Writing a good college essay is hard enough, but writing a great one—one that impresses admissions officers and gets you into the school of your dreams—is even harder. If you’re looking to up your essay game, keep reading to find out how to write the perfect college essay.

1. The Right Topic Choices

Knowing how to write an essay that will attract college admissions officers is one thing, but actually choosing an appropriate topic is another. Before you start drafting your essay, think about what makes you stand out and then choose something related to your own story—anything that shows who you really are can be turned into an amazing college admissions essay. If you’re not sure where to begin, ask yourself questions like: What do I love most in life? What unique challenges have I overcome? Where do I see myself in five years? Why am I applying to XYZ University?

2. The Right Vocabulary

A paper writer’s favorite word is ‘vocabulary’ because it is at once so broad and yet precise; since we have to write papers on all types of subjects, we tend to be asked about words on a near-constant basis. Since one of our roles as paper writers is to communicate ideas to our customers, we can never have enough vocabulary! In fact, expanding your vocabulary can be useful in all facets of your academic career.

3. Good Grammar and Punctuation

You can get away with bad grammar in college (not always, though) but your essay won’t be taken as seriously. Make sure you double-check your work—grammar and spelling mistakes will do more to hurt your grade than help it. Also, it’s okay to use contractions when writing essays—no one really cares if you write you are instead of you are. Avoid errors like not starting sentences with conjunctions or ending them with prepositions.

4. Perfect Sentences and Paragraphs

The way you write is almost as important as what you’re writing. It can be tempting to take shortcuts and skim over details in your papers, especially if it’s due tomorrow, but these are generally exactly what professors look out for. An essay that doesn’t follow proper guidelines is more likely to be marked down than one that does.

5. An Effective Introduction

Effective introductions to essays are pretty easy to identify: they’re short and concise, providing just enough information to entice your reader and make them want to continue. Remember that when it comes to writing an essay, you have only one chance at making a first impression. If you don’t get it right away, you risk losing your audience right out of the gate. Don’t let that happen.

6. Choose an Appropriate Title

You’ve decided to write an essay on The Great Gatsby, but what exactly are you going to say? Come up with an intriguing and appropriate title before you start writing, so you have an idea of where your paper is heading. It doesn’t need to be fancy or long, just short and sweet. Brainstorm ideas with your classmates and see what they come up with. Then narrow it down.

7. Tailor Your Writing Style

You probably already know that your essay should be unique and stand out, but did you know that it should also match your intended audience? There is no one right way to write an essay, but there are wrong ways. Avoid them by knowing who you’re writing to before you start typing. Ask yourself: Is my professor old or young? Male or female? A critic of modern trends or willing to accept new ideas? If you can answer these questions and tailor your style accordingly, you will greatly increase your chances of success. And if all else fails, remember that most professors would rather read something interesting than something boring—so spice up those sentences!

8. Proofread Before Handing In

This may sound silly, but it’s important. Spell Check won’t catch every mistake, and some things are so wrong that even spellcheck can’t find them. Be sure to read your essay over a few times before handing it in—or better yet, have someone else read over it to proofread. Your professor will certainly appreciate seeing that you put thought into your work! If you do write up an essay at night after studying all day, be sure to get as much sleep as possible before doing anything with said essay.