Updated: Aug 25, 2020
I know what you’re thinking. 60?! Is she out of her mind? Well, I might have been. I applied to around 14 colleges (including applications to honors programs within individual colleges) and each one demanded anywhere between 3-13 essays with word limits ranging from 100 to 1500. So, now that you’re aware of my hardcore commitment to college essay writing and the fact that I did this fairly recently, what words of wisdom can I bestow upon you?
How can I help you dig deep into the abyss of your mind and help in your search for compelling, unique, and captivating essays?
I’m sure by now you have browsed the internet for a source of inspiration and have read all the tips and tricks online counseling can give you (“stay true to yourself”, “reflect and answer the question authentically”). But I’ve been where you are and the honest truth is you don’t have an answer for more than half the prompts. You can’t pinpoint a moment in your life that “changed” you or even recount 5 words that define you. You’re a confused teen trying to figure it out, so how can you fit everything that makes you ‘you’ onto paper? How exactly do you actively portray your identity to seem appealing to admissions officers? And since you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how can I possibly help you dig deep into the abyss of your mind and help in your search for compelling, unique, and captivating essays?
There is no harm in admitting that your life hasn’t been a string of overwhelming and larger-than-life instances.
The answer is somewhat pessimistic but: don’t try. The foolproof honest way to write essays that will be satisfying for you to submit but also intriguing to admissions officers who will read them, is often just simple thoughts. I know you want to seem interesting and feed the admissions officers exactly what you think would get you into your dream university. But there is no harm in admitting that your life hasn’t been a string of overwhelming and larger-than-life instances. Here’s my breakdown of how to navigate the essay writing process.
First and foremost - write down everything. There is no “bad content”. I typed out pages of random sentences and instances. When organized together at a later point, these random words often become the most relevant and creative essays. It can be a really simple story; draw an analogy or a parallel here and there, but write exactly what your mind is telling you. I was sarcastic in more than half of my essays. I unashamedly wrote about weird habits I had. I even based an entire essay on a random fight I had with my sister when I was 6 years old(she doesn’t even remember it but it is deeply ingrained in my memory, and the aftermath led to a lot of character building in the years to come). Don’t be afraid to think outside the box because there is no “correct” answer you’re trying to put forward. When I ran out of adjectives, I used ‘Timon’ as a word to describe myself. There are absolutely no hard, fast rules so spill your thoughts onto the screen and see where it takes you.
Secondly, you want to revisit. It’s natural to dislike your writing at first and get frustrated especially when you aren’t able to put your thoughts across well on paper. Write multiple drafts but also be wary not to sit in front of your computer for hours on end. Take a breather, listen to some music...hell if you feel like it, bake something. The application process is already stressful, don’t put more pressure on yourself. Start jotting down thoughts relatively early and if all you did today was write one sentence, you’re fine. Just make sure that sentence is beautiful enough for you to include.
The last thing I want to leave you with is the #1 thing that is universally accepted by all colleges - they look for authenticity. Your house could be on fire, actually, scratch that, you could be on fire when your essay is due in an hour. No matter what, NEVER WRITE FLUFF PIECES. If you enjoy sharing deep thoughts, go all Sylvia Plath in your essay. If you like to make people laugh, dad-joke your way through the essay but never write stories you think they’d want to read. Steer clear of topics like sports, “why I’m so lucky” and routine community service trips. And don’t try to condense all your achievements into one essay. They’re cliché and frankly no fun at all.
The best essays are the honest ones. You don't have to be a writer to craft essays that convey genuine aspects of your identity.
Finally, it goes without saying, spend time on your essays. They’re a real chance for you to set yourself apart in stacks of applications, but don’t fixate on constructing an appealing personality. Inspiration could strike at any time, but you don’t want to be seeing the essay prompts for the first time a week before you submit your application. The best essays are the honest ones. You don’t have to be a writer to craft essays that convey genuine aspects of who you are. Good luck!
If you ever need help brainstorming ideas, narrowing down multiple stories to a concept, or identifying a writing style to adopt for your essay, feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to discuss it with you.