for math and English classes.
While you don't have to take the SAT or ACT to enroll , you may find yourself exempt from these placement tests if you have a minimum SAT or ACT score. These vary from school to school, but tend to be around a 450 on SAT Reading or a 47 on ACT English and Reading combined. For math, schools usually want to see around a 450 on SAT math or a 22 on ACT math.
Placement tests don't affect whether or not you get into community college. Instead, they help to determine what courses you should take in your first semester. It still may be useful to review math and English material before taking them to make sure you don't end up in a class repeating much of what you already learned in high school.
Your advisor's there to help!
Step 8: Meet With Your Advisor
By the time you meet with an advisor, you should be all set with enrollment and placement testing. Your advisor can talk to you about the classes you want to take, as well as give you guidance about requirements and classes that could transfer credits to a 4-year school, if that's in your plans.
You can also ask her about opportunities outside of class, like cultural clubs, sports, language groups, and support services. To make the most of this meeting, make sure to research classes and prepare questions.
Step 9: Register for Classes
Finally, you'll register for your classes! Full-time students usually take about 4 to 5 classes per semester. The first semester for first years tends to be highly structured, so you may not have a lot of choice with these first few classes.
If your registration is delayed, double check that you've paid all your fees and provided all required documentation , like proof of immunization (required for all college students when they start as freshmen - and grad students too, for that matter).
Once you've registered for classes, you're all done with the application process! It's time to settle in and get studying! Now that we've gone over the steps for how to apply for community college, is there anything else you can do to get ready?
To fully prepare, you must cross a mountain range with nothing but a walking stick and a backpack full of books.
How Else Can You Prepare for Community College?
While you can technically apply to community college at the last minute, you'd be much better off planning early, like in the winter or spring of senior year . Spend some time researching local community colleges or out of state schools and their programs. Attend information sessions, go on a tour, and try to speak to current and former students about their experiences.
You should clarify your reasons for attending and overall goals to make sure you're choosing the best classes and earning the credits you need. Part of this research may also involve learning about the community college's articulation agreements with state schools and other 4-year schools to which you might ultimately apply. While you may not be sure exactly what 4-year college you'll eventually transfer to, you can still work closely with your advisor to learn about credit requirements and how and when to apply to Bachelor's programs as a transfer student .
As you attend info sessions and meet with your advisor, make sure to prepare some questions about application requirements, class registration, and/or transfer agreements. By gathering all the information you need, you can make the most of your time at community college to learn, earn credits, and work toward your long-term academic and professional goals.
Are you also considering 4-year colleges in addition to community colleges or just wondering what the application process is like? To learn more about the process, check out this complete guide to applying to a 4-year college.
Are you applying to college, but your GPA is lower than you'd like? Don't be discouraged! Read this guide to learn how to put together a strong college application despite lower than average grades.
Colleges can get expensive, so you want to be on the ball about financial aid. This comprehensive guide goes over everything you need to know about applying for financial aid, step by step .
Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:
Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.
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How to Write the “Community” Essay
A step-by-step guide to this popular supplemental prompt.
When college admissions officers admit a new group of freshmen, they aren’t just filling up classrooms — they’re also crafting (you guessed it) a campus community. College students don’t just sit quietly in class, retreat to their rooms to crank out homework, go to sleep, rinse, and repeat. They socialize! They join clubs! They organize student protests! They hold cultural events! They become RAs and audition for a cappella groups and get on-campus jobs! Colleges want to cultivate a thriving, vibrant, uplifting campus community that enriches students’ learning — and for that reason, they’re understandably curious about what kind of community member they’ll be getting when they invite you to campus as part of their incoming class.
Enter the “community” essay — an increasingly popular supplemental essay prompt that asks students to talk about a community to which they belong and how they have contributed to or benefited from that community. Community essays often sound something like this:
University of Michigan: Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (250 words)
Pomona College: Reflecting on a community that you are part of, what values or perspectives from that community would you bring to Pomona? (250 words)
University of Rochester: Spiders are essential to the ecosystem. How are you essential to your community or will you be essential in your university community? (350-650 words)
Swarthmore: Swarthmore students’ worldviews are often forged by their prior experiences and exposure to ideas and values. Our students are often mentored, supported, and developed by their immediate context—in their neighborhoods, communities of faith, families, and classrooms. Reflect on what elements of your home, school, or community have shaped you or positively impacted you. How have you grown or changed because of the influence of your community? (250 words)
Yale: Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like. (400 words)
Step 1: Pick a community to write about
Breathe. You belong to LOTS of communities. And if none immediately come to mind, it’s only because you need to bust open your idea of what constitutes a “community”!
Among other things, communities can be joined by…
- West Coasters
- NYC’s Koreatown
- Everyone in my cabin at summer camp
- ACLU volunteers
- Cast of a school musical
- Army brats who live together on a military base
- Children of pastors
Take 15 minutes to write down a list of ALL the communities you belong to that you can think of. While you’re writing, don’t worry about judging which ones will be useful for an essay. Just write down every community that comes to mind — even if some of them feel like a stretch.
When you’re done, survey your list of communities. Do one, two, or three communities jump out as options that could enable you to write about yourself and your community engagement? Carry your top choices of community into Step 2.
Step 2: Generate content.
For each of your top communities, answer any of the following questions that apply:
- Is there a memorable story I can tell about my engagement with this community?
- What concrete impacts have I had on this community?
- What problems have I solved (or attempted to solve) in this community?
- What have I learned from this community?
- How has this community supported me or enriched my life up to this point?
- How have I applied the lessons or values I gleaned from this community more broadly?
Different questions will be relevant for different community prompts. For example, if you’re working on answering Yale’s prompt, you’ll want to focus on a community on which you’ve had a concrete impact. But if you’re trying to crack Swarthmore’s community essay, you can prioritize communities that have impacted YOU. Keep in mind though — even for a prompt like Yale’s, which focuses on tangible impact, it’s important that your community essay doesn’t read like a rattled-off list of achievements in your community. Your goal here is to show that you are a generous, thoughtful, grateful, and active community member who uplifts the people around you — not to detail a list of the competitions that Math club has won under your leadership.
BONUS: Connect your past community life to your future on-campus community life.
Some community essay prompts ask you — or give you the option — to talk about how you plan on engaging with community on a particular college campus. If you’re tackling one of those prompts (like Pomona’s), then you guessed it: it’s research time!
Often, for these kinds of community prompts, it will serve you to first write about a community that you’ve engaged with in the past and then write about how you plan to continue engaging with that same kind of community at college. For example, if you wrote about throwing a Lunar New Year party with international students at your high school, you might write about how excited you are to join the International Students Alliance at your new college or contribute to the cross-cultural student magazine. Or, if you wrote about playing in your high school band, you might write about how you can’t wait to audition for your new college’s chamber orchestra or accompany the improv team for their improvised musicals. The point is to give your admissions officer an idea of what on-campus communities you might be interested in joining if you were to attend their particular school.
Check out our full College Essay Hub for tons of resources and guidance on writing your college essays. Need more personalized guidance on brainstorming or crafting your supplemental essays? Contact our college admissions team.
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