Spending time on essays and applications during the summer (without the stress of ACT/SATs, high school coursework, and activities) is the key to a less stressful and more successful application process. The college admission essay is very different from any other essay you have written, as it requires a lot of self-reflection, insight, and creativity.
The best essay comes from writing multiple drafts, giving yourself time away from essay, and then returning to it to get a fresh look. This all takes time, and you likely have more time this summer than you will in the fall! Take the word of a former student:
As difficult as it was to sacrifice a few days of my summer... I wouldn’t have had it any other way. When it came time for the school year to start, I felt super prepared and on top of all my applications. My apps were all done early, and it was one less thing I needed to be worrying about. There was no better feeling than making my friends jealous. Giving up a few days of summer was totally worth it!
Here are 10 Tips to get you started this summer:
The college essay is not an English paper assignment. There are no requirements for a thesis statement with three supporting paragraphs and a nice, neat conclusion. The best essays often start in the middle of the story, grabbing the readers attention and focus on bringing your personality to life.
Write well. Even though it is not an English paper, colleges want to know that you can write well. In college, you will be expected to write. A lot. Make sure your essay is organized and coherent, as well as engaging and expressive. Check and re-check for grammar and spelling errors.
Be prepared to write many drafts. Great essays take many drafts. Don’t get too invested in your first draft. Every word should be important and add something to your story.
Write like you are a teenager. Do not let whoever edits your paper rewrite it so much that your personality is lost. It should be your voice coming through the pages. Use words that you would normally use but beware of slang. Have a trusted friend read it. Does it sound like you?
Write about you, not someone else. Your grandfather might have an amazing story of hardship and hard-earned success, but colleges want to know your story. Let the reader know how you think, how you talk, how the situation or relationship you share changed something about you.
Answer the question. This point may seem obvious, but many applicants end up writing essays that do not answer the essay prompt. Colleges ask specific questions for a reason and will be frustrated if you squeeze in a story that does not address their questions.
Share deep, personal reflections and insights into who you are and why. To help colleges get to know you, you need to include personal reflections in your essays. Otherwise, the essay may sound trite and generic. The most important thing to share is “why” you are sharing the story, not necessarily what topic you choose.
What will you bring to the college community? Colleges want to know that you will add to the community in some way. They are looking for a diverse group of students willing to come together to share ideas, backgrounds, and experiences with one another.
Do not repeat information. Instead, expand on it in an enlightening way, OR choose to highlight a complementary or even opposite personality trait. For example, you may have top grades, test scores and a long list of amazing activities, but to stand out among all the other high achievers in highly competitive admissions, you might consider writing about something unexpected. Or you may be an athlete that spends most of your time on your sport. Instead of writing an essay about the “big game” or losing the championship, focus on your intellectual interests and other passions.
Never use the wrong college’s name in an essay! This mistake often happens when essays and applications are rushed out the door. Give yourself enough time to walk away from your “perfect” essay for a day, then come back and read it again before sending.
Get hands on help from an expert!
While Kristen is busy working with rising seniors on their College Application Essays, she has developed a streamlined process to help students find and craft their stories. Contact Kristen on her availability to help your student brainstorm, write, or polish their essay.