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1. Know the prompt. Understanding what the college is asking you to focus on is key to a great start. Read the prompt and take notes, writing your initial thoughts which could be used later in an outline.
2. Research the college you are applying to. Pay attention to the institution's mission info or "about" page. This helps relate that content to the essay and helps readers understand that you've thought more practically about your educational future and how your desired college/program can help you achieve your goals.
3. Outline. This does not have to be extensive, but it is a good idea to outline the essay just to get an idea of how you'll structure the draft.
4. Draft. Try to get a draft down (or as much as possible) in one sitting so your focus is high. If you can't do it all at once, that's fine; take a break (take a walk, get something to eat, etc.) then once you return you should reread your work to refocus on writing.
5. Reread and revise. After the rough draft is complete, reread it from start to finish out loud without stopping to analyze it in complete context. Following this, make edits one paragraph at a time; make any edits you need to (particularly focusing on coherency, grammar, and mechanics) and then reread the paragraph out loud to ensure you've addressed everything.
6. Final reread. Before submitting the essay, give it one final reread out loud without stopping to ensure everything is as you want it.