Nail Your College Admissions Essay With This Classic Marketing Technique

Do you know how brands sell online? One of the many ‘marketing models’ they use is called the AIDA funnel. AIDA refers to the four stages that a potential customer goes through in their journey of  evolution from a ‘casual visitor’ to an ‘interested buyer’. Every step is, needless to say, closely monitored by marketers and business strategists. Each stage of the AIDA funnel has a distinct purpose. In this article, we will briefly describe the AIDA model and then move onto exploring how it can help you craft a winning admissions essay.

Without further ado, here’s a simplified explanation of AIDA.


A stands for ATTENTION, when the brand is simply trying to catch the attention of potential buyers. With growing information overload and shrinking attention spans, marketers use creative techniques (called ‘hooks’) to make readers ‘halt and read’. Some of them are… 

  • The use of power words and catch phrases 
  • Keeping the tone conversational and personal to establish a ‘human connection’ 
  • Trying surprise twists, wordplay and humour  

The next stage in the AIDA, I, stands for INTEREST. This is where the marketer tries to generate interest in the reader by storifying the unique features and benefits (technically called USPs, or, Unique Selling Proposition) of the brand. 

D stands for DESIRE. Simply stoking interest is not enough. To ensure a sale (technically called a conversion), the marketer will now need to make the reader say, “I need this NOW!” An example of this is before-after pictures, such as a bald head vs a headful of hair in the case of hair oil or hair transplant ads. 

A, the final stage of AIDA, stands for ACTION. The purpose of this stage is, as it suggests, to make the reader ACT. Here, the marketer tries to remove any final, lingering doubt in the mind of the buyer by providing the final push and completing the conversion. 


AIDA funnel



Now the big question. Can college students leverage the psychology behind the classic AIDA funnel to ‘sell their ideas’ – Be it a college exam paper, an admission essay for higher studies in universities abroad, a Ph.D thesis, an application for internship, a proposal to obtain a financial grant, or a cover letter for a job interview?

The thought might be worth exploring. Here’s a possible scenario.


Catch the attention of the college admissions essay examiner with a powerful opening hook. It could be an incomplete sentence that acts as a teaser and generates curiosity in the examiner to read further, the opening line of a famous novel or movie (‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ from A Tale of Two Cities) or a quirky joke or one-liner like “Never trust atoms : They make up everything!”. This is the part of your college admissions essay where you put on your creative hat!   


Evoke interest and build the examiner’s curiosity in your college admissions essay by expanding the punchline or explaining the premise in detail. For example, if you are presenting a case about why students of fine arts can make great entrepreneurs, this is where you explain the premise in one or two paragraphs.  


Usher the person who is reading your admissions essay towards your big claim or promise : For example, why accepting you as a student can help the college climb the next division in the local soccer league (if, say, you are applying through a sports scholarship). Make sure you support your claim with facts, evidence and analogy, such as your exploits on the soccer field.   


Despite being close to biting the bait, the examiner of the admissions essay could be in two minds. Go for a knockout punch now with a smartly placed incentive. If it’s an application for an apprenticeship, this is where you clarify that you’re willing to work at a lower stipend (or, indeed, for free, if it happens to be your dream company), if… gently add a clause here that balances the equation back in your favor, such as an opportunity to work in a certain department or role that you have a passion for, or with a specific leader or scholar you admire. 

The biggest businesses and brands worldwide use the AIDA to convince and convert shoppers. Done right, its magic can work in an academic setting too! 

At EdElevate, we employ innovative approaches to help students and young professionals nail their study abroad targets. To know more about our process, hop onto a discovery call with our counsellors. To book an appointment, write to us at [email protected], or click here.