The College Essay
The time commitment involved with college research can be overwhelming and seems to take on a life of its own. Now that you’ve spent the last 3.5 years of your life researching, comparing, visiting and interviewing, its time for the essay. Where to begin? How do I know what they want? How many do I write? You stare at the blank pages for what seems like hours. It’s only been 5 minutes, but you step away to get some chips and salsa, or go for a run to clear your mind, “This is impossible.” You return to the same blank page thinking about all the topics and suddenly you get this surge of energy and the words just flow. Keep writing and don’t stop!
The essay is not as much about the particular topic, but how your story unfolds and how you organize your thoughts. The following tips are my personal suggestions after 20 years of reading hundreds of essays.
Be true to yourself.
Do not let more than three people critique and edit your essay, or you will lose your voice.
When you think the essay is finished, it is not. Leave it and edit two days later, and do the same for at least one week or longer.
Be aware of spelling and errors.
Do not write about the final home run, basket, touchdown, or goal… read that.
Make sure you are answering the question.
Use humor only if this is your personality.
Do not let someone else write your essay for you and do not plagiarize.
Avoid asking an admissions counselor for assistance, especially if you are applying to said college.
You will have many essays to write-begin early.
I have lots of essay stories, but one of my favorites is about a water bottle and how it travelled with the young girl, sustained her, and gave her memories and stories throughout her life. She interwove her essay beautifully and used all of my above tips to personalize and make it her own.
The essay is probably one of the single most important factors that can make or break your candidacy, besides academics. Expressing who you are in the most honest and genuine capacity will be one of your biggest challenges to date. Happy writing!