1. Brainstorm Ideas.
Look, I get it! It’s almost summer break and the LAST thing that you want to be thinking about is your college admissions essay…but you have to! Unfortunately, it isn’t just going to write itself. I can remember being a high school junior (way back in the dark ages) and thinking that I had nothing interesting about which to write. But that wasn’t necessarily true. Maybe you’ve never lived through a life or death experience, accomplished anything awe inspiring or had to overcome any particularly cumbersome obstacles, but you certainly have life experiences that can be profoundly interesting and unique. And besides, it is not so much about what happened, as it is about how you tell that story! So relax, take a deep breath, and make a list of possible essay topics. Take some time to really think about whether or not this idea is something by which you are really inspired.
2. Put Your Best Foot Forward!
Remember, this essay is a chance for you to showcase information about yourself that is NOT found elsewhere in your application. Resist the temptation to write about anything that might paint you in a less than flattering light. Your essay should give the admissions officers insight as to who you are as a person, what is unique about you, and what makes you stand out from a crowd. It is a chance to show how much you’ve grown as a person and how the lessons that you’ve learned will make you a better citizen of the world. Don’t squander the opportunity to show not only how well you can write, but also how amazing you are already!
3. Start with a hook.
Teachers and writers alike love to say “Show rather than tell” and it’s almost always met with a collective eye roll by students. Yes, your writing needs to be active, engaging, and exciting. However, if the reader never makes it past the first few sentences because they are so bored, the rest of the essay doesn’t matter. Your college admissions essay is supposed to put your best foot forward. The way to do that is to make the reader CARE about your story. A good hook will accomplish just that. It will leave the admissions officer curious to find out what happened to you last summer, why that coach was so influential, and what was so inspiring about your part time summer job. So spend some time working on different introductions to your essay. And remember, the best writers write frequently, revise, write again, and revise again. It really is a process. Enjoy it!
We all like to think that we are the next J.K. Rowling and that we can just blast off an amazing essay in one sitting, but nothing is actually further from the truth. Neil Gaiman said “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: It’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” Give yourself plenty of time and get comfortable, play some music in the background if that helps you (I do that). One day you may be inspired and the words will flow quite naturally and another day the piece of paper will win. Whatever you do, remember that you will need to make multiple revisions to your draft before it is ready for submission. Take time away from your essay, and come back with fresh eyes. Share it with a friend to get their thoughts, and if you are really stuck ask a teacher or tutor for help.
Nothing irks college admissions officers and teachers more than reading an essay that doesn’t look polished. Before submitting your essay make sure that your grammar and punctuation are perfect. Please no dangling modifiers or comma splices! Ask yourself if you’ve used adequate vocabulary. Your essay should not sound like every other word came from a thesaurus but it shouldn’t sound elementary either. It should read like the essay of an intelligent, thoughtful, interesting and creative young adult!