Writing college application essays is one of the most dreaded tasks of college applicants. We work with students all summer to help them craft their essays so they understand how to authentically show college admissions professionals a facet of their character and personality. Below, I’ve identified three key pieces of advice that will help kids manage the process so they don’t get too stressed.
1. Start Early. For high school juniors (rising seniors), time is your biggest ally. Most of you will not submit applications until November 1 at the earliest, some will submit later…so take the time this summer to begin working on your piece. Half the battle is determining your topic. Once you do so, begin to write. Even if you’re unsure of what or how to write, just get something on paper now. Once you find a good topic and begin writing, you’re more than half way done!
2. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have had a traumatic event in your life to write a good college essay. Instead, write a big essay on a small topic. The key is to find a compelling way to show how unique you are. Sometimes picking a small, symbolic event that represents “the larger you” is an effective way of communicating your message. My high school AP English teacher taught me that the best literature is “unique, yet universal.” This is a great way to think about the essay. It needs to show who you are, why you’re unique, and it needs to be written in a unique, first person voice, while appealing to a wide (universal) audience. This is easier said than done, but once you get it, the essay will be much more manageable.
3. Write and re-write. We suggest that our students take 3 drafts to craft their piece. Like anything else, the more time you spend on your college essay, the better it will be.